Why Stop at Torture?

by Larry Tate on February 21, 2010

So the Department of Justice* has now officially said that lawyers who argued that the President of the United States can order someone tortured were just exercising “poor judgment.” And even though there is an utterly unambiguous legal precedent for prosecuting such acts as war crimes with punishments including the death penalty, the lawyers who said otherwise will not be prosecuted or even referred to the bar for discipline.

Just to put this in perspective. If you help create a regime of torture that leads to dozens of homicides, you are exercising poor judgment and get to keep your law license. But, if you lie about getting a blow job in the Oval Office, you get impeached and disbarred. Apparently, if Clinton had just declared war on the Republic of Serbia in 1995 then waterboarded Monika Lewinski to get her to talk about how great his penis is, then everyone would have just shrugged. I imagine it would go down something like this:

DOJ: “Mr Yoo, can the president order someone to suck his balls during wartime?”

Yoo: “Absolutely. That’s one of the best parts of wartime.”

DOJ: “Good enough for us!”

But this story gets even worse. As Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff writes today, Yoo was prepared to take his ideas about presidential wartime powers much further:

The chief author of the Bush administration’s “torture memo” told Justice Department investigators that the president’s war-making authority was so broad that he had the constitutional power to order a village to be “massacred,” according to a report by released Friday night by the Office of Professional Responsibility.

I wonder if medical experimentation on Muslim twins or dwarfs would have been acceptable too?

Here are Yoo’s actual words from the OPR’s report:

“What about ordering a village of resistants to be massacred? … Is that a power that the president could legally -”

“Yeah,” Yoo replied, according to a partial transcript included in the report. “Although, let me say this: So, certainly, that would fall within the commander-in-chief’s power over tactical decisions.”

“To order a village of civilians to be [exterminated]?” the OPR investigator asked again.

“Sure,” said Yoo.


* Ed’s note: Justice optional.

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