Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Cry for Justice on torture

Torture breaks American and International law

The University of California at Berkeley has been the scene of many a progressive, liberal and even some far out protest marches. Which makes the hiring of John C. Yoo at their School of Law out of character for that respectable institution.

Up until that time Lawyer Yoo had spent two years in the Bush administration Justice Department. He was a strong believer, like the then vice-president, in a more powerful executive branch of government. In plain English he was for giving President George W. Bush the right to make and carry out laws at the president's whim.

Mr. Yoo, born in South Korea, was to keep the lawyers over at the White House aware of stuff going on at the Justice Department; what was shady, semi-legal or might be at variance with the U.S. Constitution.

One of this Harvard graduate's major responsibilities was to propose or write out memos on how best to respond to the terrorist threat. At the time the White House counsel Alberto Gonzales sent this memo to President Bush in January, 2002: "The war against terrorism is a new kind of war, in my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions."

This was followed up by George W. Bush's memo of January 9, 2002: "I note that, because Geneva does not apply to our conflict with al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda detainees also do not qualify as prisoners of war."

This is where Lawyer Yoo became famous to some but infamous to thinking people. He was a very influential advocate of giving the president more authority. He saw fighting terrorist with torture as perfectly legal and moral. Where did he get such anti-American ideas? Or was he influenced by those not acquainted with either the Constitution or the many International treaties the American government had signed that described and forbid torture?

He used this mind-set to compose a number of legal opinions that said the Geneva Conventions did not apply; that highly coercive interrogation techniques would not only be proper, but useful.

Lawyer Yoo also agreed with the White House on eavesdropping on international communications of Americans and others around America without federal warrants.

Reading Yoo's book, "War by Other Means," it is apparent he believed his memos. He definetly felt the president was above the law in much the way Nixon expressed it: "If the president does it, it is legal."

In 2003 Yoo returned to Berkeley to teach laws. But his memos that put his blessings on torture still haunt the law schools of the world.

Last month a high-level Spanish court began proceedings toward opening a criminal investigation against six former Bush administration officials. The Spanish court is looking into whether the six men violated international law with their legal framework justifying torture of their enemies at Guantanamo Bay.

Lawyer John Yoo is one of the six being investigated. Others are former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales; William Haynes II, former general counsel for the Defense Department; Jay Bybee, Yoo's former boss at the Justice Department; Douglas Feith, former under-secretary for defense policy; and David Addington, then chief of staff and legal advisor to then-Vice President Dick Cheney.

If the case in Spain should continue and lead to arrest warrants, these six men will not be taking any foreign trips. They could be arrested anywhere outside the United States. But further proceedings are months away. The former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was picked up in London when he did not take the court seriously. The 1984 Convention Against Torture was signed and is binding on 145 countries. Spain is one, the United States is another.

Spain became involved because five of their citizens were prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The Spanish Supreme Court ruled that evidence obtained under torture was not admissible. Their cases were dismissed.

The Obama White House and the Congress now has an opportunity to begin proceedings to right a wrong. They need to support this court action in Spain. Our leaders need to tell the world that Americans can handle America's sins. Set up a special counsel to investigate these men and bring them and others to trials for crossing the line on torture. It is an evil crime that demands justice for those who suffered, even those told to do it. This ugly blot on American morals, Christian and democratic standards need a thorough and transparent cleansing.

Who would condone the Roman guards for the humiliation and torture they put Jesus through?

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