John Yoo is torturing the public with a campaign to deny Elena Kagan confirmation to the Supreme Court. First he came out with a piece that appeared on Op/Ed pages all over the country last weekend castigating Kagan for actions regarding military recruiters while dean of the Harvard Law School. I saw the article in both the Pittsburgh/Greensburg Tribune Review and the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Then earlier this week, Yoo put Kagan through the verbal equivalent of a waterboarding session for what he said was her propensity to weaken the power of the executive branch, an absurd claim considering her past experience and statements.
With these articles, not only does Yoo want to make a case against Kagan, he also wants to set the terms of the debate over her confirmation.
I’m not going to waste anyone’s time analyzing the specious rhetoric Yoo employs in both these articles. Instead I want to put his campaign to discredit Kagan into a historical perspective.
Yoo is an old hand at using the pen to promulgate lies. Remember, he is the author of the Justice Department memo that said, among other things, that:
- Waterboarding is not torture
- Torture does not begin until injury to a vital organ
- If the President of the United States orders it, it isn’t torture
- The President is not bound by any international agreements regarding torture.
Now Yoo and the right-wing foundations and associations that pay him are entitled to their opinion, and the news media are certainly free to publish whoever’s views on whatever issues they like.
But I ask, with so many possible opponents to Kagan’s nomination out there, why publish Yoo? Shouldn’t he be a disgraced figure who hangs his head in shame somewhere? As one of the prime facilitators of the torture operation that has embarrassed our country around the world, shouldn’t he be hiding in a corner someplace for about a decade? Don’t editors realize that by giving him a major say on another issue that they are in a profound sense giving credence to his views on torture, because they have not acted as if these views do not invalidate him in other areas?
Wouldn’t we be outraged if we learned that after World War II, Albert Speer, Hitler’s Minister of Armaments and War Production, was routinely chiming in his opinion on who Prime Minister Adenauer should be appointing to key ministerial posts? Closer to home, didn’t President Nixon go through a long period after resigning from the presidency before his opinions about politics and world events showed up in the media again?
While I despise Yoo for his lack of humanity and legal ethics, I do not begrudge him his attempt to redeem himself by being useful once more to the autocratic part of the right wing, that is, those like Dick Cheney who conceive of the role of president as more of a King with unfettered rights.
But as far as the news media goes, for shame for allowing Mr. Yoo’s opinion into your newspaper for any other purpose than to defend himself and his torture lawyer buddies.
I’d like to close this entry with an anti-torture poem I wrote a few years back that’s in my book, Music from Words. The poem takes the form of a dream within a dream, but I assure you, everything that happens in the poem has been well-documented to have occurred to prisoners in Bush’s worldwide torture gulag.
Dreaming, soldiers lug me from the plane
despite my claims, American citizen,
blinded, neck between my knees,
ankles cuffed to wrists
motors whining, grumbling,
cars and planes and cars again.
Where am I? What did I do?
Why can’t I call my wife?
I wake to driving my taxi.
Rocks explode the windshield.
I’m probing for damage
when soldiers engulf me,
sic leashed dogs, at my buttocks nipping,
cell me, strip me, chain me to a bed.
Booming trumpets ram my eardrums,
scorching flood lights detonate
dissolving eyelids, aching pupils.
I wake, moved to another cell,
wake again and moved again,
wake again and moved again,
wake and moved, wake and moved.
I wake to sear of burning cigarette
milled in ear, pushed to ground,
log-rolled over steaming excrement,
try to focus, pleasant memories,
wife and children, figs and coffee.
I wake hooded, naked
above another naked man
whose penis touches my rectum
below another naked man
whose rectum touches my penis
whose body’s warmness teases me
to shameful reluctant erection.
Pulled from the pile, hood punched off,
I see a dozen hooded naked men
heaped to squalid pyramid of flesh
and a large gun pointed
by a soldier yelling, Jerk off, hajji
while a woman in soldier’s garb
tapes my performance,
other soldiers laughing.
I wake submerged,
head held firmly underwater
by muscular ropes to boards,
ever louder squall of heart,
gasping, heaving, frenzied gurgles,
ever hotter burning crush of chest,
maiming claws at guts and lungs,
tingles creeping, penetrating every limb,
growing weary, fading, watery, confused …
I wake to tranquil breathing: my wife,
gentle whir: the dryer downstairs,
muffled roar: an SUV rumbles past our window.
The heavy pounding in my chest
gradually calms to regular beat
as I tell myself it was only a dream.