‘Ludicrous’ Legalisms in the WSJ

Scott Horton (Harpers.org, 1/30/09) is agog at the fact that, “in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, the indefatigable advocate of crushing the testicles of small children to extract actionable intelligence launches a full frontal attack on President Obama” for re-banning torture. Having “followed [George W. Bush legal torture architect] John Yoo and his writings with some care for a while now,” Horton thinks he can “finally understand what this is about”: “The likelihood that he will face a criminal probe and then possibly prosecution is growing.” Horton writes that if we “look closely at the latest Yoo column,”

we see that he tenaciously defends and repeats arguments presented in his memo that even the Bush Justice Department agreed were ludicrous. He alludes to techniques used by our allies the United Kingdom and Israel which he claims now Obama rejects. What on earth is this about? If we recall his memo, one of its more bizarre passages involves a European human rights court decision in which five specific techniques used by the U.K. on suspected Irish terrorists during the “troubles” are classified as “cruel, inhuman and degrading” rather than torture. Thus, Yoo argues, these techniques have passed international muster and are fine.

Horton calls that “the sort of answer which would get a law student a failing grade,” noting that Yoo ignore the facts that “the European human rights court subsequently came to a totally different view, denouncing all these techniques and the United Kingdom discontinued their use, agreeing that they were unlawful”–but in today’s fourth estate, such answers garner prime op-ed space in a major national paper. Listen to the current FAIR radio show CounterSpin: “Michael Ratner on Torture ‘Loopholes'” (1/30/09)