Radically Inept
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
  Logic 'in an extraordinary situation', or not

John Yoo, a law professor at UC Berkeley and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, worked from 2001 to 2003 at the Justice Department, supposedly analyzing something to do w/ the Geneva Convention, but I can't tell much more, because I think there's info missing in the first para on the LATimes. Anyway, this is part of what Yoo has to say in With 'All Necessary and Appropriate Force':
"It is true that the definition of torture in the memos is narrow, but that follows the choice of Congress. When the Senate approved the international Torture Convention, it defined torture as an act 'specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering.' It defined mental pain or suffering as 'prolonged mental harm' caused by threats of physical harm or death to a detainee or a third person, the administration of mind-altering drugs or other procedures 'calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality.' Congress adopted that narrow definition in the 1994 law against torture committed abroad, but it refused to implement another prohibition in the convention - against 'cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment' - because it was thought to be vague and undefined.

Physical and mental abuse is clearly illegal. But would limiting a captured terrorist to six hours' sleep, isolating him, interrogating him for several hours or requiring him to do physical labor constitute 'severe physical or mental pain or suffering'? Federal law commands that Al Qaeda and Taliban operatives not be tortured, and the president has ordered that they be treated humanely, but the U.S. is not required to treat captured terrorists as if they were guests at a hotel or suspects held at an American police station."
But, um, wait a sec. Lets look at this point, congress "it refused to implement another prohibition in the convention - against 'cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment' - because it was thought to be vague and undefined." So, if congress didn't outlaw 'cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment' , well than we must use it. Is that the logic - they didn't outlaw it, so we must use it?

Well, Yoo says later in the article,
By exploring the boundaries of what is lawful, the administration's analyses identified how a decision maker could act in an extraordinary situation. For example, suppose that the United States captures a high-level Al Qaeda leader who knows the location of a nuclear weapon in an American city. Congress should not prevent the president from taking necessary measures to elicit its location, just as it should not prohibit him from making other strategic or tactical choices in war. In hearings this week, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) recognized that "very few people in this room or in America … would say that torture should never, ever be used, particularly if thousands of lives are at stake."
Again, yeah, but...Hmmm..Do you think all 15,000 captured Iraqis know where the nuclear weapons are hidden in the US? We're 'torturing' these people for...That's a pretty ridiculous argument. Well, I mean it's based on the 'in an extraordinary situation' logic. I think we used to call this arguing from the exception, or some such. Let me say that if my house was on fire, and the Wife inside, and you were standing in my way, is it justified for me to kill you to save my Wife. Probably not, but I'd do it anyway. It wouldn't matter one lick if we outlawed torture, and then found Yoo's imaginary terrorist w/ the nuclear weapon, we'd torture him/her law or no law to save a large American city. Ah, but small rural towns, w/ populations under 1000, well, you guys are on your own.

Okay, Yoo closes w/:
Ultimately, the administration's policy is consistent with the law. If the American people disagree with that policy, they have options: Congress can change the law, or the electorate can change the administration.
Yeah, but, um, if we don't know the government is doing something, it's a little disingenuouss to blame it on the American people.

Oh, does Yoo have an actual law degree, or is it like the logic in this article, sort of, you know, honorary?...'Cause the argument seems based on 'psuedo-logic'. The kind that Joseph Goebbels was fond of using.

Thanks to Billmon in Whiskey Bar: Room Service for pointing me to the article. Oh, hell, you need to go read his comments section, there is a great deal more info and some thoughtful discussion there. In fact, Jon provides this link: Memos to White House on Geneva Convention by Yoo/Delahunty/Philbin, and Phillipa post an entire WSJ article, Iraq Prison Rules Seen as Too Harsh For Guantanamo.

[NOTE: See, yet again I've been distracted from posting what I've been working on, and have posted on current events. So, I guess that means 'I've been overcome by events'?] 
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