Challenging Bush Torture Architect John Yoo

 By Debra Sweet  

 
Last night, on both coasts, World Can’t Wait, Code Pink and other people of conscience demanded the prosecution of John Yoo, the principal legal architect of the justification of torture by the United States.
 
In Berkeley, where Yoo’s 2010 class schedule called for the first class of the semester, UC officials made the location secret, they said, because of “concerns for students’ safety.”  
 
One might note that it would be more dangerous for a law student to be taught Constitutional law by someone who opposed international law on the subject of torture (not to mention U.S. law) than for those students to encounter advocates against torture.
But no matter.  20 people delivered the message that John Yoo should be prosecuted for war crimes; disbarred from practicing law; and fired from his teaching position at Boalt Hall School of Law.  Not, as we have said many times, for what he thinks, writes, or speaks as a professor, but because he provided the legal justification for torture while working for the Bush regime, which led to the deaths of detainees.
 
Jackson West blogged on NBC News in the Bay Area “John Yoo Charm Campaign ‘Secret’ Classes at Cal” that “Torture memo” author John Yoo has nothing to hide, except John Yoo.
The protest took the question directly to Berkeley Law Dean Christopher Edley’s office on Tuesday.  More upcoming soon.
 
Last night in NYC, Yoo promoted his new book at the Cornell Club.  Outside, we talked to members of the Cornell Club entering the building who had no idea why Yoo would be speaking there; and to people attending the event.  A dozen told us they were going in to question Yoo on torture, and of course there were Federalist Society members and others who vocally defended torture, racial profiling, nuclear weapons, and the swift, violent demise of people like us who questioned the “war on terror.”
The night went to those inside who questioned, challenged, and denounced Yoo for promoting torture.  First was Richie from World Can’t Wait, wearing an “Audacity of War Crimes” message on his shirt, who added to the introduction of Yoo.  “John Yoo is a war criminal!”  He was roughly dragged from the room, but seems to have gotten everyone’s’ attention. 
After Yoo’s presentation, the first question was from Stephanie Rugoff, co-ordinator of War Criminals Watch, a project of World Can’t Wait.  “With so many lawyers in the room, I want to know why John Yoo isn’t being prosecuted for war crimes?”
 
Code Pink brought a banner “John Yoo is a War Criminal” and were escorted out for holding it up.  Another woman challenged Yoo, and stalked out, saying she was disgusted to be in the company of those who promote torture.
 
Outside, a lively discussion followed, as people filing out stopped to ask why we felt so strongly about Yoo and torture.  We found many people who opposed it.  One of the common questions, though was, “He just gave his legal opinion.  Why is that a crime?”
 
We’ve encountered law students recently who have never heard of the Nuremberg war crimes trials.  But to the older lawyers, there’s one word: Nuremberg.  The U.S. prosecuted the Nazi lawyers in 1946 on the premise that the lawyers have the “penultimate” responsibility to ensure that laws of war are followed by a government.
 
The Bush regime was, and remains, forever marked by its flagrant disdain for international and U.S. law that didn’t serve its agenda.  Bush made his own law through hundreds of executive orders and signing statements, beginning with his doctrine of pre-emptive, agressive war against countries which did not attack the U.S.
 
If you knew torture and the culture supporting it could be stopped, wouldn’t you protest Yoo?
Friday, he will be at the Federalist Society in Washington DC. The event is said to be sold out, but as we learned last night, being outside with the message of prosecuting the torturers is very effective.
Rather than engaging in a wild goose chase to locate the venue, World Can't Wait has decided  to bring the question directly to Berkeley Law Dean Christopher Edley. Join us 3:00pm on Tuesday  at the Dean's Office to ask: "What will be taught behind closed doors that needs to be kept secret?  Will this initiate a new policy for Boalt Hall to hide from public accountability?"

 

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World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.