the bad habit of paying war criminals to lecture on campus

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Iowa City, throw a shoe at John Yoo

Guest Opinion

David Goodner

Issue date: 2/9/09 Section: Opinions
The UI is getting into a bad habit of paying war criminals to lecture on our campus. Last year, it was former presidential adviser Karl Rove, a man who, as head of the Iraq Study Group, orchestrated the neoconservative, far-right agenda to deliberately and intentionally mislead the American people into a war for oil in Iraq.

Rove was driven out of town by the largest student protest movement Iowa City has seen since the Vietnam War. But apparently the university didn't take the hint.

This year, the UI College of Law has invited University of California-Berkeley Professor John Yoo to deliver a private lecture to law-school faculty this Thursday at 12:40 p.m. Yoo is the former deputy assistant attorney general who, in 2002, wrote or cowrote the infamous "Torture Memos" that attempted to give legal justification for the torture of enemy combatants held at Guantánamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.

The United States is bound by the Geneva Conventions, the Convention Against Torture, Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. War Crimes Act, and the Uniform Code of Military Justice to not engage in torture. But Yoo doesn't see it that way. In his memos, he narrowly defined torture as inflicting pain "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying death, organ failure, or serious impairment of bodily functions."

By Yoo's definition, then, long-term sensory deprivation, sticking needles under a suspects' fingernails, beating them on the balls of their feet, shocking them with electric cattle prods, dunking their heads in buckets of feces and urine, waterboarding them to the point where they lose consciousness, reviving them, then waterboarding them again, none of these are torture. In lawyer speak this is known as an "interpretive denial." What we do isn't torture, it's "enhanced interrogation."

Yoo even went so far as to say that the president has the right to crush the testicles of a child. During a debate in Chicago on Dec. 1, 2005, international human-rights lawyer Doug Cassel asked Yoo, "If the president deems that he's got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person's child, there is no law that can stop him?"

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This page contains a single entry published on February 9, 2009 9:20 AM.

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