UC Berkeley alum speaks out

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John Yoo's Classes Should Be Boycotted on Campus

I add my voice to the growing chorus of UC Berkeley faculty, staff, and alumni who are outraged by UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo's twisting of the law in memos to promote torture and other abuses of power.

Yoo has blood on his hands. He may not have directly tortured people himself, but as research on genocide and other atrocities shows, legal apologists such as he and others surrounding the top of the chain of command play a critical role in carrying out such acts.

Through this work, Yoo has not only participated in actual instances of torture (however remotely); he has also made it more dangerous for military personnel and other Americans traveling overseas. That, in addition to valuing human rights, is why military leaders and lawyers reject Yoo's position on torture. The use of torture by the U.S. has also probably made it easier to recruit terrorists against us.

The well-publicized shoddiness of Yoo's work in the "torture memos" is a symptom of scholarship brought into the service of ideology (Yoo's successor quickly nullified them due to the weakness of their legal reasoning). Personally, I see Yoo and his warmongering ilk in the Bush administration not as strong, brave leaders (as they likely envision themselves), but rather as frightened cowards unable or unwilling to defend this nation without resorting to inhumane practices and violations of international law.

The Bush administration did not prosecute Yoo, and the Obama administration has so far balked at doing so. Appealing to academic freedom and tenure protections, the dean of the Boalt Hall School of Law refuses to fire Yoo, even though faculty regulations allow dismissal of a professor whose actions damage the university's reputation; Yoo's actions certainly have done so. Tenure was meant to protect freedom of expression, not criminal acts.

Until Yoo is prosecuted for his war crimes and dismissed from his prestigious faculty position, I call on his fellow faculty members to censure him for his work in the torture memos.

I call on law students to boycott his classes to send him and the campus the clear message that his cynical manipulation of the law (with the theory that "it's legal by definition if the president does it") and his role in enabling torture are unacceptable to the UC Berkeley community. To those law students who feel they must take his classes, I urge you to vigorously challenge Yoo's legal interpretations. And, I call on all community members to join in the active protests of Yoo's continued presence in the law school.

These acts would signal to the world that Berkeley does not condone torture and those who promote it; they would reverse some of the disgrace that Yoo has brought on this community.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry published on August 25, 2009 8:22 PM.

Death findings blacked out of CIA report was the previous entry in this blog.

"Unacceptable Conduct: Violation of canons of intellectual honesty" is the next entry in this blog.

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