Curt Wechsler, The World Can't Wait: April 2017 Archives

Progressive Radio host Steve Lendman asks why any sensible UC Berkeley law student would choose classes taught by Torture Professor John Yoo, whose infamous Bush/Cheney administration memos "claimed legal justification for what international law categorically prohibits at all times, under all circumstances, with no allowed exceptions." 

As deputy assistant attorney general, Yoo sanctioned executive power to:

Last week, the professor defended the ultimate war crime, "the act of aggression with or without a declaration of war, on the territory, vessels or aircraft of another State." 

WCW_Syria_Eng_StillWrong_C.jpg"In his torture memos, John Yoo, a lawyer for the Bush administration, notoriously asserted the authority of the commander in chief to violate statutory commands -- only to see Presidents Bush and Obama repudiate his extreme assertions. But the present case [President Trump's airstrike on Syria] is even more serious," says NY Times op-ed contributor Bruce Ackerman. The U.S. Congress provides shaky agency for moral righteousness: a bipartisan majority supports reprisal against Syria's President Assad absent evidence or due process.

Did we learn anything from the Iraq war? 

"If the commander in chief may unilaterally begin new wars against new enemies whenever he wants, the resulting carnage can mount into the millions," adds Ackerman.
"The delusion that holds that U.S. presidents have the power to make laws," writes author, activist, journalist, and radio host David Swanson, "whether closing transgender bathrooms, banning Muslim immigrants, or criminalizing torture, has reached its apex with the collective fantasy that Obama banned and Trump unbanned torture...

"In recent decades we've moved from presidents issuing 'executive orders' and calling them laws, to presidents rewriting laws that they are signing with 'signing statements', to presidents secretly creating laws (and signing statements) in hidden memos, to presidents secretly or publicly tossing out their choice of the presidential 'laws' created by their predecessors, all the way to presidents just making laws by announcing them on television or Twitter."

Can the president write his own laws and procedures? "It is a fairly common rhetorical flourish for presidential candidates to say something like 'when elected, I will repeal' a law," notes American legal journalist Lyle Denniston. "But they can't... the process for repealing a law has to begin in Congress."

"In a matter of weeks, the International Criminal Court (ICC) is expected to open a full-fledged investigation into the 'war crimes of torture and related ill-treatment, by United States military forces deployed to Afghanistan and in secret detention facilities operated by the Central Intelligence Agency,' " submits Loyola Law School International Human Rights Clinic director Mary H. Hansel to the Wisconsin Law Review. The author invokes the principle of complementarity (all states have a duty to prosecute or extradite suspected perpetrators of international crimes when the state of the alleged perpetrator fails to exercise jurisdiction) to prescribe legal proceedings against government lawyers who authorized the use of 'enhanced interrogation' techniques amounting to torture. 

"Contrary to popular belief," says Hansel, "there is nothing about functioning in a legal capacity that immunizes lawyers from prosecution for their participation in crimes." Former Office of Legal Counsel John Yoo, attorney general Alberto Gonzales, undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, general counsel for the Department of Defense William Haynes II, Dick Cheney's chief of staff David Addington, and now-judge of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Jay Bybee were all involved in the drafting of torture memos that facilitated war crimes of torture, cruel treatment and rape.   

In an ICC report dated November 14, 2016 chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda found "these alleged crimes were not the abuses of a few isolated individuals." The report stated that the U.S. Army soldiers subjected at least 61 detainees to torture practices, and CIA officers did so to at least 27 detainees, mostly between May, 2003 and December, 2004, but continued after that date.

Time will tell if the ICC pursues charges, adds Hansel. "Meanwhile, members of the Trump Administration, including newly-confirmed attorney general Jeff Sessions, have indicated that they deem torture a viable option in the treatment of detained terrorist suspects.

"Indeed, the provision of legal cover for torture by government attorneys may be a recurrent problem in years to come."

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