Where Was the Military Brass Against the Yoo Memo? The Political Leadership?
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Something highlighted in the NYTimes article on the Yoo memo has been nagging at me:
While resembling an August 2002 memorandum drafted largely by Mr. Yoo, the March 2003 opinion went further, arguing more explicitly that the president's war powers could trump the law against torture, which it said could not constitutionally be enforced if it interfered with the commander in chief's orders.
Scott L. Silliman, head of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke University and a former Air Force lawyer, said he did not believe that the 2003 memorandum directly caused mistreatment. But Mr. Silliman added, "The memo helped to build a culture that, in the absence of leadership from the highest ranks of the Pentagon, allowed the abuses at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere."
Because opinions issued by the Office of Legal Counsel are "binding on the Defense Department," Mr. Silliman said, Mr. Yoo's opinion effectively sidelined military lawyers who strongly opposed harsh interrogation methods.
There were JAG corps lawyers and judges, and upper-level brass, grumbling and pushing back on various issues. But the neocons appear to have engineered and end-run on a policy decision to promote rather than try to prevent torture techniques being used that run contrary to the UCMJ. There were instances of strong pushback -- the Mora work being a prime example, as well as Lt. Commander Swift and others who stood for the rule of law.
But where were the usual retired military brass surrogates speaking for the folks still in uniform, whose personal opinions are restricted from public airing under the UCMJ? Usually they are dispatched whenever there is a fundamental disagreement between civilian and military leadership on an issue of consequence. The Abu Ghraib reaction was fairly swift denunciations and horror, but I'm trying to recall objections prior to those pictures surfacing and not coming up with much. Anyone recall specific instances? If so, let me know.
If there was objection to the Cheney JAG end-run, why wasn't it getting more media play? Because, frankly, the yappy stylings of Huckleberry Graham's petulant hearing question performances when coupled with his over-the-top "yer either patriotic or yer agin' us" MCA defense on the Senate floor leave a lot to be desired in the "public outcry" column. And that goes for John McCain as well.
Christy Hardin Smith is a former attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review.