John Yoo is to Guantanamo What Harold Koh is to Libya

John Glaser, June 29, 2011

State Department legal advisor Harold Koh is turning out to be the Obama administration’s John Yoo. He spoke at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Tuesday to explain his ridiculous interpretation of the War Power Resolution which Obama favored over the advice of his top military and administration legal advisers.

“When U.S. forces engage in a limited military mission that involves limited exposure for U.S. troops and limited risk of serious escalation and employs limited military means, we are not in hostilities of the kind envisioned by the War Powers Resolution,” State Department legal advisor Harold Koh told the committee.

[...]The discussion took a surprisingly personal turn when Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) called Koh’s argument “really pretty incredible,” and noted that U.S. planes and drones are engaged in the mission.

[...]“I would guess at night, however people of your category give high-fives, you’re talking to other academics about this cute argument that has been utilized,” Corker said. “But I would say to you that I think you’ve undermined the credibility of this administration; I think you’ve undermined the integrity of the War Powers Act; and I think by taking this very narrow approach, you’ve done a great disservice to our country.”

The conclusion of the hearing saw the passing of a resolution authorizing U.S. involvement in Libya by a vote of 14-5.

Many have been criticizing Koh not just for an absurd legal position but for “selling out” given his past as an outspoken critic of expansive Executive war powers. NPR interviewed “Mary Ellen O’Connell, a professor of international law at the University of Notre Dame who fought alongside Koh to protest a broad view of executive power that became popular during the Bush years.” She said:

Policies I believe he would have found highly questionable if they had been carried out by the Bush administration, he now is willing to so affirmatively defend.

Cato’s Gene Healy wrote about this last week:

Considering Koh’s background, the whole episode offers a cautionary tale about the corrupting effects of power. Harvard’s Jack Goldsmith notes that “for a quarter century before heading up State-Legal, Koh was the leading and most vocal academic critic of presidential unilateralism in war.” On the strength of that reputation, Koh rose to the deanship of Yale Law School in 2004.

[...] Yet the implications of Koh’s position today are that the president can rain down destruction via cruise missiles and robot death kites anywhere in the world, and unless an American soldier might get hurt, neither the Constitution nor the War Powers Resolution are offended.

Office of Legal Counsel adviser John Yoo during the Bush administration was so accommodating in his interpretation of law and executive power that Bush and his team placed the greatest emphasis on his counsel, which provided legal sanction to Bush war crimes, especially regarding torture. The Obama administration has relied on Koh’s legal advice on everything from detention policies to drone strikes and now on Libya. Every administration needs their lawyer liar.




10 Responses to “John Yoo is to Guantanamo What Harold Koh is to Libya”

  1. What kind of CRAP is this? If you sold pork hot dogs and labeled them turkey, you would be fined and/or imprisoned by the Food & Drug Administration. This is the future of the country we are talking about. Any mother wouldn't let her child get away with such a kindergarten level lie.
    Why do all these political-classers that inhabit Washington DC with their little suits and pants-suits go bouncing along like this some harmless exercise? Insulting.

  2. [...] [...]

  3. Saint Barack O-Bomb-a The Blessed orders American firepower against Libya–a country that didn't attack us–but it's not war or warmaking, or anything like that. Understand?

    Neither do I.

    Harold Yoh, like John Yoo, is an unprincipled shyster. He parrots whatever line of bullshit his master O-Bomb-a tells him to.

  4. That is just on the surface of it. Yoo never claimed that the executive is only one of the the co-equal branches of the government. He actually attacked it. Consistently. Koh on the other hand flip-flopped. They are not exactly the same: Koh is worse in that he is knowingly intellectually dishonest. Yoo is just another hack.

  5. Congratulations Harold Koh; you're on the list

  6. [...] [...]

  7. [...] over-ridden. Then he went to some other people at the State Dept and elsewhere — including Harold Koh — who I used to work with very closely. And they give him the opposite opinion. They said, [...]

  8. [...] unilateral presidential war making;” taking State Department legal adviser Harold Koh‘s definition of “hostilities” to its absurd logical conclusion; Congress’s [...]

  9. [...] unilateral presidential war making;” taking State Department legal adviser Harold Koh‘s definition of “hostilities” to its absurd logical conclusion; Congress’s [...]

  10. This is the future of the country we are talking about. Any mother wouldn't let her child get away with such a kindergarten level lie. Why do all these political-classers that inhabit Washington DC with their little suits and pants-suits go bouncing along like this some harmless exercise? Insulting.
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