U.C. Berkeley tenured law professor John Yoo
epitomizes the failure of the conservative movement in America. Known as "the
torture professor," Yoo penned the Department of Justice (sic) memos that
gave a blank check to sadistic Americans to torture detainees at Guantanamo
and Abu Ghraib. The human rights violations that John Yoo sanctioned destroyed
America's reputation and exposed the Bush regime as more inhumane than the
Muslim terrorists. The acts that Yoo justified are felonies under U.S. law
and war crimes under the Nuremberg standard.
Yoo's torture memos are so devoid of legal basis that his close friend
and fellow conservative member of the Federalist Society, Jack Goldsmith, rescinded
the memos when he was appointed head of the Justice Department's Office
of Legal Counsel.
Yoo's extremely shoddy legal work and the fervor with which he served the
evil intentions of the Bush regime have led to calls from distinguished legal
scholars for Yoo's dismissal from Berkeley's Boalt Hall.
I sympathize with the calls for Yoo's dismissal. In the new edition of The
Tyranny of Good Intentions, my coauthor and I write: "Liberty
has no future in America if law schools provide legitimacy to those who would
subvert the U.S. Constitution."
However, John Yoo is but the tip of the iceberg. Scapegoating Yoo diverts
attention from a neoconservative movement that has become the greatest enemy
of the U.S. Constitution.
In theory, conservatives adore the Constitution and seek to protect it with
appeals to "original intent." In practice, conservatives hate the
Constitution as the protector of homosexuals and abortionists. Conservatives
regard civil liberties as coddling devices for criminals and terrorists. They
see the First Amendment as a foolish protection for sedition. The neoconservative
magazine Commentary has called for the New York Times to be prosecuted
for informing Americans that President Bush was illegally spying on them without
The conservative assault on the U.S. Constitution is deeply entrenched. The
Federalist Society, an organization of Republican attorneys from which the
Republican Party chooses its Justice Department appointees and nominees to
the federal bench, was organized as an assault on the checks and balances in
The battle cry of the Federalist Society is "energy in the executive."
The society has its origin in Republican frustrations from the days when Republicans
had a "lock on the presidency," but had their agenda blocked by a
Democratic Congress. The Federalist Society set about producing rationales
for elevating the powers of the executive in order to evade the checks and
balances the Founding Fathers wrote into the political system.
With the Bush regime we have seen President Nixon's claim that "it's
not illegal if the president does it" carried to new heights. With the
complicity of Democrats, Bush and Cheney have appointed attorneys general who
have elevated the presidency above the law.
Just as liberals used judicial activism in the federal courts to achieve their
agenda, the conservatives are using the Department of Justice to concentrate
power in the executive branch in order to achieve their agenda. In America
the Constitution has no friends. It is always in the way of one agenda or the
other and, thus, always under threat.
For now, however, the threat is from the Right. Conservatives have confused
loyalty to country, which is loyalty to the Constitution, with loyalty to the
Bush regime. It is purely a partisan loyalty based in emotion "you
are with us or against us."
When I was a young man, conservatives were frustrated that facts, reason,
and analysis could not penetrate liberal emotions. Today facts, reason, and
analysis cannot penetrate conservative emotions. When I write a factual column
describing how we have been deceived into wars that are clearly not in our
interest, self-described conservatives indignantly write to me: "If you
hate America so much, why don't you move to Cuba!" Conservatives have
become so intellectually pathetic that they regard my defense of civil liberties
as an anti-American act.
Today's conservatives are so poorly informed that they cannot understand
that to lose the Constitution is to lose the country.
John Yoo was a willing accomplice to inhumane and illegal acts. But his greatest
crime is that he was a willing participant in the Bush regime's assault on
the Constitution, which protects us all. If Yoo is to be held accountable,
what about George W. Bush; Dick Cheney and his aides; attorneys general Gonzales
and Mukasey; Yoo's Justice Department boss, now federal judge Bybee; Rumsfeld;
Rice; Hadley; and the legion of neocon brownshirts that comprise the regime's
subcabinet? Is Yoo any more culpable than anyone else who served the corrupt,
evil, and anti-American Bush regime?
The ease with which the Bush regime has run roughshod over the law and Constitution
indicates that the brownshirt mentality to which many Americans have succumbed
has sufficient attractive power to cause a professor from one of the country's
great liberal institutions to serve the cause of tyranny. The conservative
movement has produced a cadre of brownshirts that might yet succeed in destroying
the American Constitution.