I hope you'll keep the Senator, and the entire Kennedy family, in your thoughts and prayers.
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George Packer, the author of The Assassins' Gate: American in Iraq which gives a pitch-perfect account of the misguided run-up to -- and tragic decline of -- the Iraq war, writes in detail in the New Yorker about the decline and demise of conservatism in America.
It is a fantastic account, and will fill your heart with hope for America -- until you get to the very end.
I won't spoil it for you.
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John Yoo, if you didn't already know, is the guy who wrote the Department of Justice brief which essentially said it was okay to torture people, known by its shorthand, "the torture memo."
Richardson paints a picture of a nice guy, family guy -- a guy maybe not unlike me. Except that for him it's cool to hurt people to get information out of them.
Okay, I'll be serious.
It is probably not fair to say that John Yoo in and of himself is a monster or a war criminal. That actually gives him too much credit. Mr. Yoo wrote a memo that said it was basically okay to skirt the law -- domestic and international -- and further posited that it was okay to hurt people in order to glean national security information. He gets caught up in the detail of what "hurt" means.
They used the Al Qaeda figure Abu Zubaydah as an example of why torture could possibly be viewed as okay. Zubaydah was a high-ranking figure and it was estimated that he knew of many hundreds or even thousands of terrorists around the world -- and where they might strike. As Richardson says in the piece, it was as close as you could get to the scenario of a guy knows there's a bomb and when it'll go off, but you have to get him to talk.
See, I think that whole argument is nonsense, because it assumes the information is collected in a vacuum. And maybe with the level of importance Bush and Rice and company placed on intelligence, it was ("Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S."). In fact, use that memo as an example. If Bush and Condoleezza Rice, his National Security Adviser at the time of 9/11, had paid it some mind, would we be having this debate? What if Donald Rumsfeld hadn't believed his own hype in regards to Afghanistan and sent in an overwhelming force to root out Al Qaeda and Bin Laden rather than a too-small group of special operatives and others. Would we be having this conversation then?
I don't believe that people like Abu Zubaydah are captured in a vacuum. I believe they are captured in concert with other cohorts and accomplices. They are captured in buildings and caves with documentation and communications materials. Do you think Abu Zubaydah was just wandering around the desert and the 101st Airborne picked him up? Don't think so.
The point is, torture is a crappy way to get critical information America needs to prevent horrific attacks in the first place. So do I think John Yoo is a monster? No. I think he's a terribly flawed human being with a twisted sense of what it takes to protect American in a time when America was dealt a crippling blow. Furthermore, I think he was intellectually lazy, and I think the people he worked for were -- and continue to be -- power-hungry jackals.
The real problem is, his laziness has cost this country a great deal, and based on this well-done article, I'm not entirely sure he gets that. I'm not sure he fully comprehends the price we have paid as a country. Then again, I wonder if anyone really can.
Lazy and unaware -- that might be worse than a monster, actually.
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-- More soon --