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Torture's Best Friend: An Interview With John Yoo

The New York Times picks the brain of John Yoo, who compares George W. Bush to Abraham Lincoln and says “It was my job” to write the memos that sought to legalize torture. Yoo now teaches at the University of California at Berkeley, of which he says: “I remind myself of West Berlin … surrounded by East Germany during the Cold War.”

He elaborates: “There are probably more Communists in Berkeley than any other town in America, but I think of them more as lovers of Birkenstocks than Marx.”

This chat is a little cutesy for someone who shares responsibility for the agony of countless detainees, the besmirching of America’s reputation and the agitation of God knows how many terrorists, insurgents and other people who now want to kill American soldiers and civilians.

How does he live with it all? Denial helps. If that fails, apparently both of Yoo’s parents are psychiatrists. Although he says, “I don’t actually know that much about their work. I’ve never really been interested.” What a putz. — PZS

The New York Times:

Do you regret writing the so-called torture memos, which claimed that President Bush was legally entitled to ignore laws prohibiting torture?
No, I had to write them. It was my job. As a lawyer, I had a client. The client needed a legal question answered.

When you say you had “a client,” do you mean President Bush?
Yes, I mean the president, but also the U.S. government as a whole.

But isn’t a lawyer in the Department of Justice there to serve the people of this country?
Yes, I think you are quite right, when the government is executing the laws, but if there’s a conflict between the president and the Congress, then you have to pick one or the other.

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