The journo-tainers over at the Washington Post editorial board have written another — god, another— idiotic thing about torture or war or whatever it is that gets their rocks off, while they sit, alone, sad, lost. What Bush-era practice are they apologizing for now?
The editors, unsurprisingly, are quite happy that demon lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee won’t face genital-shock treatment for being such despicable, awful shit people. They won’t even face any professional sanctions!
In the 400-word obfuscating nightmare they call an Op-Ed, the editors use the word “torture” only once, and it is in relation to anti-torture statutes that Yoo and Bybee violated — not to describe the actions that Yoo and Bybee endorsed. Even now, the WaPo can’t bring itself to describe torture as torture. They still persist in engaging in the euphemistic white-washing of the previous administration’s behavior. By continuing to refer to waterboarding as an “enhanced interrogation technique” they lie to their readers about what was actually happening, thereby keeping that dreaded word “torture” off people’s mind.
Their third paragraph begins:
Some seven years later, Mr. Bybee, now a federal appeals court judge, and Mr. Yoo, a law professor, have been cleared of charges of professional misconduct. It is the right decision. [emphasis added.]
The WaPo editorial board hasn’t been correct about something since Watergate, so it’s of little value to criticize their conclusion. Their job, as they understand it, is to provide whatever political cover possible to Yoo and Bybee, the same as Yoo and Bybee believed it was their job to rubber stamp George W. Bush and Dick Cheney’s insane plan just to fuckin’ torture whoever the fuck they wanted to. Those in power protect themselves in all cultures — America is no different, just more capable of doing greater harm to the world.
The editorial offers mild criticism — the kind a child secretly smiles at when she knows she got away with something. But by refusing to call what Yoo and Bybee endorsed “torture,” Fred Hiatt and his cowardly band of goons reassure an already hypnotized public that that was then, and it was bad, but not that bad, and we’re moving on.
Also, it’s entirely possible to believe, in the narrowest way, that Yoo and Bybee shouldn’t have been professionally sanctioned, but that that fact is more a condemnation of the Lawyers Guild Pinky Swear Rule Book than it is an attempt to let those two off the hook. Yale Professor Jack Balk has the best (and most entertaining) analysis of the decision I’ve read (h/t Greenwald). He writes:
But Margolis argues that the Office of Professional Responsibility chose too high a standard to judge the professional responsibility of Yoo and Bybee. The OPR argued that Yoo and Bybee had “a duty to exercise independent legal judgment and to render thorough, objective, and candid legal advice.” This standard, Margolis explained, is much too high a requirement and not one that Yoo and Bybee were previously warned was the standard to which they would be held.
I know what you are probably saying: shouldn’t every government lawyer have to live up to this standard? Of course, they should, but the point is that this is a disciplinary proceeding. It’s not about what people should do, but about how badly they have to screw things up before they are subject to professional sanctions.
Instead, Margolis argues that, judging by (among other things) a review of D.C. bar rules, the standard for attorney misconduct is set pretty damn low, and is only violated by lawyers who (here I put it colloquially) are the scum of the earth. Lawyers barely above the scum of the earth are therefore excused.
I highly recommend reading the Balk’s entire write up. It really puts the Washington Post to shame, which, you know, they also do themselves. Man, they are really awful, huh?