Shocks the Conscience II

April 2, 2008 9:29 a.m.

TPM Reader KM, reacting to release of the Yoo memo:

This is genuinely chilling. What shocks the conscience is that a legal scholar from one of our most prestigious institutions of law and higher learning could in his own mind on behalf of a government seeking to find a way around legal obstacles offer the same banal rationale for perpetrating unspeakable acts of torture and cruel treatment as all other totalitarian regimes: The ends justify the means. Why? Because someone cloaked with authority says it does.

All humans self-justify. This is our nature. Our nation was founded as one of laws rather than men for the very reason of establishing limits on the worst excesses of human imagination, lust for power, and the capacity to self-justify. Perhaps such a sociopathic mindset fails to rise to the standard Yoo offers for criminal prosecution of torture only when “inspired by malice or sadism,” but this distinction is a matter of degree rather than kind and an incredibly fragile thread on which to hang our national humanity and reputation, to say nothing of the destroyed lives and sufferings of the victims.

What also shocks the conscience is that we have reached such a profound state of exhaustion or indifference to such shocking revelations that disclosure of the Yoo document is unlikely to cause much of a ripple in the news cycle.

Likewise, from TPM Reader SK:

What shocks the conscience is that John Yoo, who wrote that legally, morally, ethically unacceptable garbage, is a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and a respected “talking head” in the national media. The First Amendment protects his right to have such repulsive opinions, but a healthy society would not so eagerly reward enablers and defenders of torture.

Scooter Libby lost his license to practice law for far less.

Late Update: TPM Reader RF:

My parents were Hungarian holocaust survivors.

The question most asked them about that era was, “how could it happen? What could have been done?

My mother’s reply was that tyranny takes little steps. People get upset, and then accept it. Then another little step. A few more little steps and you have death camps.

Yoo’s defense of torture is one more little step moving us away from civilization and closer to madness. Where is the outcry?

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