The senior Justice Department legal adviser to president Bush who
made the legal case for the Bush Administration's use of torture
tactics on terror suspects defended comments that the president could
unilaterally "massacre" civilians in wartime in a newly released
"You did argue that the president can legally order a
village of civilians massacred," a KQED radio host asked John Yoo, now
a professor at Berkeley. "Do you stand by that?"
"If, I thought
it was militarily necessary," Yoo replied. "All you have to do is look
at American history.... Look at the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. "
Not backing down, Yoo championed the use of nuclear weapons in World War II.
Congress tell President Truman he couldn't use a nuclear bombing in
Japan, even though Truman thought in good faith he was saving millions
of American and Japanese lives?" Yoo continued. "Or look at the
American bombing campaign of World War II over Europe. Again, terrible
things that the country had to do to bring the war to a faster
conclusion and in the long run perhaps save more American or German
He also suggested that the decision to use America's nuclear arsenal is the president's alone.
government places those decisions in the president, and if the Congress
doesn't like it they can cut off funds for it or they can impeach him."
Liberal blog ThinkProgress' Ian Millhiser, which first highlighted the interview, argues that Yoo's understanding of the law in this case is wrong.
far back as 1804, a unanimous Supreme Court held in Little v. Barreme
that Congress has sweeping authority to limit the President's actions
in wartime. That case involved an Act of Congress authorizing vessels
to seize cargo ships bound for French ports. After the President also
authorized vessels to seize ships headed away from French ports, the
Supreme Court held this authorization unconstitutional on the grounds
that Congress' decision to allow one kind of seizure implicitly forbade
other kinds of seizure. More recently, in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld and Hamdan
v. Rumsfeld, the Court held that the President does not have the power
to unilaterally set military policy (in those cases with respect to
detention); he must comply with statutory limits on his power. Taken
together, these and other cases unquestionably establish that Congress
has the power to tell the President 'no,' and the President must
"John Yoo is a moral vacuum, but he is also a
constitutional law professor at one of the nation's top law schools and
a former Supreme Court clerk," the site added. "It is simply impossible
that Yoo is not aware of Little, Hamdi and Hamdan, or that he does not
understand what they say. So when John Yoo claims that the President is
not bound by Congressional limits, he is not simply ignorant or
misunderstanding the law. He is lying."
This weekend, Newsweek's Michael Isikoff noted
that Yoo also "told Justice Department investigators that the
president's war-making authority was so broad that he had the
constitutional power to order a village to be 'massacred,' according to
a report released Friday night by the Office of Professional
Pressed on his views in an interview with OPR investigators, Yoo was asked:
"What about ordering a village of resistants to be massacred? ... Is that a power that the president could legally -"
Yoo replied, according to a partial transcript included in the report.
"Although, let me say this: So, certainly, that would fall within the
commander-in-chief's power over tactical decisions."
"To order a village of civilians to be [exterminated]?" the OPR investigator asked again.
"Sure," said Yoo.