Wednesday, October 04, 2006

With Yoo and Inskeep Down the Rabbit Hole

Listening to Steve Inskeep interview former Bush lawyer John Yoo (who issued an infamous torture memo in 2002) was about as creepy and unsettling an interview as I've ever heard on NPR. The interview is focused on the stripping of habeus corpus rights from detainees in the "war on terror" and Inskeep does ask some straightforward questions and Yoo answers with a bland totalitarian style. (e.g. Inskeep: "Can they [the government] hold you the entire time" that you are challenging your detention? Yoo: " ...they would hold you during the course of your can be held until hostilities are over.")

What was disturbing was how often Inskeep allowed Yoo to make contradictory assertions without challenging him at all. At the beginning of the interview Inskeep asked about US citizens seized as "enemy combatants" and Yoo responded, "If you’re a citizen I think you can go right to Federal Court you have a right to seek habeus review." The obvious question here was "What about Padilla?" But there is no follow up.

Later Inskeep and Yoo have discussed and agreed on the extra-judicial nature of the procedure for the "combatant status review tribunal": it is set up by the defense department, there is no lawyer or independent advocate, and no viewing classified "evidence." Then a few moments later, after Inskeep has brought up the likelihood that innocents will be detained, Yoo states, "there’s always the chance that there will be people who are detained who are not enemy combatants; the same is true of our criminal justice system...that's why we have all these processes, that's why we have all these appeals' levels is to try to correct any mistakes...and to prevent errors." From Inskeep, nothing.

Toward the end of the interview Yoo, commenting on Congress' stripping away habeus corpus rights says, "it would be a lot more expensive, I think what we have here is something very close to the civilian system." Close to the civilian system? What? Inskeep only challenges him on the stinginess of his comment about it being "more expensive."

The last element of Yoo's arguments --which all the Bushists rely on --is that all their means are justified by our being "at war." Yoo states, "this is part of the way the rules of war have worked for a long time...the point of the war is to fight and defeat the enemy...reflects the demands and nature of warfare." This is never challenged by NPR. What war? Where is the enemy? What is the battlefield? When will it end? What are the goals? Who Constitutionally declared it? If NPR keeps buying into the "war on terror" paradigm, then they keep giving these militarists cover. And even within the twisted vision of the "war on terror" NPR never points out how these "war on terror" advocates try to have it both ways: it's a war which requires wartime measures, etc., but the enemy is not really a war-adversary so we can ignore the Geneva Conventions and trample all rules of war even though it's a real war. I get dizzy just trying to find which way is up as I keep falling and falling and falling....


Porter Melmoth said...

That is the point, sir, to keep we who care DIZZIED UP. The 'new' NPR is sly enough to realize that the language of obfuscation can be used effectively so that even a 'liberal' audience will find it difficult to dissect certain passages from certain controversial guests such as John Yoo. I'm sure that one of the reasons Steve Inskeep was chosen to replace the rather more wary Bob Edwards was because of his slickness. Not only is he able to speak trippingly along without the aid of voice compression software, but his subtleties are compatible with the corporate imperatives now lording over NPR. Besides, foundations for the future are already well-laid: post baby boomers will be even more docile in their views, making way for a fluffier and puffier approach to 'serious' radio.
Speaking for myself, I am seriously considering phasing out NPR altogether. There's just too much to criticize anymore. Even the usually steady Tom Ashbrook on 'On Point' seemed to get suspiciously sharp with Noam Chomsky the other day, while such figures as 'Gentleman' John McCain get kid-glove treatment all the way through. These are all signs that I'm outgrowing NPR, and shall have to look further afield for objectivity. Like this blog. 'NPR Check' seems just the ticket as far as a proper and meaningful critique is concerned. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

It would have been useful if Inskeep had had another 'legal expert' to challenge Yoo. Yeah, when presented with solid liberals, NPR hosts get real insecure. Whenever possible, I listen to a Pacifica broadcast.