On Tuesday liberal book critic Michiko Kakutani takes on "War by Other Means," a defense of the Bush administration by John Yoo, who worked in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel and was notorious among critics for memos that defined torture narrowly.
Kakutani again displays her refusal to debate conservative arguments, merely dismissing them as prima facie ridiculous: "What Torture Is and Isn't: A Hard-Liner's Argument ."
"Mr. Yoo has not used his academic background in the legal aspects of war powers issues and executive authority to make a persuasive case here for the administration's actions. Instead, he has written a book that reads like a combination of White House talking points and a partisan brief on presidential prerogatives - a book that is strewn with preposterous assertions, contorted reasoning and illogical conclusions. He writes that 'because of our aggressive policies post 9/11, al Qaeda is no longer the threat it was.' He suggests that might makes right: 'At this moment in world history the United States' conduct should bear the most weight in defining the customs of war. Our defense budget is greater than the defense spending of the next fifteen nations combined.'
"Just as the administration cherry-picked intelligence to make the case that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, so Mr. Yoo cherry-picks information in this volume. Of the Schlesinger report on the Abu Ghraib prison, Mr. Yoo says it found that the abuses there 'resulted not from orders out of Washington, but from flagrant disregard of interrogation and detention rules by the guards.' He does not grapple with those portions of the report that found 'there is both institutional and personal responsibility at higher levels.'"