Daily Archives: October 21, 2008

Tenure, Academic Freedom and Torture [UPDATED]

Last night Mrs. JP and I watched the excellent, and horrifying, documentary “Taxi to the Dark Side“. This film won an Oscar for best documentary last year and is currently playing on HBO. The film is about the terrible story of Dilawar, an Afghan taxi driver who was turned in by an Afghan warlord trying to protect his own interests (which were turning in innocent people by day and bombing American troops by night). Dilawar was tortured to death while in American custody.

During the film, we were re-introduced to the infamous John Yoo, current professor at the School of Law at Cal Berkeley and former Bush administration attorney. You may remember John Yoo as the author of the torture memos, those documents that made the case that prisoners taken during the Afghan (and Iraq invasions) were somehow outside the law and not subject to Geneva Conventions — opinions based in part on some of our darkest days as a nation, the mistreatment, killing and forcible relocation of Native Americans. During the original Afghan invasion, the run-up to the Iraq war and the early stages of the Iraq war John Yoo was a frequent guest on the NewsHour, making his legal case for continued extreme treatment of prisoners taken during these conflicts in order to extract information from them. He disgusted me then and he disgusted me yet again last night as I saw him make the same arguments to the filmmakers. But, alas, my point is not to belabor the high crimes of John Yoo, this has been done in nearly every major news outlet in the world, my point is to examine what his case, as a tenured professor at Cal Berkeley School of Law, tells me about my own academic freedom. Continue reading