Yoo’s Town

(To the tune of Bruce Springsteen’s Youngstown)

Up in northeast Ohio
Back in nineteen fifty-two
President Harry Truman
Seized Youngstown Sheet and Tube

There’d been some labor unrest
And Harry was afraid of more
He said he needed the tanks and bombs
To fight the Korean war

There in Youngstown
There in Youngstown
And John Yoo don’t you forget
What was said in Youngstown

Well the case reached the Supreme Court
Where it was argued well
And the court handed down handed down a ruling
Saying he couldn’t seize the mills

The president’s inherent powers
Whatsoever they may be
Must yield to the will of Congress
In our constitutional democracy

That was Youngstown
That was Youngstown
And John Yoo don’t you forget
What was said in Youngstown

Well John Yoo came to OLC
Where he wrote a memo or two
His reasoning, now, it was slipshod
But it did what they wanted it to do

He said the president had powers
That stemmed from Article II
Powers to hurt, and maim, and mutilate
“If we do it, it’s not torture,” said John Yoo.

Where was Youngstown?
Where was Youngstown?
Now John Yoo why’d you forget
To talk about Youngstown?

From the waterboard room at Gitmo
To the cells of Abu Ghraib
To the CIA’s hidden prisons
The story’s always the same

The men in charge, they flout the law
Telling themselves the world’s changed
They found a lawyer to write what they wanted
One dumb enough to ignore the case …

Of Youngstown
Of Youngstown
Now John Yoo, he went and forgot
To write about Youngstown

When he retired he got his tenure back
And returned to Berkeley’s sunny climes But someday justice will come and take him
To face trial for war crimes

Hmm. Would that Jackson, J., had said a little bit more about that whole “lowest ebb” bit. The size of that lowest reserve of authority is really the central question— although it may be a “political question,” at that.

Re: the last line, do you really think that authoring an imperfect OLC opinion — even if it rose to the level of malpractice, which I think is not clear — really amounts to a war crime? Does that mean that all the other lawyers who have participated in providing legal justifications for certain war on terror tactics, or the lawyers defending those who carried out such tactics, are also war criminals?