GEORGE BUSH vs. THE MILITARY….Over at Balkinization, Marty Lederman has a long post describing how the military reacted to George Bush’s decision to overturn decades of adherence to the “legal and moral ‘high-road’ in the conduct of our military operations” as it applies to interrogation of prisoners. Six memos written by the Judge Advocate Generals of the Armed Forces in 2003 were recently released into the Congressional Record, and they show that the military JAGs were distinctly unhappy with what was happening:
It is fair to say that these accounts reflected sustained, uniform and passionate opposition to the OLC legal theories that were being foisted upon the military. Indeed, the tone of the memos is one of barely concealed incredulity, and outrage?disbelief?that a young legal academic from DOJ could sweep right in and so quickly overturn decades of carefully wrought military policy, using legal analysis that almost certainly would not withstand scrutiny outside the Administration and around the world.
Lindsey Graham, one of the few Republican senators who still retains the capacity to be outraged by torture and abuse of prisoners, noted that “the JAGs were telling the policymakers: If you go down this road, you are going to get your own people in trouble. You are on a slippery slope. You are going to lose the moral high ground. This was 2003. And they were absolutely right.”
As we now know, the JAG recommendations were indeed ignored wholesale in favor of a theory put forth by John Yoo of the Department of Justice, which essentially suggested that the president’s commander-in-chief power allowed him to do anything he wanted. Yoo’s memo remains classified, and the Bush administration remains adamantly opposed to legislation that would codify standards for interrogation of prisoners.
Read the whole post. Marty also has links to the JAG memos themselves, so you can read their words for yourself. I don’t think anyone who knows military culture will be surprised to learn the depth of their commitment to high standards of conduct even ? or perhaps especially ? in wartime, but it’s still nice to see it in black and white.