The Daily Hysteria: Haynes Is A “War Criminal”

Yesterday, Andrew Sullivan declared Fourth Circuit nominee Jim Haynes a “war criminal” that “was instrumental in the endorsement and enabling of torture” when he was “general counsel for president Bush.” Today, Scott Johnson has posted a rebuttal to Sullivan’s now typical hyperbole, with the aid of John Yoo, at Power Line.

“Money quote” from Yoo:

According to the many investigations that have been conducted on Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, there is no evidence that “Haynes was in the White House in November 2002” making decisions about interrogation policy. Haynes is the general counsel of the Defense Department, not the “general counsel for president Bush,” as Sullivan seems to think. If Sullivan cannot even get such basic and obvious facts right, he is likely to be wrong about most everything else he says.

One clear example to show the mistakes of Sullivan and the left’s torture narrative is the discussion of waterboarding. Haynes’s decisions were the exact opposite of Sullivan’s claim. It was uniformed military in Guantanamo Bay that requested enhanced interrogation methods to use against a single al Qaeda operative who was believed to have actionable intelligence. His name was Mohamed al Kahtani. He was captured fleeing Tora Bora in December 2001. He had been turned away when he tried to enter the United States at Orlando airport in August 2001; waiting in the airport at that same date and time was Mohammed Atta, the ringleader of the 9/11 attacks. Haynes did not approve waterboarding; in fact, he and other Defense Department advisors rejected it. When the Defense Department later assembled a broader working group to study interrogation standards, Haynes again as a matter of policy recommended against adoption of many more aggressive interrogation methods, including waterboarding.

Furthermore, Sullivan sites this report by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker as proof of Haynes’ “complicity in torture.” But a thorough read of the piece reveals that it hardly is an indictment of Haynes as “complicit” in torture. Rather, it describes his role in interrogation policy shaping post September 11th at DoD and it specifically notes that Haynes rejected techniques such as “nudity; the exploitation of ‘aversions,’ such as a fear of dogs; and slaps to the face and stomach.” But remember, according to Sullivan, he’s a “war criminal.”

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Greg Tinti
About Greg Tinti
Greg started the blog The Political Pit Bull in August 2005. He was OTB's Breaking News Editor from June through August 2006 before deciding to return to his own blog. His blogging career eventually ended altogether. He has a B.A. in Anthropology from The George Washington University,


  1. BDS: A mind is a terrible thing to waste. We must fund a cure. Give generously to the GOP to help wipe out BDS.

  2. Anderson says:

    Oh lord. Haynes may not be a “war criminal,” but he lacks the character to sit on the federal bench.

    Quoting Yoo in Haynes’s defense is hilarious, given what we learn in the Jane Mayer piece linked: Haynes promised Navy counsel Mora that he’d set up a working group to address Mora’s concerns about legitimized abuse of detainees … then Haynes bypassed that group in favor of a b.s. memo prepared by … John Yoo.

    Dumbass Yoo *ignored* the Youngstown case in blithely bypassing the federal statutes against torture and abuse: “The war on terrorism makes Youngstown more complicated,” Yoo said. Ha! Tell it to the Supreme Court.

    On February 6th, Mora invited Yoo to his office, in the Pentagon, to discuss the opinion. Mora asked him, â??Are you saying the President has the authority to order torture?â??

    â??Yes,â?? Yoo replied.

    So much for Yoo.

    As for Haynes, he b.s.’d Mora and others who were jumping up & down, trying to get the Pentagon to obey the law. Haynes thwarted the normal processes in order to help push through policies which were just plain illegal.

    When the Navy’s chief JAG tried to tell Haynes that the JAGs needed more info on the military commissions, Haynes blew the guy off.

    The guy shouldn’t be dogcatcher, let alone a federal appellate judge.

  3. Lest we forget:

    The President of the United States is the Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces.

    He has the authority to order ANYTHING.

    He may not have the RIGHT to order torture, but he certainly has the authority.

  4. Anderson says:

    Uh, sorry, Caliban. The President’s authority extends to that proper to a “commander in chief”; he, not the Congress, decides whether to focus on Germany or Japan, whether to join the Allies or fight as an Associated Power, etc., etc. No backseat-generaling in the manner of the Continental Congress.

    He does *not* have the authority to order violations of the laws of war. And the Congress is expressly granted the authority to define and punish “offences against the Law of Nations,” and to “make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces.”

    At any rate, considering that the President has only those powers granted him by the Constitution, I don’t follow your “authority/right” distinction. Does a colonel have the “authority” to order a private to machine-gun a line of helpless civilians? No, he does not. Neither does the C-in-C.