Mayfield: Some odd ways of thinking |

Mayfield: Some odd ways of thinking

“Was it worth it?” asked John Yoo, formerly of the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and author of memos justifying torture of terrorist suspects, “We haven’t had an attack in more than seven years.” (Speech at Chapman University, April 21, 2009)

I am sure you would want to join me in taking this opportunity to thank Mr. Yoo and his fellow former Justice Department attorneys for keeping America safe these past seven-plus years. Their complete disregard for international treaties prohibiting the use of torture combined with a truly stunning contempt for the moral principles this nation was founded upon have obviously protected us from complete and total annihilation from terrorists abroad, aliens above and maybe one or two American citizens whose political views just seemed a little too peculiar. That they also turned our system of justice into a model for dictators around the world should also be noted. I am certain President Mugabe, President (for life) Kim Il-sung as well as a few hundred Somali pirates are deeply grateful.

The rationale at work here is tantamount to the one used by my teacher in parochial school who used to begin our school day by having us all bow our heads and beg God not to allow the godless and immoral Communists to drop a nuclear bomb on innocent children like us. You never heard such pious pleading as that which came from 27 frightened third-graders of room 3-A! And just in case our devotion failed to convince our deity, we frequently practiced scrambling underneath our desks and turning our eyes away from the window where the blinding light from the atomic blast would render us all blind on top of being dead as doorposts. Now I probably shouldn’t claim complete responsibility for preventing a nuclear holocaust during the 1958-59 school year but …

I suppose this might also be the time to offer our thanksgiving to Fox News for rallying dozens of outraged fellow citizens who gathered recently to sip tea and share their shock over the state of governmental spending. Concern for the dire future financial state of their children’s children appeared to be the general theme as their communal wail over billions to be spent building up our neglected national infrastructure served to inform us all of their noble and patriotic intentions. It would probably be impolite to ask where their grave concern for wasted tax dollars was when President Bush took a $240 billion surplus at the beginning of his administration and quickly turned it into a $400 billion deficit that just kept getting bigger. The fact that government spending increased by 55 percent during G.W.’s tenure tends to get ignored by those so genuinely concerned about the “socialist” tendencies of our new administration. By the way, we should all take note that it was five years ago this week that our former president swaggered across the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln to boast that our mission to Iraq had been accomplished. What it accomplished was and still is open to debate, but the deficit it helped create can’t be ignored by the critics of our current administration.

Mr. Yoo’s bold claim calls to mind other rationales that deserve the light of day. Those of us who still remember the faulty reasoning for the foolishness known as the Vietnam War can’t help but recall the words of the American major who claimed, “It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it.”

And then there is the late Jerry Falwell’s paean to the Prince of Peace following the attacks of 9/11: “You’ve got to kill the terrorists before the killing stops. And I’m for the president to chase them all over the world. If it takes 10 years, blow them all away in the name of the Lord.”

Who can forget Marion Barry, the former mayor of our nation’s capital, boasting, “Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country.”

I’ll close with one final tribute to Mr. Yoo’s odd way of thinking. It comes from the master himself and may help explain the strange doings from inside the Justice Department. “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.” (President George W. Bush, Aug. 5, 2004.)

Rich Mayfield is the author of “Reconstructing Christianity: Notes from the New Reformation.” E-mail comments about this column to

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