Note: If you don’t know who John Yoo is I suggest starting with his Wikipedia page. Then listen to The Torture Memos by my band, the Parkdale Revolutionary Orchestra. As you ought to know, this is a piece of creative writing that in no way reflects on the life or experience of the real John Yoo. I’m sure he has absolutely no trouble looking at himself in the mirror these days.
JOHN YOO STARES INTO THE ABYSS
I am not an evil man.
In fact I am rather a good one,
kind to animals, generous to beggars,
a good son, a timely taxpayer, a good neighbour.
I always pay more than my share of the dinner cheque,
I never leave my bins out after garbage day,
and my house is well-kept, neat, painted,
in accordance with the bylaws
of my Home Owner’s Association.
So tell me, Abyss, why I see your face
in this perfectly clean mirror
on this perfectly ordinary day.
An animals yawns within you, John
a gaping maw ringed with bloody teeth,
blood of your victims, those you slew
with your pen, your position, your indifference.
But I am no animal! I am a man,
God’s image on this earth,
pure, proud, a creature of reason.
As for victims, I can’t say I know what you mean.
Do you not know, John Yoo?
Can you look me in the eye and say
You bear no responsibility?
Responsibility? For what?
For the bombed and the battered,
For the bodies bruised and bones broken,
for the dead men and mad men born in your torture chamber,
born of endless light and sound,
of fear and threat and rape.
Please, I am a decent man.
Do not distress me with these unpleasantries.
I have tortured no one. I have never even hit a soul.
I am innocent.
In your own way, perhaps you are…
Yes. I see it in your face.
You are innocent. You shine.
So why have you summoned me, Professor?
I summon you? I don’t know what you mean.
I do not appear in just any mirror, my friend.
You are not real. I shouldn’t be talking to you.
And yet here we are.
Here we are.
And you have made no attempt to answer my question.
Do you bear no responsibility?
None at all?
Ask the man who wields the whip,
who looses the dogs, who strips the men bare.
I am a mere professional a million miles away.
A professional. Just doing my job.
And the man who wields the whip, who is he?
A nobody from nowhere,
A poor kid with no prospects,
who rents his body to death for a pittance.
What man would volunteer for this war? Not he.
Not of his true free will, that is.
But you, John Yoo. You were free.
I was. I am.
As free as a mortal being can be, that is,
Still enslaved to your urges and appetites,
your need to belong, to surpass, to survive.
Yes! That’s it, I had no choice.
I am only a fly trapped in the spider’s web
of circumstance. Not my fault.
If it hadn’t been you it would only have been someone else.
Yes! What I did was noble.
A sacrifice to save another.
A sacrifice to save another?
Yes. That’s it.
But what have you sacrificed?
And from what was this other saved?
I thought you bore no responsibility, John Yoo.
I see your face grow dark and your voice silent.
Tell me, what have you sacrificed?
My good name.
My soul, If there is such a thing.
And it is from this fate that you have saved another.
Well. I myself blame evolution.
Nature gave you the fangs of a killer,
society deprived you of the need to use them.
The opportunity to kill and maim without account,
from afar, without mess, without blood,
I suppose it was too much for you.
Yes. Yes, it was.
I thought as much.
Goodbye, John Yoo.
Wait! Abyss, don’t leave me!
Can you offer me no comfort?
No kindness, no path to redemption?
What kindness was shown in Abu Ghraib?
What comfort in Guantanamo?
In the secret cells across the world, who was redeemed?
What do you think I am?
I am no kind spirit come to save you,
neither am I your priest or your psychiatrist.
What absolution do you think is open to you?
I am not a bad man.
Come, you are talking like a child.
What makes a man good or evil?
It isn’t a simple adherence to petty rules, you know.
That you send thank-you notes and mow your lawn,
that cuts no ice with me.
But enough of this.
Goodbye, John Yoo.
I have no doubt that we will meet again.
I am not a bad man.
In fact, I’m rather a good one.
Kind to animals, generous to beggars,
A good son who makes his mother proud.
I pay my taxes on time and never shirk my half of the bill.
A good employee, a good neighbour,
A good man…a good man…a good man…