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Web Letter

In stating that the point of executive accountability "is not merely to 'lay blame' " but to "set boundaries on presidential behavior and to clarify where wrongdoing will be challenged," John Nichols seems intent on de-emphasizing the "punitive" or "retributive" arguments for such accountability. Indeed, it seems clear that in terms of the current debate on torture and accountability, arguments that highlight "deterrence" rather than "revenge" are far more likely to gain political traction and to be less vulnerable to attacks from the right. In this regard, however, it is interesting that, in what would seem to be a kind of "Freudian slip," the retributive impulse resurfaces in the following paragraph when Nichols states that "truth commissions that grant immunity to wrongdoers...do not check and balance the executive branch any more than 'warnings' punish speeding motorists." Does Nichols oppose "warnings" because they would not serve to punish or because they would not serve to deter? Undoubtedly Nichols would opt for a combination of both, but my point here is that the seemingly unconscious focus on punishment in this analogy leaves him open to the charge that it is really the desire for revenge that is uppermost. Yes, many of us feel a personal desire to see the wrongdoers punished, but this personal desire might not be relevant to the discourse necessary for effective policy-making on this issue.

Barry Shapiro

Meadville, PA

May 17 2009 - 11:45am

Web Letter

I have a real problem in punishing any of our officials that have used any of these so called inhumane devices in extracting information from terrorist when those same people remove heads from live humans to extract fear from us. 'Nuff said!

Bobby R. Hennessee

Duncan, OK

Apr 26 2009 - 6:24pm

Web Letter

It is not only the responsibility of the politicians to provide checks and balance to the process from the Congress, to the executive and to the judicial but our General officers, the staff officers and most certainly our senior NCOs.

FM6-22, the Army leadership manual, spells out very plainly the responsibility of its responsible personnel.

As one of your readers stated, Speaker Polosi should be on trial for her knowledge of what was going on (I do not believe she should be first as he suggest, there are plenty in front of her), but her involvement should be investigated. By the same token, let us not forget Hassert, DeLay and Frisk. Also any in a leadership position who was briefed in either party.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and all the chiefs need to be looked at for complicity. They did not show the proper moral courage to stand up and say no... and say it loudly.

We citizens are also at fault. We should look inward. We must be vigilante. This should be very cathartic.

Michael Doud

Woodruff, WI

Apr 26 2009 - 10:51am

Web Letter

As vile and immoral and even illegal as the incidents of torture may have been, our government awoke on September 11, 2001, to a horror that had never been experienced on our shores before. No one knew, during those horrific moments in New York, in Washington, DC, and in the skies over Pennsylvania who was attacking us, how many were attacking us and where they would be hitting us next.

I do not excuse the methods used, but I understand that in an age of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons the urgency of finding out where the next attack might be and when it would occur overrode the common decency of some of our leaders. Our president's number-one priority is not the economy or universal healthcare, but instead it is the security and safety of the American people.

The truth must be learned. Torture must forever and always be banned. However, trying to satisfy the bloodlust of the far left by putting Bush and Cheney in prison garb and chains will only divide the country and it will make our intelligence services doubt their government will stand behind them in a time of national emergency. We need to find out everything that happened and make sure it never happens again, but then President Obama needs to do the right thing and after all the facts are out offer a blank presidential pardon to all those who engaged in acts, however repulsive, abhorrent and immoral, that were meant to save the lives of perhaps millions of people.

However despicable these acts of torture may have been, they were carried out against the people who planned the murders of 3,000 innocent men, women and children in September of 2001. While we must as a nation ensure that torture is never again a policy of our government, we do not need to shed any tears for the psychopaths who planned, funded and directed the terror and murder of September 11, 2001, and if, as President's Obama's national security director, Admiral Blair, has confirmed, that some of the enhanced interrogation methods prevented a few future 9/11s, we should not allow those who saved the lives of so many to be castigated as evil men. Let's remember and never forget that the truly evil people were those who planned and carried out the murders of thousands, not the people who may have stepped over the bounds of our laws to prevent the deaths of more thousands.

Mark Jeffery Koch

Cherry Hill, NJ

Apr 25 2009 - 9:21pm

Web Letter

If everyone on the inside of the briefings is culpable, then let's see Pelosi as the first on trial.

Otherwise, I am against politically criminalizing a legitimate policy disagreement that seems to pit the majority of Democrats against the majority of Republicans.

The correct forum for this is in elections!

John D. Froelich

Upper Darby, PA

Apr 24 2009 - 4:46pm