Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

I had the good fortune to visit Spain as a high school senior 35 years ago. I remember falling in love with the people I became acquainted with. Now I know why.

Susan L. Smith

Clinton Township, MI

Feb 17 2010 - 4:20pm

Web Letter

Charles Warbler's web letter defends waterboarding because he claims it is "harmless" to Americans. It is not harmless, neither to Americans nor foreigners, and has killed people, some of them known to be innocent. It is not even simulated drowning but actual drowning aborted (or so it is speciously thought) before death. Besides, it has long been as defined as torture under the law, and Mr. Warbler is acting the role of war criminal John Yoo, completely dismissive of the rule of law.

Obama has willingly embraced all the torture and rendition policies of George Bush and hence is complicit in the same war crimes.

Moreover, waterboarding is not the only form of torture employed by our war criminals. At least one episode of incineration in a crematorium at Abu Ghraib was photographed and mentioned in an article in The New Yorker (photos have been censored--Obama really imagines this will not be investigated by the Spanish Court). Presumably Mr. Warbler thinks incineration is also harmless?

The fact is, we are a barbaric nation and cowardly enough not to investigate ourselves (just as Israel has refused to do so), but then we are no longer a democracy (just as Israel is not a democracy), since we now deny habeas corpus rights even to American citizens. No matter, the world already knows all of this horror, and international courts will seal our legacy, much like Richard Goldstone did for Israel with the Gazan massacre.

We have destroyed ourselves, and the rest of the world no longer has any respect or trust in America, let alone wishes to invest in such a barbaric country.

stanley hersh

New York, NY

Feb 16 2010 - 9:11pm

Web Letter

President Obama has already ruled out the investigation the article calls for. He even supported changing the Freedom of Information Act to undo the ACLU's successful lawsuit to expose torture photos. President Obama at least is not an angry idiot ideologue; we know or trust he came to this decision reluctantly. So what changed his mind?

The article should have addressed the real reason (whatever it is) that President Obama is now trying to suppress information about the abuses. To avoid jailing his predecessors? Most of the top tier of the Nixon administration was prosecuted (including Nixon's Attorney General, his White House counsel, his chief of staff, and for a different reason his vice president) and our nation survived. Ford, claiming he wanted to look forward not backward, then pardoned Nixon. The public however, would not pardon Ford. Obama seems likely to face the same reaction for what amounts to a de facto pardon of those who conspired in war crimes.

Here is the consequence of President Obama's refusal even to investigate and expose, let alone prosecute: torture is no longer against the law. It merely against one president's policy. The next president may well differ, and reverse that policy. Then torture is back with us. A former Bush State Department advisor, Philip Zelikow (who dissented from the torture policy), believes that the rational for torture would extend even to American citizens.

When banning torture--for now--President Obama chose his words carefully: he said said we must sustain the "belief" that the US does not torture. Is it only a belief? When he came to the Oval Office, did he discover that torture was routine even before John Yoo? There needs to be a great deal more journalistic investigation here.

Jock Yellott

Charlottesville, VA

Feb 14 2010 - 2:45pm

Web Letter

In case Mr. Cole's research assistant wasn't up to the task, the US never ratified the Convention Against Torture. Congress refused to ratify it specifically because we knew that it would subject US soldiers and government officials to international laws and criminal systems that are anathema to our American interests. You cannot expect our soldiers and officials to do their job (protecting our country) well if they have to worry about being an international criminal. The Geneva Convention protects uniformed soldiers from torture, the US Constitution protects American citizens and legal residents, so the only people who would be protected under this are terrorists and real war criminals. and you would be needlessly subjecting patriotic Americans to the quivering mass of righteous indecision of the international community. The truth is, we waterboard our own Special Forces troops as part of their training. If it's harmless enough for our people, then it's not torture.

Charles Warbler

Baltimore, MD

Feb 14 2010 - 1:03pm

Web Letter

This modern era makes a hash of the bases of civilization. When did the United States of America cede sovereign authority to a Spanish court? Does Spain reserve the right to prosecute all three of our federal branches, or only one, the DOJ lawyers who work for the President? The USA created our Marine Corps and invaded the shores of Tripoli over this very issue; one would think it was settled two centuries ago. The media pundits who hate Professor Yoo for his legal analysis should consider what they would lose by this absurd "victory." Many of his legal recommendations are being implemented by John Holder, e.g., Gitmo is still open, and the CIA is still (hopefully) questioning prisoners. Does he go in the dock also? Perhaps in Somalia.

At its root, the conundrum is that the USA is at war, which requires acts that are very odious to some. When killing is involved, it is impossible to square the circle. But people try, claiming that another's judgment is purer than ours.

This was a foolish article, unhelpful thinking.

R.L. Hails Sr., P.E.

Olney, MD

Feb 14 2010 - 12:52pm

Web Letter

Hopefully John Yoo and Alberto Gonzales will never get close enough again to the American Constitution to do more damage to it than they have already inflicted. My surprise is that Yoo is teaching at UC Berkley. No wonder poor George didn't stand a chance for a successful presidency. Rumsfeld, Cheney, Yoo, Gonzales?

james l. pinette

Caribou, ME

Feb 12 2010 - 10:20pm

Web Letter

Setting up political second-guessing of counseling by lawyers to clients sets up a very dangerous precedent. Please remember that when the other side returns to office in the normal political cycle, such a tool could be used in ways that are uncomfortable.

John D. Froelich

Upper Darby, PA

Feb 11 2010 - 2:27pm