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The Torture Memo > Letters

Web Letter

I have a limited legal knowledge but as a medical practioner I have often considered “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death” to be a weakness that could be legally exploited in attacking the perpetrators of torture.

In the vast majority of cases, organ failure is in itself painless (although most people would logically think this not to be the case). Heart failure (as opposed to a heart attack) is painless. Liver and kidney failure per se are painless. Organ failure is simply the progressive loss of function of the organ from whatever cause.

“Impairment of bodily function” secondary to, for example, a stroke, is painless. While the stroke may be painful (e.g., ruptured aneurysm), most strokes themselves are painless. Nevertheless, the impairment of bodily function is painless.Death itself, one would expect to be completely painless.

On the basis of this, one strongly suspects a legal case could be made that no pain should be inflicted at all on any prisoners.I would be interested to hear a legal opinion on this aspect.

John J. Kellett

Canberra, Australia

Apr 16 2008 - 6:29pm

Web Letter

When all is said and done the American public will not care much whether Muslim terrorists in custody are comfortable enough. Bush & Co. are deserving of blame and punishment for a great deal, but their forthright assault on terrorists is not a flaw we really care about.

Norman Ravitch

Savannah, GA

Apr 16 2008 - 6:22am

Web Letter

This article brings home what an in-your-face outrage Bush and Co.'s actions and statements on torture are. Truly this is the glove thrown down, more than just another in a long string of outrages. This is a decisive issue and a decisive moment.

I just wrote a letter to our good but still cautious Congressman Jim McGovern, which I forwarded to my e-mail lists, and did up as a letter to the local daily and the local alternative paper. It said roughly:

The time for holding back and making political calculations is over. It's time to step forward, sign on to the impeachment bills, to speak out loudly to the nation and to Central Massachusetts, and to call the people to action. It's time to be a leader, not just a representative. When Bush told ABC News regarding torture "Yes, I'm aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved," he clearly stated that he is not bound by the Constitution, US law, international treaty law or common decency, but can and will do whatever he wants. If Congress won't challenge him now, then he has a free hand, with no limits. Obama is talking about prosecuting him and his cronies after the election, which is great, but if we don't call Bush and Co. on this now, right now, there may not be a next election.

The call for action on impeachment must link this issue to the people's growing anger, and yes, bitterness, over his neglect and abuse and his (and Congress's) failure to deal with our growing distress, over foreclosures, bank abuse, loss of good jobs, the collapsing access to healthcare, the collapsing pension system, the Katrina response, the tax ripoff by the wealthy and mushrooming inequality, the nightmare debacle in Iraq and the mistreatment of the veterans, the soaring cost of food etc. But this challenge on torture is the knife edge of Bush's assault on the Constitution, the glove thrown down; and impeachment is our only appropriate response, the clear simple distilled essence of our willingness to join a battle that is being forced upon us.

Congressman and Candidate Dennis Kucinich concluded that impeachment is the only move left that might head off war with Iran and the possible loss of our democracy. He was right and he's still right. It's time to act! Is it too late? We'll never know if we don't try. But let it not be said by history that this was the moment when we were issued a fateful challenge, and submitted.

It's time to act! Time to call on all the people with whom you have influence to act. Time to deploy our networks.

Christopher Horton

Worcester, MA

Apr 15 2008 - 3:05pm

Web Letter

I just want to comment on this one portion of the article: " If a private lawyer gave such a lopsided and wrongheaded analysis to a business client, he'd be history. Lawyers advising private clients about to make important decisions (a 'bet the company' kind of decision) meticulously analyze all sides of a question so the clients can assess risk and choose wisely."

The analogy is not apt. Yoo was much more like the corporate lawyer papering an acquisition and providing an opinion letter. Clients in such circumstances merely want legal clearance (read cover) not a candid discussion of the legal ramifications of the deal. Yoo had his marching orders and followed them, like thousands of other M & A lawyers have done before him.

Stephen Tokemore

New Orleans, LA

Apr 13 2008 - 11:35pm

Web Letter

I attended a debate two years ago in San Francisco at the World Affairs Council between John Yoo and Philip Sands. Yoo presented the most superficial and pathetic arguments that I could imagine in defense of his position. Sands basically trashed him. Yet Yoo seemed supremely confident and totally without awareness of his scurrilous actions. He left immediately after the debate, as the audience was 90 percent against him. It truly amazed me that he had any supporters. No one with any rational thought process could have supported this man.

John Yoo should be fired from the University of California and removed from the California Bar Association. Jay Bybee should be removed from his judicial position.

Ralph Barhydt

San Francisco, CA

Apr 13 2008 - 7:35pm

Web Letter

I call upon all California attorneys of conscience to file an ethics complaint with your State Disciplinary Board against the extreme legal incompetence of John Yoo. The memorandum he wrote is beneath the level of a second-rate paralegal. It is the result of either complete legal incompetence, or a fundamental absence of moral underpinnings. In either case, given its disastrous and murderous result, it "reflects poorly upon the profession" and its progenitor should be evermore banned from the practice of law.

That this legal impostor is actually teaching (!) constitutional law is an embarrassment that requires a separate and immediate response from that institution, before its own accreditation comes into question. Its name at this point is the Mudd School of Law.

I am disgusted that this man calls himself an attorney. He has brought great disgrace upon a noble profession.

Stephen J. Duskin, Esq.

Audubon, PA

Apr 12 2008 - 1:11am

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