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Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

We have really all acquiesced to what was truly was a national crime. We all knew it was wrong and because we were afraid to be labeled unpatriotic and because our heroes in Congress went along we accepted the ticking bomb argument, not realizing that whatever information we got, the bomb would have already gone off. The stench of cruelty has so permeated and corrupted our national intellect that it has infected our collective conscience. Notice that when someone with enough courage and voice shouts out against this national crime we easily dismiss him as a kook. Rev. Jeremiah Wright was right. I feel like the women in the movie The Nuremberg Trials, "We didn't know." The problem is, we knew. We are all guilty, and the world needs to see us prosecute this crime. Obama, whom I love, is wrong. We cannot move on. That is purely wishful thinking and he, being a constitutional lawyer, knows better. Our constitution was specifically written as a reaction to this kind of governmental abuse and becomes meaningless if we ignore its core principles for the sheer sake of expediency.

James L. Pinette

Caribou, ME

May 7 2009 - 7:10pm

Web Letter

Congress should have stopped the torture but they were drinking the same Kool-Aid that the whole Bush administration was drinking. Congress should be impeached too for their complicity. At Neuremberg there were lawyers prosecuted as well as people in the military. Those lawyers came up with "legal" rulings that held torture legal too.

As far as any complicity goes, I disagree completely. I was totally against any torture because I knew that it didnt work and it would put our own troops in serious danger of having the same thing done to them. In fact, some of our troops were tortured badly before they were killed and their bodies thrown into ditches to be found at some later time. I guessed I was just in the minority as usual, during the entire Bush fiasco.

Laura O'Shea

Oakland , CA

May 6 2009 - 10:21pm

Web Letter

Just two comments/questions concerning this whole mess. The first extends the argument from the present article: Isn't it likely that a sizable percentage of the German civilian population was well aware what the Nazi regime was doing to Jews, other "non-Aryans" and assorted political prisoners during WWII? Does that make these activities legal? The prosecutors at Nuremberg would have surely begged to differ.

Second, ever since hearing that the torture debate now seems to be centered on the guilt or innocence of certain Justice Department lawyers, I've been simply astonished. In most everyday cases, and particularly, one would think, at such lofty political levels, your lawyers work for you, the person who hired them, and not the other way around. Sure, they can give you bad advice, but you don't have to take it. Besides, who on Capitol Hill would ever think these memos constituted some "conspiracy of lawyers" and not just a bunch of legal eagles trying to please their boss(es)? When it comes to ultimate responsibility and consequences in such matters, don't we usually look to the clients, and not the hired hands? So how is this obvious fact suddenly get turned on its head if the client's in the White House? And why, so far as I've been able to discern, has not one Congressperson or anyone in the press pointed any of this out?

Lee Strauss

Rockport, MA

May 6 2009 - 10:31am

Web Letter

There is one simple and (I believe) unanswerable reason we need to investigate and prosecute as fully as possible officials who were responsible for our recent policy of torturing prisoners. That reason is that we have already begun the investigation and the punishment. We put on trial, found guilty and imprisoned Lynndie England and several others who were implicated by photographs they took of the committing tortures at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

We now realize (unless we are delusional) that they were following orders. To fail to pursue the trail of those orders up the chain of command would mean that we have punished the most vulnerable and least culpable members of a criminal organization, while letting their bosses off scot-free.

Anyone willing to argue that the lid needs to be kept on this scandal must reckon with the fact that we have already harshly punished the poor suckers who carried out someone else's evil policies.

Lawrence Houghteling

Hastings-on-Hudson, NY

May 6 2009 - 8:14am

Web Letter

David Brooks made a slip of the tongue when he confessed to Charlie Rose that the real reason Obama does not want to prosecute torture is that it would inevitably lead to 9/11 (so it's more important not going down that path than upholding the rule of law?).

The fact is that, as Anatol Lieven reports, the "the vast majority of [Pakistanis] mistrust the west more than they fear the Taliban, because they believe that the 9/11 attacks were not an act of terrorism by al-Qaeda, but a plot by the Bush Administration or Israel to provide an excuse to invade Afghanistan and dominate the Muslim world"--and this is a major reason we need to change our Afghanistan policy:

The cat may be out of the bag anyway, and that's why an impartial investigation is mandatory.

stanley hersh

New York, NY

May 6 2009 - 7:50am

Web Letter

Thanks to The Nation, we are alerted to the pervasive opinions of some ill advised columnists who seem to have forgotten history. Weisberg must revisit WWII Nazi Germany or VietcCong torture practices to understand that public "approval" (which mostly a fear of totalitarian regime) is no excuse to justify barbaric practices. Same goes for genocide in Rwanda.

Weisberg should medidate the base principle of "don't do to others what you don't want them to do to you"!

I belive that if all human being were to remember that, Earth would be a better place to live.

Richard Thoma

L'Etang-la-Ville, France

May 6 2009 - 1:34am

Web Letter

Jacob Weisberg's position on the application of existing laws to torture is based on a false premise: a crime committed in the presence of witnesses who do not attempt to prevent the crime is not prosecutable. With that premise as a defense, not a single Nazi war criminal could have been found liable. The assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King would not be crimes. Any murderer, in fact, who committed his crime in the presence of witnesses, would be immune from prosecution.

But why limit the immunity to torture and murder? Any public official who is generally known to the public to be corrupt can claim immunity from prosecution on the grounds that the public knew he was a thief.

David Alman

Bradenton, FL

May 5 2009 - 9:16pm

Web Letter

With regards to notions and arguments on the torture debate, the position that the policy of torture was legitimized by the general puplic's opinion (complacency) is not a sound argument.

Polling the general public, for example, on the scenario of allowing vigilante justice from a victim's father when, for instance, the daughter was raped, tortured and killed would yield 95 percent in favor of the allowance. This is a hypothetical example, but there's very little doubt that the numbers would come in high.

Now, given the most probable result of that polling, do you think that we should not control these crime-and-punishment scenarios? Will we look the other way when vigilantes take to the streets because poll numbers support their positions? On the contrary, we will control these scenarios, as due process is part of our fiber.

Public opinion is fickle and can be controlled by propaganda (fear-mongering). It tends to be simplistic and in many times, ignorant. This highly imperfect test (public opinion) cannot be applied toward the validation of violations of our core principles

My point is that public opinion has no place in the argument of torture. Torture is against our core principles. And as a great nation, we expect our leaders to maintain these principles in the most difficult times.

Tom Miller

Phoenix, AZ

May 5 2009 - 2:21pm