Not punishment, but truth | May 2, Garrison Keillor column
Prosecute to take a stand against torture
As a longtime fan and admirer of Garrison Keillor, I must, nevertheless, take issue with his May 2 column in which he argues that we should engage in investigations, seeking the truth of American torture during the previous administration, but should stop short of criminal prosecutions.
Any "report" that results from such investigations inevitably will have clauses and phrases that will be sufficiently ambiguous that, in the context of the post-9/11 national mood, will give those who oversaw or approved of the torture the opportunity to create an appearance of a moral leg to stand on and allow them to perpetuate their own interpretation of history and their role in that history.
The abominations of the last eight years have been numerous, severe, and antithetical to what the United States is supposed to stand for, and torture is one of those abominations. Criminal prosecutions — if an investigation is capable of amassing sufficient evidence against the individuals who were responsible — are necessary not because we seek retribution or even "justice," but to make it difficult for the guilty ones to justify their actions out of putative patriotism or a concern for national security.
Those who hunt war criminals, finally locate them, and deport them halfway around the world to stand trial for things they did more than half a century ago do not do so out of a need for retribution or justice. They do so in order to make a clear and unambiguous statement that this behavior will not stand. If you are 90 years old when you are finally apprehended and convicted, you will die in jail, disgraced, and not at home in your own bed, still clinging to a claim of innocence. Anyone today, tempted to engage in, approve of, or encourage inhuman behavior, must get that message and take heed.
Silvio Gaggi, Tampa
Are we a nation that tortures? | May 3, letter
Don't diminish experience of Holocaust's victims
By evoking the phrase "I was only following orders" the author of a recent letter drew a moral equivalent between the Nazi regime and the administration of President George W. Bush. The tragedy of millions of Holocaust victims and survivors should not be minimized by comparing their inhumane treatment to that of three terrorists who were "waterboarded."
How do those survivors feel when their plight is compared to captured terrorists who are provided air-conditioned quarters, culturally correct meals, outstanding medical treatment, the opportunity to practice their religion, etc.? There is no comparison between the pictures we have seen of the ravished souls from Auschwitz and the apparent healthy detainees at Gitmo.
Our country is not and never was on a slippery slope to medieval torture. We are better than that. Enhanced interrogation methods were used judiciously, only when a preponderance of credible evidence pointed to an imminent threat to our fellow citizens.
The current administration has placed enhanced interrogation techniques "off-limits." I can only pray that if credible evidence points to the destruction of St. Petersburg or any other American or foreign city that reason will prevail and its citizens will not be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness.
Gus Pries, St. Petersburg
A dangerous practice
It is extremely difficult for me to believe that some of our citizens want to argue that waterboarding isn't torture or to even suggest that it was effective in obtaining information. It shows me how far we have been led from our basic values and how much we have really lost in this battle against terrorism.
We are telling ourselves and the world that what we have done to our suspected enemy is acceptable. It works. It gets results. Well , as a Vietnam veteran, I certainly don't agree with that flawed and dangerous philosophy .
What the North Vietnamese did to our captured soldiers was wrong. What the Japanese did to some of our troops was wrong. And what we did to those we captured was wrong. Torture is wrong. Any nation, even ours, can never expect to be looked upon favorably by the rest of the civilized world when we torture our enemies. And the other civilized nations have concluded, as did we, that waterboarding certainly is torture .
Kenneth A. Clement, St. Petersburg
Not punishment, but truth | May 2, Garrison Keillor column
Don't turn away
I understand the desire of Garrison Keillor, John McCain and others to put the recent past administration's participation in possible secret war crimes behind us.
On the other hand, I'm grateful that the world did not feel the same way about the Nuremberg trials, even though there were so many other pressing problems facing the planet at the time, or about the Watergate hearings, which took place even though the country was in severe shock and probably could have used a respite. The prosecutions may have prevented, at least temporarily, similar heinous felonies.
Phyllis Schuster, St. Petersburg
Keep it based on academics
I was under the (maybe mistaken?) impression that the Bright Futures Scholarship program was to encourage Florida's best and brightest to attend college in-state, with the idea that the more who stay, the better educated our work force, which supports a more dynamic economy in Florida.
While the qualifications to receive the scholarship may need to be raised to a higher academic standard, Bright Futures should continue to be based on academics, not needs. The student has no control over his or her parent's economic status, only how hard that student works at school.
What mixed message does the state send when it congratulates a student for qualifying for a scholarship based on his academic performance and rescinds it because of factors beyond that student's control? (Sorry, you're not poor enough.) Meritocracy or mediocrity?
Eric Burns, Palm Harbor
A prescription of kindness at pharmacy May 5, Random Acts
Good news is welcome
I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy seeing something positive in the newspaper — especially on the front page! It's one of the few things that I take the time to read (not wanting to clog my mind with negative happenings). Thank you so much for this pleasure.
Susan Sousa, Seminole