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The real question is: Are we a nation that tortures?

No easy answers on harsh interrogation | May 1, story

Are we a nation that tortures?

This article is correct, so far as it goes: There are "no easy answers" to questions regarding the effectiveness of harsh interrogation and the usefulness of intelligence obtained thereby.

Those questions, however, are red herrings designed to misdirect the public discussion away from the truly important question regarding harsh interrogation: Should the government officials responsible for harsh interrogation be criminally prosecuted, without regard to whether harsh interrogation is effective in producing useful intel, and without regard to whether their actions had been previously approved by their superiors or legally anointed by government attorneys?

Once the correct question is asked, the answer becomes very easy indeed, and the answer must be "yes." There are two reasons that this is so.

First, focusing on torture's effectiveness and usefulness proves too much. It would lead us to tacitly approve any torture that was effective and produced useful intel — no matter how medieval the torture might be, no matter if it led even to death. Do we wish to be such a country? I hope not.

Second, the question of whether those responsible for torture should be prosecuted, irrespective of prior green lights from their superiors, is moot. This country has already answered it. We need look no further than the war crimes trials at Nuremberg and Tokyo, where we stated, loudly, proudly and for the entire world to hear, that "I was only following orders" would never be a defense to prosecution for violations of human rights. Are we recanting that celebrated statement? I hope not.

Let us not be distracted from the important question. The effectiveness or usefulness of torture is a red herring thrown before us by those who seek to dodge discussing either the legal or the moral issues of torture. The proper inquiry — the only inquiry — is whether we, as a society, will countenance torture.

If we answer that question "no," then the prosecution of those responsible must inevitably follow.

William Douglas, St. Petersburg

Vidal's vengeance | April 26, story

A tragic story for man and animal

My condolences and heartfelt sympathy go to Vidal Mills for the tragic loss of his son CJ.

That kind of senseless killing seems far too commonplace in today's society, where the value of life is meaningless to street thugs and wannabe tough guys. To anyone with a sense of decency, this never-ending cycle of violence is appalling.

Equally as appalling is the photo your paper chose to show of Mills "walking his dog" Red. That is not a picture of a man walking his dog. It's a picture of a dog being dragged by a chain around its neck. That is not a leash, it's a heavy chain more suited to hoisting engine blocks or binding a captive prisoner.

I sincerely hope that Mills finds the answers to the questions that haunt him, and that his son's tragic death is avenged through the justice system.

More than that, I hope that someday soon man will provide a better life for his animal companions, and I hope that Red doesn't have to spend the rest of his life chained to a tree.

Tom Williams, St. Petersburg

Iraqi odyssey | April 26

A nation of corruption

Congratulations to Susan Taylor Martin for her excellent article about Dr. Said Hakki. I knew Dr. Hakki very well as the quintessential "gentleman and scholar" when I worked for him in the operating room at the VA Medical Center at Bay Pines.

He was devoted to compassionate patient care, which he exercised with sound judgment. We all have missed him.

The trumped-up charges against Dr. Hakki by the Nouri al-Maliki government should be an eye-opener to anyone in our State Department whose head is not buried in the sand concerning our support for the totally corrupt government of Prime Minister al-Maliki in all of its parts.

Before Dr. Hakki's dismissal, the Iraqi Red Crescent was the one shining example of competence and integrity in a cesspool of the rest of the Iraqi government, run mostly by al-Maliki's cronies, most of whom are as corrupt as he is. Why does our government allow this to happen?

Why do we continue to sacrifice American lives and American dollars in support of Prime Minister al-Maliki?

It would be a providential vindication for Dr. Hakki if a corrupt Iraqi judge would clear his name of all charges. Then Dr. Hakki could return home in peace to his family and friends.

And we pray that all the American military will not be far behind.

Charles C. Richards, M.D., Largo

A Taliban ambush | April 26

The face of our children

The feelings that are evoked by the photo on the first page of last week's Perspective section bring tears immediately. This person could be anyone's loved one with an expectant look that wrenches at your insides.

It is time to stop it all. These are our children, not just here but throughout the world. When the power of such a photo does not touch us, then we are a lost society.

Rebecca Lanigan, Inverness

Hospital must pay for skilled workers April 26, letter

Pay disparity

I have worked in the medical profession for more than 30 years and I had to respond to this letter from Alan Bomstein, board member of Baycare Health System.

It seems Robyn Blumner's column the week before must have hit a nerve for him to feel he has to justify the income of hospital administrators, who make thousands in salaries and bonuses while short-staffed, stressed-out, hard- working and conscientious heath care workers make far less.

Maybe I wouldn't feel they are glorified accountants, paper pushers and meeting attenders if they took a day off once a month and pushed patients around in wheelchairs, took care of soiled linens, and walked into an emergency room on a Saturday night and asked people how they feel they are being treated.

So, who do you feel should make a higher salary — the person who comes to your bedside wearing a business suit, trying to figure out how to make a profit out of a nonprofit institution, or someone who is there to provide you with the best health care they can?

Walda Emerson, Clearwater

The real question is: Are we a nation that tortures? 05/02/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 2, 2009 9:16pm]
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