Torture demeans our principles and those who employ it...

November 21, 2001

Torture demeans our principles and those who employ it

The recent column by Gregory Kane arguing in favor of torture demands four points in response ("Playing nice is no longer an option for U.S.," Nov. 11).

Torture violates our Constitution's bans on cruel and unusual punishment and on requiring the accused to testify against themselves. Mr. Kane calls those who resist its use a "gaggle of liberals and peaceniks." If that puts me in the company of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and John Adams, I accept that description.

Torture doesn't work. Mr. Kane offers Algeria, Israel and Egypt as examples. But Algeria is no longer a French colony; Israel has itself restricted the use of torture, and Egypt has protected itself not by torture so much as by deflecting citizens' anger to Israel and the United States.

Torture demeans those who torture. It is not possible to violate our values - even in the misguided pursuit of a greater good - without reducing ourselves to the level of those we torture. Mr. Kane reveals this in referring to those he would torture as "revolting little worms" and "toads."

He also speaks with approval of our training torturers in Honduras. Perhaps he is proud of their behavior. I am not.

Mr. Kane apparently believes that torture would always be appropriately applied. Two weeks ago we were warned of a danger to West Coast bridges, only to learn later the threat was not credible. How many people would Mr. Kane have tortured to protect us from that danger? And how would he then have had our country offer its apology?

Stanley L. Rodbell


Gregory Kane's column on torture is entirely out of keeping with his usual good sense. It's one he should have written and then put through the shredder.

I'll try to forget that article so I can continue to have the same high respect for his opinions about other things.

Howard Roland


Forming military tribunals poses prospect of police state

What's most frightening about these times is the administration's attempt to create a police state to combat terrorism.

American politicians, including presidents, always point to how dictatorships create secret courts to try people who are a political threat. A few days ago the president revealed America's version - a secret military tribunal for any noncitizen the Justice Department wants to try that way ("Accused would have fewer rights before terror tribunal," Nov. 15).

No right to cross-examine one's accuser. Hearsay evidence freely admitted. That's what happens in dictatorships.

And "noncitizen" might include your husband or wife who is foreign-born, even though you were born in Kansas.

We need to stop this abomination now.

Philip L. Marcus Columbia

Hold terrorists as POWs for many years to come

Although I fully support President Bush's executive order to try terrorism suspects by military tribunals, I have another suggestion.

The terrorists have announced that they are soldiers in a holy war against the United States. Their leaders have declared war on the United States. The United States has declared war on terrorists.

So, anyone captured who is a member of al-Qaida or any other group identified as a terrorist organization is a prisoner of war. Historically, POWs do not have a right to a trial. They are simply held as POWs for the duration of the war, and after it is over arrangements are made for their return.

When is the war over? This may be hard to say. But a standard could be set: For example, the war could be deemed over 20 years after the last terrorist attack was carried out by any Islamic militant against any target, anywhere.

John Harris


When will we pay reparations for abusing Arab-Americans?

In what year do you think Congress will begin to debate reparations for Arab-Americans treated so uncivilly in 2001?

Did we learn nothing from our treatment of Japanese-Americans in the World War II era?

Virginia Laire


Don't ask United Nations to clean up our Afghan mess

I am very glad to hear that the war in Afghanistan is almost over. However, to hear President Bush say that he wants the United Nations to help establish a government in Afghanistan is most disturbing. How can America trust the U.N. to do anything right when we often don't even financially support the organization?

What is going on here? America creates a mess and then wants someone else to clean it up? This is how we got into this mess in the first place. President Reagan had the Afghans fight our war against the Russians, and then we forgot that the country existed.

The easy part was bombing the heck out of a helpless, primitive people. The hard part will be helping them to establish a working, friendly government.

If America is going to do something noble, then let us do it right.

Charles M. Woodford Jr.


Results of Florida recount don't vindicate high court

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