Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

May 11, 2004

Oust Rumsfeld to show we take abuse seriously

The torture of Iraqi prisoners reminded me of one of the major premises in the military: The chain of command is critical to transmit directions and maintain discipline. Inherent in this idea is the understanding that superiors take responsibility for what occurs below them ("Refusing to quit, Rumsfeld takes blame for abuse," May 8).

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld is ultimately responsible for the Pentagon's mistakes, and removing him would show how seriously America takes this issue.

Laura Gillis

Baltimore

There are two explanations for the terrible torture of Iraqi prisoners in our military jails: One is that the torturers had orders from their superiors to conduct the torturing. The other is that the Department of Defense is out of control and immediate remedies must be undertaken.

Either explanation requires the firing of the man at the top: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Mary J. Eichelman

Baltimore

Ultimate responsibility for the policies that permitted prisoner abuse and torture to take place in Iraq and elsewhere lies with Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld.

By refusing Iraqi detainees the protections of the Geneva Conventions and allowing private contractors to conduct interrogations, Mr. Rumsfeld opened the door to just such abuses.

Mr. Rumsfeld should resign or be fired, and then let the administration begin to try to salvage our country's ravaged reputation in the world.

Katherine B. Schuetz

Timonium

Frenzy over abuses for partisan purpose

The pictures from Abu Ghraib prison are disgusting. The punishment for those involved should be swift and severe. But just as abhorrent as these photos is the frenzy with which certain liberal media organizations and political partisans have used the abuses in their single-minded effort to bash President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld. Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's comments are particularly noxious ("Refusing to quit, Rumseld takes blame for abuse," May 8).

There is no doubt that American soldiers and their commanding officers need to be punished for blatant violations of the Geneva Conventions as well as basic decency. But this incident falls far short of meriting the resignation or dismissal of Mr. Rumsfeld or impugning the overall integrity of the U.S. military.

The fact is that much of the information on the prison abuse comes from a Pentagon report detailing a two-month investigation into the activities at the prison. This demonstrates that the military was concerned about what was going on and preparing to take action to rectify it.

And the outrage of various Arab governments is disingenuous and strains credibility. The horrors of torture inflicted by Saddam Hussein and other despots in the region have received scant attention from those same officials.

And lastly, the outrage expressed in Western media over the Abu Ghraib photos is much louder than that expressed over the photos of the charred, dismembered bodies of four Americans hanging from a bridge in Iraq and other incidents where kidnapped Western noncombatants have been videotaped while being threatened with torture and murder.

Scott Appelbaum

Catonsville

President must take full responsibility

It is not sufficient for Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld to resign. When the Supreme Court delivered the presidency to George W. Bush, it came with the bonus title of commander in chief. As such, he holds ultimate responsibility ("Refusing to quit, Rumsfeld takes blame for abuse," May 8).

Impeachment is the logical - and just - course.

Lauren Goodsmith

Baltimore

Terror is appalling, not charges of abuse

I am not appalled, as so many people are, at the alleged embarrassment of Iraqi prisoners. It is absolutely imperative that we wring out every last bit of intelligence information that we can get from these detainees.

What appalls me is the killing of nearly 3,000 American citizens. And you can rest assured that the toll in the next terrorist attack will be a lot worse.

Rick Bajackson

Sparks

Systematic training could prevent abuse

It is well known that the human rights of prisoners are often violated by those who are supposed to guard them. Such things occur all over the world, whether the prisons are military or are part of a country's corrections system.

Research has shown that average people are capable of being cruel and demeaning toward others when some are made guards and some are in custody.

It doesn't take "a few bad apples" or bizarre circumstances for disrespectful treatment and abuses of prisoners to occur. Rather, the evidence suggests that there will always be a drift toward abusive treatment of prisoners unless policy-makers and administrators understand the problem and take active, systemwide steps to prevent it.

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