Letters To The Editor


June 06, 2006

Geneva rules test loyalty to principles

Surely, this is a test. The news that the Bush administration plans to discard the section of the Geneva Conventions that bans "humiliating and degrading treatment" of prisoners must be an attempt to see if we are sleeping. ("U.S. to drop Geneva rule, officials say," June 5).

Are we a highly principled nation, or do we simply make speeches about high moral standards?

Would we be unmoved to see U.S. prisoners humiliated and degraded by an enemy? Would we think it acceptable to see our military men and women in pictures like those of the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib?

It has often been asserted that our nation has roots in Judeo-Christian values.

This is a test. Can we expect our priests, ministers and rabbis to speak out against this proposal next weekend?

Silence is consent.

James D. Tschechtelin


The writer is a retired president of Baltimore City Community College.

Leaders bear blame for pattern of abuse

While providing ethics training for coalition soldiers in Iraq is an important step that should have been taken long ago ("All U.S. troops in Iraq to get ethics training," June 2), the latest evidence to emerge about the Haditha massacre, the recent shooting of a noncombatant pregnant woman and the April death of an Iraqi man at a checkpoint bolsters the idea that there is a problem with the command structure of the military today.

These recent revelations, the Abu Ghraib scandal, the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, the use of extraordinary rendition and CIA "black sites" all point overwhelmingly to a military and intelligence culture unconcerned with human rights at every level.

Rather than simply providing ethics training for troops and prosecuting low-level soldiers involved in these incidents, it is time to hold the leadership accountable.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney and President Bush, through their statements and their actions, have created an environment that encourages abuses and ignores the rights of all humans.

How many more of these scandals will it take before we will hold these men accountable for their actions?

To really make a difference in the conduct of American soldiers, we need to see leadership truly concerned with morality and human rights, and we need it as soon as possible.

And holding our leaders responsible for these abuses now will show the world that the United States is a country where the rule of law and human rights do matter, and will help us regain the goodwill of the rest of the world.

Michael Johnson


Let young Marines rejoin their families

I've spent many hours at Walter Reed Army Medical Center working with soldiers and Marines severely wounded by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Iraq.

The IEDs were most often exploded by remote devices, with the triggering devices probably cell phones.

The IEDs were planted in various places - roadways, bushes, trees, etc. They were not intended to be triggered by passing farm trucks, taxis or a horse cart.

One soldier that I met was permanently blinded by an IED that was disguised in a tree.

It is probable that some of the villagers in Haditha knew that there were IEDs planted in their village. It is likely that someone in the village set off the IED that killed the young Marine.

The cover-up of the killings may have been a crime, but as far as the rest of the incident is concerned, we can draw our own conclusions ("All U.S. troops in Iraq to get ethics training," June 2).

Personally, I believe the young Marines should be brought home, quietly discharged without rancor and allowed to join their families.

Robert A. Steinberg


The writer is a volunteer who has worked with the families of injured soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Whales don't need to be saved again

Joshua Reichert couldn't be more wrong in his column "We need to save the whales - again" (Opinion * Commentary, May 31).

The fact is that only a handful of whale species are now endangered, and only one of those is hunted - and these are bowhead whales, which are taken in a sustainable and carefully regulated manner by the Inupiat in Alaska.

In terms of abundance, there is no reason why some countries should be prevented from consuming whale meat anymore than we should be forced to forgo our own dietary preferences.

The issue is that there needs to be an internationally agreed system for regulating whale catches.

The Bush administration could be doing far more at the International Whaling Commission to make this a reality.

Eugene Lapointe

Lausanne, Switzerland

The writer is president of the International Wildlife Management Consortium.

Do more to protect data from workplace

It has happened again: A laptop computer with sensitive personnel information is stolen when an employee took it home ("Groceries' data theft feared," June 3).

Tighter regulations by employers and government agencies restricting what may be removed from offices are long overdue.

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