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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

February 11, 2009 at 5:00 PM

Torture policy

Courage versus cowardice

Former Vice President Cheney was in the news last week explaining President Obama’s prohibition against torture has made us less safe, and the likelihood of another terrorist attack has, therefore, now increased.

Most experts agree torture seldom yields valuable information, and it often creates more trouble than help. For instance, our justification for invading Iraq was based on the belief in weapons of mass destruction, which was based, in part, on erroneous information extracted through torture.

Cheney implied that Obama is naive and not tough enough. By trafficking on the “dark side,” he and the Bush administration were the strong guys.

In fact, just the opposite is true.

A country, especially one a thousand times more powerful than its enemies, that insists the safety of its citizens is so important, should not be allowed to torture others. It is not tough; it is cowardly.

Courage is the capacity to abide by one’s ideals and ethics when doing so might possibly engender some cost. Cowardice is the refusal to bear the risks and anxiety that decency and fairness might produce.

Still, what if Cheney is right, that we will now be less safe because we are no longer waterboarding or threatening naked men with dogs or sexually humiliating prisoners?

My hope is that even if torture in certain situations would make us safer, we resist making policy based on expediency, and instead abide by our ethics and hold fast to what is best about us.

My hope is that all Americans will become increasingly clear about what is courage and what is cowardice. When it comes to our policies, I hope we consider the price when decency is called naive, when humanity is implied to be weak. And I hope we turn away from the “dark side,” even when doing so might carry some cost.

— Trip Quillman, Everett

Dismiss lawsuits, dismiss human rights

By invoking the state-secrets privilege to try to stop torture victims from filing suit in U.S. courts, the Obama administration directly undermines human rights and the rule of law [“Review due for claims of ‘state secrets,’ ” Nation & World, Feb. 10].

As Chief Justice John Marshall wrote in Marbury v. Madison, “The government of the United States has been emphatically termed a government of laws, and not of men. It will certainly cease to deserve this high appellation if the laws furnish no remedy for the violation of a vested legal right.”

Dismissal of the lawsuits would remove accountability for those who ordered or facilitated torture. The administration’s request places in doubt our president’s assertions that torture will no longer be tolerated.

— Jamie Mayerfeld, Seattle

Comments | More in Barack Obama administration, Iraq war, Middle East

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