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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

April 28, 2009 at 4:00 PM

David S. Broder on torture investigation

Don’t enable legal precedents for torture

Do Americans want to strive to have a nation of laws or one of men?

David S. Broder’s attempt to decriminalize torture “memos represented a deliberate, and internally well-debated, policy decision, made in the proper places” is over the top [“The scapegoating should cease,” Opinion, David S. Broder column, April 26].

Ever since President George Washington, America has claimed a no-torture policy. Our no-torture policy was made internationally clear by signing the Geneva Conventions, and America’s no-torture policy is again made crystal clear by reading any military manual.

Legality was addressed by the head of the FBI repeatedly, informing this administration/CIA that it was not going to be involved in clandestine, illegal torture of suspected al-Qaida members abroad. The FBI said no again when approached to be involved with illegal torture of detainees in Gitmo and also said no to participating in the torture in Iraq.

The consequence of Broder suggesting Obama “end one of our darkest chapters in American history” by just moving on will create oodles of legal precedents for future American administrations to exploit into even greater abuse down the road.

Broder is becoming just another enabler. History is not going to look kindly on this column.

— Martin Walters, Renton

Prosecute one and all

I agree completely with David S. Broder that “Obama should use all the influence of his office to stop the retroactive search for scapegoats” among those responsible for the interrogation of suspected terrorists after 9/11.

Responsibility for those interrogations goes all the way up to former President George W. Bush. I do not believe our leaders at the time can be compared to those of the Third Reich, but it is relevant that at the Nuremberg trials, the Allies not only rejected the “I was only taking orders” defense, but they tried and punished the highest people they could get their hands on.

It may be hard to judge the legal and moral culpability of those responsible for the CIA interrogations as well as for the treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo. But one thing is clear: If anybody should be investigated and possibly prosecuted, then everybody should be. There may be questions about whether this might lead to a level of national bitterness that could even endanger our nation. But there can be no question that there should be no lower-echelon scapegoats.

Meanwhile, of course, Lynndie England sits in a military prison!

— Michael Kischner, Seattle

It’s about the law, not vengeance

After reading David S. Broder’s column, I came away with the impression that he doesn’t believe ours is a nation of laws and due process.

This country established laws barring torture. It agreed to the Geneva Conventions, including the statutes barring torture with all appearances of good faith.

When government operatives are initially directed to break the law, and a short time later top legal brains are instructed to provide an after-the-fact legal fig leaf to avoid prosecution, it does not display our democracy in its finest moment. This is the action of a dictator.

To paint those of us who seek prosecution as vengeful employs too wide of a brush. We believe, like the first Americans, that no man is above the law and if there is solid evidence to suspect a law has been broken, that suspect deserves the right to prove himself innocent.

We just want to believe the law applies equally to the American elite as to the rest of us. Whether we are vengeful or not has no real substance in this issue.

— Patrick Burns, Seattle

Democracy is at stake

David S. Broder’s rationale for not prosecuting Bush-administration officials who participated in creating the detestable torture regime is supremely ironic in that following Broder’s advice has already resulted in untold injustice for the American people from the crimes of the political class over the last generation (Watergate, Iran-contra and more). Meanwhile, the perpetrators of those crimes have mostly gone free. That is the real injustice.

Broder predictably aligns himself with the political class that exempts itself from the very laws it is so quick to impose on the rest of us. By not holding our highest officials accountable for breaking our most serious laws in order to pursue political harmony, the Obama administration is confirming what many of us already knew: that the rule of law is not for our highest officials. It is only for those without the power and/or wealth to evade them.

Pursuing these criminals will result in some divisiveness, but that is a tiny price to pay to uphold the rule of law. This is not a partisan issue; top Democrats, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, were made aware of the torture program and were complicit in its implementation. They should also be investigated and, if need be, prosecuted.

Nothing but our democracy is at stake.

— Matt Withee, Marysville

Comments | More in George W. Bush, Guantanamo Bay detention center

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