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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

May 3, 2009 at 4:51 PM

Torture debate

Thomas Friedman’s tortured logic

It’s not often I come across such a muddled apology for torture outside of a tea-bag party, so I am compelled to respond to Thomas L. Friedman’s recent column [“Obama’s torturous compromise,” Opinion, April 30]. As with many of his ilk, he contends that the world is a completely different place (for Americans, that is) after 9/11, and he offers four reasons why torture might be OK now.

First, “al-Qaida [is] undeterred by normal means. Their weapon of choice [is] suicide.” Perhaps he has forgotten the scourge of the kamikazes in World War II, which was no small conflict, I understand. Still, we didn’t feel the need to employ “enhanced interrogation techniques” on our Japanese detainees.

Second, they “aspire to deliver a devastating blow to America,” perhaps nuclear, according to an “expert” who has been hunting bin Laden for nearly a decade, with nothing to show for it. So now we torture people for their aspirations, for things they may or may not be capable of in the first place.

Third, al-Qaida is “so extreme that they will kill anyone, as they have shown repeatedly.” And now we have become so extreme in our fear that we will drop bunker-busters on Iraqi villages on the word of two-faced criminal informants, killing so many innocents along with whatever few “dead-enders” (Donald Rumsfeld’s term) we might have been lucky enough to corner.

Finally, “al-Qaida’s tactics are designed to be used against, and to undermine, exactly what we are, an open society.” With this last statement I have no quarrel, for I believe that this is exactly what they have been able to do, with the help of those like Friedman. So-called “open” societies do not run secret prisons, torture their enemies or spy on their own citizens.

— Kevin Whitworth, Seattle

Investigation would weaken intelligence-gathering

The columns in Friday’s Seattle Times by Lance Dickie [“Convene a public panel to investigate use of torture,” Opinion, May 1] and Amy Goodman [“Church Committee: a precedent for torture investigation,” Opinion, May 1] are excellent demonstrations of why we should not investigate prisoner interrogation at this time.

In the white heat of this bitter political atmosphere, it would be impossible to get anything remotely resembling an even-tempered, objective inquiry. Other than satisfying the smug moralism of some, such an inquiry would only weaken our intelligence-collection capability. The previous such investigation — the Church Committee that Amy Goodman cites — did result in a serious weakening of our human intelligence capability, a weakness that many intelligence professionals believe led to our inability to develop intelligence that would have warned us of 9/11.

One wonders if those who are self-righteously demanding an investigation would also want to investigate the fact than in the course of pursuing information we need to protect ourselves, other Americans lie, cheat, steal, offer bribes, blackmail and subvert other people, and associate with unsavory persons, even criminals?

Those sources and methods, as well as interrogation methods, should remain secret. I believe that the 60 percent of Americans who think information on the interrogations should remain secret agree: We do what we have to do and would best serve ourselves by just shutting up.

— Patrick C. Roe, Lopez Island

Torture saves the U.S. — from mythical plots

In his April 30 letter [“Torture debate: One question would answer it all,” seattletimes.com, Northwest Voices], Ed Anderson poses the question to President Obama: “If it would save the lives of your children, would you allow enhanced interrogation methods to be used on a terrorist?”

I submit that this is a false choice. Innumerable studies have repeatedly concluded that torture — yes, let’s call these “enhanced interrogation methods” what they really are — does not produce reliable information. Torture produces only whatever the tortured individual thinks the torturer wants to hear.

If the torture of a suspect will not produce any reliable information, then the lives of my children will never truly be riding on the results.

Saving the United States from a mythical plot that a torture victim concocted on the spot to make the torment stop does not count.

We defined many of these methods as torture when we prosecuted them as war crimes after World War II. If it was torture when someone else did it to our soldiers, then it is torture when agents of the U.S. government do it to terror suspects. The fact that our government can now be fairly alleged to have been committing war crimes in our name should make all of us ill!

— Peter Schurke, Lynnwood

Comments | More in Barack Obama administration, Bush administration, torture

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