The Torture Question
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Prisoner at Abu Ghraib

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Dear FRONTLINE,

We are in a war with people who behead civilians. Who torture by inflicting bodily mutilitation. Yet you claim we are at fault by having terrorists stand or bark like a dog. If the above is all we do, I claim we are doing enough to save our soldiers lives. Now I remember why I against funding public broadcasting.

john harvey
winder, ga

Dear FRONTLINE,

I'm a first generation american, my parents are from Argentina. As a kid growing up in Buenos Aires, I have a clear recolection of what torture did with our collective consiousness. We always looked up to the United States as a model where the rule of law was above everything else. Seeing your documentary was disturbing. Reading some pro-torture feedback here is even more disturbing. It's the same rational used 30 years ago in Argentina, the war justifies all means. It's necessary in order to protect us and other justifications of this nature. It's the same speech. As soon as we forget about the rule of law, The war is lost. The terrorists accomplish their objectives, the destruction of our system and of our way of life starts by condoning torture. I hope this is an eye opener. We cannot let this happen, people must be held accountable at the very top. The ideologs, the decision makers.

We need to prevail not only in the battlefield but in the war of ideas. We do not torture people, we hold the moral ground. If we lose this position, the war is lost.

Charles Letizia
Miami, Florida

Dear FRONTLINE,

... Since watching your show last night, I have contacted my state representatives to let them know how outraged I am. Sadly, our government offers up low ranking military personnel to take the blame for these "isolated incidents of torture, which only happened on the night-shift." Do they really think the American people are that stupid. Thank you for the excellent piece, it has stirred me to get more involved and speak out.

Julie Fitzgerald
Santee, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

The 'liberal' - 'conservative' discussion has no place in a review of the Frontline program on torture. If it did, where would the McCain-Graham position on torture fall? Are there really 90 'liberals' in the Senate?

The point made by Senator McCain, so eloquently is; it doesn't matter how the enemy behaves, its how we, as Americans, behave that matters. We don't want to show the world how brutal we can be as individuals and how protectively blind we can be of the transgressions of our senior officers and civilians at the expense of a few enlisted men and women.

Phil Medeiros
south windsor, CT

Dear FRONTLINE,

... I am a veteran of the U.S Navy during the Vietnam Era. I believe in "duty, honor and country", but I beieve in the Values I have tried to practice all my life, and while in the military: "love your enemy, do good to those that hate you". I saw some very angry young soldiers on that program; the soldiers that were reflective were those who are in the National Guard and have real-life experience; I think we are fortunate to have them in the Military in Iraq: at least they can reflect on the morality of the orders given to them. The young angry soldiers with little life experience need to be reigned in by more mature voices. Mr. Rumsfield needs to resign. 'Thank you.

Peggy Frey
Berry Creek, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

How can I face the terrorist and call him the barbarian, if this be the actions of my fellow citizen?

Morgan Rose
Bellevue, PA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I do make a distinction between a detainee on which there is some reliable intelligence obtained, and one that is just loaded into a cattle truck because he/she happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. There is an obvious "chicken and egg" dilemma; one has to interrogate to gather intelligence. However this has to be done in a manner that seems to contradict the bedlam of the interrogation camps, i.e. intelligently.

I was brought up in Ireland during the internment era. Please let me paint a scenario to those that think to gather intelligence, one needs to kick the living daylights out of someone. Your male, 15/16 years and the "foreign" army charge into your home, waking everyone up. They believe your father knows something about "the resistance", which may be true, but so does the pet cat. They start to ridicule, humiliate and use the butt of their guns on him. Meanwhile everyone else in another room scared to death, hearing barking commands from soldiers that are only a couple of years older than you. If you're lucky, they may leave without taking him away or questioning yourself. Now what emotions do you think might run through your mind after this experience? Do you think there is any difference whether it happened in Belfast, Baghdad or Dallas? The strongest emotion most feel is to seek revenge, perpetuating the problem even further. So, perhaps using the interrogation techniques may bear some fruit, but overall, it's likely to destroy most of the orchard in the process.

Daniel McElligott
Seattle, Wa

Dear FRONTLINE,

I do not understand how some people who identify themselves as Conservatives are saying that objecting to torture is a Liberal idea. Usually the accusation is that Liberals are Godless Communists who place the state above morality and humanity.

Are not we Conservatives supposed to be the Godly Christians? When Christ conquered the Roman empire, did he use torture?

Benjamin Jones

Dear FRONTLINE,

Your show has pushed me from naiive 'patriot' to outraged citizen, who is disgusted with our current government. As a business owner I've been afraid to speak out, lest it come back to haunt me, but your piece was the last straw. I can no longer be complacent and sit by as my government does things that i thought only other governments do. Thank you for your work.

Gena Kirby
Fresno, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Perhaps one of the most unfortuate aspects of the contemporary use of torture is the shallow scope of historical memory most of today's political leaders seem to possess.

During the late 18th century an Italian political thinker named Cesare Beccaria authored an influential book entitled "Crimes and Punishment" in which he convincingly argued the case against the use of torture. The book had a dramatic and long lasting effect on the use of torture among many European governments. Unfortunately, this pivotal moment in western policy development has largely spent what potential it had.

The negative political effects of the use of torture have long been clearly evident and its lack of utility patently clear. More information can be obtained through use of humane interrogation techniques.

Unfortunately, no one in the Bush administration seems to be forced to shoulder responsibility for any lapse in judgement. Such weak leadership does neither the causes being fought for any good nor the perceived integrity of our nation's leadership as a whole.

Mike Abelson
Weston, MA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I thought you were brave to air this show. I liked the thoroughness of the research which went into it. I was sickened by the brutality we are expecting our military to use. As one with two 20 somthing male relatives in Iraq, I am appalled we would put their souls in jeopardy by expecting them to treat other human beings 'as dogs.' It will come back to haunt them in nightmares and broken psyches.

And Rumsfeld, who claims to be Christian, seems to side more with Herod and Pilate than with the wounded savior he claims to follow. I don't think raw force every produced respect, or true relationships.

The futility of torturing people to tell us where weapons of mass destruction were, when these weapons existed only in our fears is absurd, cruel and points out our moral bankruptcy.

Jenny Landis-Steward

Dear FRONTLINE,

War is hell. In the last "good" war, we dropped A-bombs on Japan to end the war early, thus saving thousands of GI and millions of Japanese civilian lives.

Our military personnel carries this terrible burden- to end the war as quickly, often time as savagely, as possible yet to retain a vestige of humanity when it all ends, a contradiction I won't wish on anyone.

Rightly or wrongly, we're in this war already, the only real argument left is how to end it competently which, sadly, is beyond this administration's capability.

Tim Teng
Fremont, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Once again the liberals in this country are siding with the enemy. What a surprise. I have never seen such sickening anti-America propaganda. These people with whom you are sympathizing want to destroy this country and kill all of us. Do you remember the people in the World Trade Center who had the choice of burning to death or leaping 100 stories to the street below? I'm guessing the enemy combatants with which you are siding remember it very fondly.

How dare you bad mouth our brave men and women who defend this country and are trying to prevent another 9/11? The one positive thing here is that it aired on Public Television which means very few people saw it.

Lee Dowden

Dear FRONTLINE,

The show was very well done. IMHO, the charges of bias made on this forum are unfounded. To those who want to charge a "liberal" bias, it was clearly stated in the program that the Administration declined interviews. They can't, on one hand, decline to talk and, on the other, shout bias. That doesn't wash.

Then there are those seem to think that the US is entitled to do anything that's "not as bad" as what is done by the terrorists. Frontline answered that argument with the quote from John McCain: "We've got to make it clear to the world that America doesn't do it. It's not about prisoners. It's about us," We have no control over the actions of others, and misdeeds by others are no excuse for misdeeds on our part.

Thanks for a well-researched and interesting show.

Dan Haskell
Portland, Oregon

Dear FRONTLINE,

John Yoo cites the example of Israel as a nation where harsh interrogation measures have enabled better prevention of suicide bombers. It is a poor analogy and rather suggests the opposite; that torture has longer term negative effects.

... But Israel's policies of mass arrests and torture have not contributed to a better security situation for Israelis and their origin in the first intifada makes arguments about efficacy very dubious. The claims "because Israel does it" or "because it has worked for Israel" cannot advise or justify U.S. policy.

Deborah Harrold
Philadelphia, PA

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posted oct. 18, 2006

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