The Torture Question
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Prisoner at Abu Ghraib

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Frontline is among the best in producing thought-provoking, insightful documentary and I am a long-time admirer. But viewing "The Torture Question", it was most troubling considering both the actions and naivety of the guards and superiors at Abu Ghraib prison, but also those of Michael Kirk and of Frontline. Would not both the mistreatment of the prisoners, as well as the added publicity inspire similar consequences - the next beheading and torture of an American or of a terrorist attack? Senator McCain adroitly made clear that our own soldiers will pay for these abuses, and the individuals truly at fault - those in command, must be investigated. But is now the time to air a piece which advances and incites revenge?

The War and many issues at hand are of no-doubt in question but our soldiers are duty-bound, and should we not be sentinels for the welfare of our military and their families?

Charles Matenaer
Milwaukee, WI


I feel that osama bin laden treats every pro-torture response in this post as a personal victory. It only reinforces his belief that we are a Godless coutry with no moral compass guiding our actions.

The United States military is in the business of protecting and serving FREEDOM! Sometimes we must kill but our true purpose is to save lives! Torturing someone to death is absolutlely unecessary NO MATTER WHAT THE CIRCUMSTANCES. It is a twisted and sadistic act. It turns the tortured into martyrs and the torturers into pure evil and for Americans to say that it is "O.K. for us to do it", because "they do it" is truly unbelievable! This is the same rationale that a five year old child uses! I pray for you.

SSgt. Dewey Baugh, USAF
sarcoxie, Missouri


One question I had after watching this program was with the legal justifications given by the gov't to use torture and the quick disavowing of it's use when the photos and other evidence became known to Americans? If Rumsfeld et al. thought the tactics legal, necessary and useful, why did they deny and denounce that it had happened or only on a limited scale? Obviously, those legal opinions weren't worth the paper they were written on. And they know it is against American values so they run for cover when the truth is exposed.

Recent accounts from officers involved in these interrogations and photos/videos the gov't has blocked from release (so far) indicate that what was shown in the program is only the tip of the iceberg. This is not all just 'mild' torture happening as some would like to believe that have written here. It's too bad the military is taking all the blame and not the 'consultants' who are in on these activities.

'Frontline' continues to be one of the best in TV journalism.

David Cook
Toronto, Canada


... If our forces treat every one they question in full accord with social responsibility, legal safeguards and moral standpoints, they will never achieve anything. The old idea of being kind to our captives will never work when such persons are so determined that they are willing to give their lives for their cause. Indeed, they will go ahead with their attacks when innocent fellow Islamists are sure to be killed. The terrorists have no moral stance on torture so the theory that it is detrimental to a hearts and minds policy would only apply to a small minority anyway.

Someone has to get their hands dirty and interrogate - yes, interrogate not just ask questions. If this includes torture - so be it. I think many of the objectors would have some change of attitude if they saw a loved one drowning before their very eyes and no one tried to save them because it might be dangerous. They would expect someone to overcome their reservations and do SOMETHING. In this life, there are many who have to undertake foul and - to others - disgusting tasks. So be it with torture. Use people who can handle the task without moral repugnance. Train them in the very best techniques. Then, stand back and let them get on with a rotten but - as things are now - essential task. If it demeans me - I have to get on with it. There are many things I do not agree with but I cannot fight them all and I have to adjust to that. So let it be with torture.



There is an obvious disconnect between our sense of morality & our need to protect our children from our mortal enemy. The question is "WHO" are we dealing with, ie, our mortal enemy or a human being. The degree of mis-treatment of an INDIVIDUAL should be relative where that individual fits in answer to that question. But once it is learned that you are dealing with your worst mortal enemy, then you would not want to give him any benefit of the knowledge that you do have moral limits that include him & thereby let him off the hook from whatever he preceives to be the very worst thing that could happen.

Unfortunately, those who are removed from the day to day situations that occur on the battlefield tend to view the enemy more as a human being as do those who are on the frontline (not this media)of the war on a daily basis, and therefore they have more tendancy to critcize what is going on. That does not mean that there should be no scrutiny of any possible violations of morality on the battlefield. We certainly do not want any harm coming to totally innocent individuals. But it does mean that there can be no absolutes or specific standards of treatment when dealing with an individual once he has been identified as a true enemy.

Ted Cooper
Huntington Beach, ca


Thank you for putting this powerful piece of journalism on the air. We were aware of some of the incidents you reported but the documentation through interviews was very comprehensive. We are deeply concerned for the ways in which such behavior debases and degrades the soldiers engaged in these abusive actions. How will they ever readjust to civilian life? How will they cope with the trauma they experience by participating in torture when they return? Sen. McCain speaks for all true Americans when he states that this behavior does not represent the ideals of our country and can not be allowed to continue.

As a retired Navy Captain who served in the JAGCorps, we are also very proud that all the military Judge Advocate Generals opposed Rumsfeld et al. at the Pentagon and in the DOJ who tried to justify inhumane treatment and torture. The question we are left asking is this - when will the actions of Bush, Rumsfeld, Gonzalez, Miller and their gang be called what they truly -"high crimes and misdemeanors" worthy of impeachment and court martial? They are the ones who are the greatest threat to the future of the United States because by allowing torture they have created an ever increasing cadre of militants willing to take up arms against the US.

Julia & Al Christian


I am appalled that you would even pose the question, "Is torture ever justified"? No, never, period. You have framed it as though it were a question worthy of debate and discussion and thereby made yourself a willing fool of this administration's degraded policy. Shame! ...

Democracy is about courage and the humane principle of justice. Torture is indication of panic hence cowardice and abadonment of such principle; if we succumb to the Shiboleth that such principle is "pre-9/11 thinking" then the very concept of fair and humane treatment for all is undermined and we submit to the ideology of those who attacked us on that day. It is a form of surrender and appeasement. We align ourselves then with the likes of an Assad, a Pinochet, or a Marcos. ...

I doubt much of your viewing public understands just how deeply this policy has damaged us on the international stage and in particular in Muslim countries. Nor has anyone really assessed the spiritual failure of such behavior and the implications for our nation. I am brought to mind of a passage in the New Testament which we can here transcribe, "What profit this nation to gain the whole world should it lose its soul?"

Steven Rutledge
Riverdale, MD


I am struck by the number of people who are justifying the abuse by referring to the actions of "our" enemies. They argue our actions are justified by comparing them to worse behavior by others. They say our actions should not be judged on some universal, absolute moral standard, but only in comparison to the prevailing world-wide "culture" that unfortunately includes widespread torture and mahem.

Is this not the essence of the "moral relativism" so decried by the likes of Sean Hannity or Bill O'Reilly?

Bill Rood
Rochester, MN


Lets have equal time for the good guys, and I'm sure you could find some acceptable interogaters that have ways of getting information other than torture.

I wish you could have seen our prisoner of war exchange in Panmunjun at the end of the Korean war. The mildest man in the army was angry enough to kill. We gave them well fed, clothed and healthy people and they gave us vegtables for human beings that were tortured, brain washed and needed extensive psychiatric treatment. All the GIs felt the North Korean Communists were criminals in the highest order and hard to beleive their inhumane treatment. Now your going to say what in the hell were we doing there in the first place,and all I can say is compare South Korea to North Korea today and and in all honesty you'll have to beleive it was not a mistake, and as a veteran I am proud to say I did my small part for that to come to pass. I'm retired now and when ever I come across a South Korean, on the golf course or anywhere, I generally get him into conversation about Korea in the fifties and when he learns I am a Korean veteran he can't thank me enough.

I'm sure you could find some soldiers in Iraq today who feel the same way, and stop browbeating the poor grunt for a few sick people and report both sides in depth as you did for the evil interrogaters. Thirty or forty years from now that grunt may come across an Iraqi who can't thank him enough, and the way you guys report your,"Thought Provoking", it may take that long.

Maurice Brouillard
Fremont, Ca


For those on this thread that condone, advocate, rationalize or otherwise defend the behaviour of dishonorable men, think about your response to an invasion and occupation of your country. One where many of your friends and neighbors are detained and questioned, tortured or not. One where a foriegn tank sits on the corner, and your moves are not free, since bullets fly. One where you have to make your way through this melee to get water or food for you and yours.

What would you do? I suspect that within the nature of many of us would be a call to resist. We should question who we are, what we do, what is next and what are the root causes of terrorism.

Frank Karpinsky
Louisville, KY


I would like to remind some of the apologists for torture that the abuse at Abu Ghraib and other places began early on BEFORE the suicide bombings and BEFORE the beheadings! I would like to also remind them that the vast majority of detainees are INNOCENT!

The US has basically invaded an innocent people who were languishing under a dictator. While giving some Iraqis the hope of democracy and a better life, it has also killed and abused thousands of innocent civilians. I think this is because George Bush led the troops, as well as many other Americans, to fear and to see Iraqis as collaborators in terrorism.

Bonnie Kalmbach
Madison, Wisconsin


I'm concerned about the loss of checks and balances provided by the constitution on any branch of government. Frontline started this show with the point that executive branch is deliberately and outwardly looking to oust the right of the people via the senate and congress to determine acts of war and policies of war. Now the president is actively seeking to declare acts of war himself without any checks whatsoever by congress and the senate. This is government by dictatorship. People think this is just about Iraq or just about torture. What is more crucial is that these events are part of a slow trend away from constitutional and representative democracy to a military and totalitarian state. People seem to approve as long as they agree with who the current bad guy is, really a collection of stereotypes called "terrorist." ...

Carie Novitzke
Mauston, Wisconsin


I understand the feelings of hatred twards countries who abuse,torture, behead U.S. personal when captured. However, I have always felt that the primary function of the military was too lead by example and if crimes have been commited against us, maybe it is because those of us living freely, have been able to do so by not so noble means. True many americans are dieing, but this is no excuse for us to loose our moral bearings and stop obeying the laws set forth by the U.C.M.J. The military is supossed to be a group of proffesionals, that the rest of the world can look up to. The U.S. sets the bar, but not when we abuse the power that has been bestowed upon us.

anton toth
Tucson , AZ


I recently retired from the "military" after serving 22 years with pride and distinction as a Senior NCO (Mastersergeant). The recent Frontline special (aired 10/18/05) dealing with tourture of prisioners in American custody was telling. ...

I realize that because of their status, many of the captured Iraqi prisoners are ineligible for protection under the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) or Geneva Convention consideration. However, all prisioners are eligible for HUMANE PROTECTION in Americas POW camps. If we, as a nation, will easily export Democracy to other countries, lets easily export humanity while were at it. Sadly, rhetoric such as this is considered almost treasonous in many circles of today's society. Ironicaly enough, I once wore a uniform and bore arms to protect the freedom to speak - even disagree. Some of the comments I read regarding this episode are disturbing and sad. I hope the values of humanity, caring, protection and pride are not a Democratic, Republican or Liberal trait; but an American one.

Shaun Garet
Saint Paul, Mn


As a devout political moderate, I appreciated the kinds of issues and concerns this program brought to life. On one end, I believe that terrorists should not be shown mercy or special consideration - no matter what their nationality, or religion. On the other end, I do not believe that is is honourable for our country that our future history textbooks may include details on how American troops purposely denied food, water and basic hygene, and used fake menstrual blood to extract intelligence from enemy combatants.

As I watched, it became clear to me, that while policies and conventions should be different for the detainees shown, these policies should have been anticipated in advance - and not proposed and passed in an ad hoc, and clandestine manner. It gives the appearance that the current administration is not as in control of the situation as they would like people to believe.

Taufan Tjioe


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posted oct. 18, 2006

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