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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

Codification of Torture Would Assault Decency

June 15, 2004

Re "Stop Winking at Torture and Codify It," by Alan Dershowitz, Commentary, June 13: Yes, Mr. Dershowitz, you can get instant misinformation from torture. Torture is the work of sadistic wimps. Let's codify sadistic wimps as what they are.

Your hypothetical parlor-game anecdotes are meaningless excuses for an inhuman and counterproductive policy. There would have been far more peace in Palestine/Israel with tea and Mozart.

Blase Bonpane

Director, Office of the

Americas, Los Angeles

Dershowitz encourages Americans to legalize torture: "A codification of torture would be controversial, of course, but it would produce accountability of precisely the kind this administration wants to avoid."

There is only one answer to such insanity: No.

Arch Miller

Arcadia

"With 'All Necessary and Appropriate Force,' " by John C. Yoo (Commentary, June 11), attempts to justify the use of, and qualify when we might use, torture. Has there ever been a greater essay extolling the virtues and values of diplomacy? With his grade-school argument -- essentially, "well, he/she started it!" -- as the reason for lowering ourselves to the level of our opponent, Yoo completely avoids addressing the issue of reasoned thought and compromise. Working backward in his argument, he clearly sees the world as a nonhuman arena in which the population is reduced to pieces on a game board, with winning at all costs the goal and humanity just getting in the way.

David L. Crowley

Los Angeles

With respect to the laws and international conventions against torture, Yoo writes, "General criminal laws are usually not interpreted to apply to either [the president or the military], because otherwise they could interfere with the president's constitutional responsibility to manage wartime operations. If laws against murder or property destruction applied to the military in wartime, for instance, it could not engage in the violence that is a necessary part of war."

Yet the Constitution commands the president to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." As the memos on torture, Abu Ghraib photos and numerous accounts suggest, the administration has done nothing but evade its obligations. Searching for loopholes in the law is not quite "faithfully" executing them. Yoo is correct in saying we should not treat prisoners as if they are hotel guests. But then again, the Hanoi Hilton wasn't exactly a four-star hotel.

Armen Adzhemyan

Los Angeles

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