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Letters: Torture on the big screen

December 16, 2012
  • Jessica Chastain portrays Maya, a mid-level CIA operative who is the central character in "Zero Dark Thirty," about the U.S. hunt for Osama bin Laden. The movie has sparked a debate about the efficacy of torture.
Jessica Chastain portrays Maya, a mid-level CIA operative who is the central… (Columbia Pictures )

Re "Bin Laden movie heats up CIA torture debate," Dec. 14

With the arrival of "Zero Dark Thirty," a dramatization of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, we seem to have reached the point where we are discussing the value of torture rather than its morality.

We have moved from being a country that thrilled to James Cagney resisting Nazi torture to protect the secrets of D-day ("13 Rue Madeleine") to one that seemingly will embrace torture if it works. We were a country that condemned Hitler for the heinous invasion of Poland; just recently, we invaded Iraq on the pretext that we have a unilateral right to preemptive war.

And those who promote these new values claim the mantle of being the real Americans.

Robert Silver

Los Angeles

Questions: Does anyone dispute the fact the CIA has systematically tortured captives? Is there any reason to believe that members of the Senate Intelligence Committee had no knowledge of it? Hasn't torture long been a crime under both U.S. and international law? Why aren't those who authorized torture and the committee members who failed to stop it being prosecuted? And what's to prevent future cases of torture if today's perpetrators aren't prosecuted?

Jon K. Williams

Goleta, Calif.

I am deeply troubled that anyone would suggest there's a debate on the efficacy of torture.

In 1941, my father was waterboarded by the Japanese in Shanghai. He confessed that he was a British agent. It wasn't true, but at that moment, he would have signed anything to end his ordeal. Irrespective of whether the information garnered by torture turns out to be true, torture is a crime.

In 1948, the Japanese officer responsible for waterboarding my father was tried and convicted at a war crimes trials in Hong Kong. That same standard should be applied to the Americans who ordered or took part in waterboarding.

Ernest A. Canning

Thousand Oaks

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