As Daniel Schorr reminds us in his May 7 column "Abu Ghraib - an indelible stain on US," Abu Ghraib was Saddam Hussein's prison before it was ours, the site not of torture and abuse as an abhorrent aberration but as an instrument of state policy to intimidate, terrorize, and control. The actions of a few at Abu Ghraib are an indelible stain, but the irony here is that those Americans responsible for these appalling actions will receive swifter justice than Saddam Hussein will get for his crimes against the Iraqi people.
Concerns that Abu Ghraib will inflame the "Arab street" against the "ugly Americans" ignores the fact that the "Arab street" largely ignored the mass graves and torture chambers of Saddam. Let us not forget that the vast majority of Americans in Iraq deserve praise for liberating the Iraqi people. Let's not forget that most of our soldiers are out there building schools and infrastructure and democracy.
Daniel John Sobieski
Regarding your May 6 article "A West Bank town tries to protest the wall nonviolently": Kudos for your coverage of the nonviolent resistance by Palestinians. This story, ignored by most American media, is important not only in itself, but shows a different side of Palestinian resistance. The media often give suicide bombers front-page coverage. By failing to cover nonviolent resistance, it provides only a one-sided view.
Regarding Larry Seaquist's May 5 Opinion piece "US military's bad-guy dragnet - a terrible way to win a war": When the US signed the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, it did so with the qualification that purely psychological torture did not count. Posing naked people in degrading positions and confining people to three-foot-tall boxes: These are not considered torture under official US policy (except of course when Americans are the victims of foreign torture). Torture - by the international definition - is routine in the custody of Americans, and nothing that has happened in Abu Ghraib is new, surprising, or uncommon.
The fault lies with a Senate that would not ratify the unedited Convention against Torture, and with the voters.
David S. Zink
Menlo Park, Calif.
Your April 28 article "Hong Kong's autonomy curbed" on Hong Kong's constitutional development is wrong on a number of facts.
People in Hong Kong play a distinct and important role in its constitutional development. On April 15, the chief executive (CE) requested that the National People's Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) determine the methods, which may be amended, for selecting the CE and for forming the Legislative Council in 2007-08. In so doing, the CE was reflecting the wishes of the community that changes should be made.
When the NPCSC decided April 26 that these methods may be amended, it had considered the people's views. It is misleading, however, to suggest that Hong Kong can handle its constitutional development on its own. The Constitution of the People's Republic of China and the Basic Law prescribe the powers and responsibilities for the Central Authorities to oversee Hong Kong's constitutional development.
The exercise by the NPCSC of its power is a reflection of the constitutional limit of Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy, not an erosion of it.
Joseph Y.T. Lai
Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs
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