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Letters to the Editor

Readers write about healthcare for those with war trauma, how to inspect bridges, and the rights of Jose Padilla.

August 22, 2007



US military needs to care for those with war trauma

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In response to the Aug. 20 Opinion article, "Treating the trauma of war – fairly," the military is delinquent in their induction examination if it cannot note people with a prior mental condition that contributes to being severely affected by combat experience. It doesn't accept people with certain physical handicaps, as they are not fit for active duty, and it should do the same with those predisposed to post-traumatic stress disorder.

If the military is negligent in not detecting such a condition, it should pay for the needed care.

Steven Freedman
Deerfield, Ill.

Inspect bridges the right way

As a retired bridge engineer who was involved in the design, inspection, repair, and replacement of bridges, the Aug. 3 article, "Bridge collapse spotlights America's deferred maintenance" was of great interest. Bridges built 40 to 60 years ago were designed using slide rules or hand calculators, not with today's sophisticated computer analysis, and usually lacked redundant members. These structures were often trusses with pin-connected members, which are sensitive to corrosion.

Bridge inspections are made by teams that normally do not include corrosion experts, as the article correctly noted. Experienced bridge engineers need to review plans of bridges to be inspected and identify possible sensitive areas. Experienced bridge engineers also need to do field reconnaissance whenever the inspection team finds questionable conditions.

The article also indicates that some maintenance repairs were under way when the bridge failed in Minneapolis. Construction and repair crews rarely have an experienced engineer guiding their work, and, consequently, actions may be undertaken that have serious implications for the stability of the bridge.

All construction and repair procedures should be reviewed by experienced design engineers familiar with the implications of bridge construction and demolition.

In all structures, planning physical access for inspection, maintenance, and repair is crucial. Designing bridges to allow traffic during repairs and renovation should be mandatory.

Arthur Gruver
White Hall, Md.

The rights of Jose Padilla

In "Breaking Point," the Aug. 14 article on Jose Padilla, the article quotes military psychologist Capt. Bryce Lefever as saying current US antiterror interrogation techniques should not be compared with those employed by the former Soviet KGB: "Their abuse was a systematic practice to conceal the truth. If Padilla was abused, then it was for a righteous purpose – to reveal the truth."

That comment shows more in common with police states and terrorists than with democratic values that the US is supposedly defending.

Jim Mott
Rochester, N.Y.

In terms of Mr. Padilla, I do not think the legal rights of a citizen apply to a military combatant. The point of a terrorist is to hide in the civilian population until he or she strikes. This means surveillance increases and most privacy eventually goes away. Noncitizen unlawful combatants have no rights, and citizen unlawful combatants have much more limited rights.

At best only the law of war applies. Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War. During World War II the US interned its Japanese citizens. Like it or not we are at war, and a peacetime legal system is not applicable.

Alan Blair
Vienna, Va.

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