Does 'useful intelligence' ever justify torture?

Your May 19 article "Can torture be justified?" is substantial food for thought for any intelligent reader. I speak from 22 years as an infantry officer, now retired, including 30 months of combat, and have good insight into the motivation and ingrained principles of the American soldier.

We must be relentless in obtaining intelligence information that can help all those responsible for our safety, from the National Command Authorities (NCA) to the soldier and the policeman on patrol. We must not and cannot, however, allow ourselves to sink to the moral level of our enemies and espouse their idea that the ends justify the means. The major factors that make our country great include our moral principles, for which many of our men and women have fought and died.

If we abandon those principles, we abandon the men and women who have sacrificed before us. If we sink to the level of our enemy, we no longer have the moral fortitude to fight.

In a nutshell, torture of captives is absolutely not justified. Torture may result in some immediate gains, but will result in our ultimate destruction.
Dick Cole
Maggie Valley, N.C.

Certainly torture can be justified. The Bush administration has provided a number of justifications. But the question is: Should torture be justified? And there the answer can be only "no" if we wish to remain the America that we once prided ourselves on being.

Since this is the America that claims "moral superiority" to justify preemptive invasion, we are now in a moral dilemma. Suggesting that this dilemma can be resolved by passing a law that would permit "very selective use of torture on the direction of the president" strikes me as disingenuous. President Bush already has made decisions that permit torture. Passing a law after the fact will not make torture "justified," but it might help people feel it is sanctified.
Deborah Schultz
Savage, Md.

Hollywood's poetic license with Homer

Your May 20 article " 'Troy' tramples on 'The Iliad' " notes the displeasure some Greeks felt at how David Benioff's script departed from the Homeric version of the Iliad. Such a departure, however, is more true to the Greek dramatic tradition than retelling it exactly as Homer did.

Classical tragedians, when they wrote stage adaptations of myths involving Homeric characters, almost always used "poetic license" to depart slightly from tradition, and sometimes they went as far as creating wacky episodes that spoofed the originals. No one today should realistically expect a film such as "Troy" to attempt to achieve "Homeric accuracy," especially if it intends to follow in the tradition of ancient Greek dramatizations.

We should read stuffy reviews with a grain of salt, because the Iliad itself is one of many versions of the Troy story that once existed. Even more, the very existence of "Homer" is considered doubtful by many historians, since it was more likely a pseudonym shared by many poets - poets, I'm sure, who were also panned by critics in their day.
Jon Gilbert
Portland, Ore.

Time to end agricultural subsidies

Kudos for your May 19 editorial "Trading Up." History has shown a direct correlation between the eradication of government supports and economic growth. The time has come for the end of agricultural subsidies that encourage American farmers to remain noncompetitive and unproductive. Although things might look bleak for farmers in the short run, in the long run economic benefit has always come from global accessibility.
Andrew T. Packer
Poway, Calif.

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