US should take full responsibility for Abu Ghraib

The Aug. 24 article "Abu Ghraib picture begins to fill in" reports the findings of a series of US investigations into the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. Upshot: Iraqi insurgents created an environment of chaos, resulting in the US military leadership's inattention to the affairs of the prison.

The article cites an expert's conclusion that "the whole affair has shown both the worst and best sides of the US involvement in Iraq." According to the article, the best side is our willingness to assess and even criticize ourselves with an honest and timely investigation. A bit of a stretch - don't you think?

Really, this demonstrates the bad and the even worse sides of the US involvement in Iraq: our inability to admit errors and our propensity to label every error as the virtue of which it is the exact opposite.
Susan Smythe
Kansas City, Mo.

The self-exonerating studies cited in this article rather miss the point - it appears to me that torture was sanctioned at the highest possible levels, up to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and even the president. Why pretend now that anything new is being revealed, when so much information has been suppressed?

The article also states that perhaps the US has lost the respect of other countries. What respect? The US has supported torture via proxies in numerous countries, and political assassinations such as that of Chilean President Salvador Allende.

It is true that we are allowed to ask questions in the US, and are quick to do so when we believe our government to be wrong. However, let's not forget the most famous picture of torture - the man standing on the box with his arms held out - was called the "Vietnam" pose for a reason.
Kirie Pedersen
Brinnon, Wash.

I find it somewhat futile to debate relative responsibility for prisoner abuse within the US military. As a nation, we allowed excessive expenditures for the training and equipping of a military whose function it is to meet certain situations with aggression.

By its nature, killing entails dehumanizing the opposition. What our military personnel did to captive Iraqis is no more or less than victors have done to the vanquished throughout history.
Kathleen Buerer
Asheville, N.C.

The article on Abu Ghraib prisoners takes the obvious "history is written by the winners" stance, when the authors say that "Iraqi insurgents created the chaos." The US invasion created the chaos - the insurgents are simply making their mark within that chaos.
Jim Miles
Vernon, British Columbia

Olympic judges off the mark

In response to your Aug. 25 article "Athletic prowess, fallible judging": When Russian gymnast Alexei Nemov finished his near-flawless routine, the judges not only stumbled off their chairs, they crashed. To award this routine with a below-par score at Olympic level defames the credibility of the men's judging system.

Regardless of the fact that errors are human, at the Olympic level such errors are unforgivable. A judge's flawless performance is a prerequisite, for it ultimately determines the future of a gymnast. For Mr. Nemov's performance, the magnitude of the error questions the basic competency of the erring judges.

However, as a former international gymnastics judge, I still applaud the majority of the judges who have the courage to maintain their integrity, withstand the political pressure, and ultimately define that one moment when gold solidifies an Olympic dream.
Lieve J. Olivera
Sarasota, Fla.

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