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Principles and Legalized Torture
By Mark O'Brien


November 09, 2005
Wednesday PM

Dear Editor,

Many are dismayed that our country is discussing government sanctioned torture.  Behind euphemisms like "extraordinary rendition' (a term for sending terrorism suspects to countries that practice torture for interrogation) and "black sites" (secret locations in Europe used to interrogate prisoners in America's war against terror), our legislators are now actually weighing the merits of legalizing torture.  What has happened to our country?  Please consider an observation that Edward R. Murrow made during his last broadcast from London to America after World War II, on March 10, 1946:

...."I am persuaded that the most important thing that happened in Britain was that this nation chose to win or lose the war under established rules of parliamentary procedure.  It feared nazism, but did not choose to imitate it.  Mr. Churchill remained the servant in the House of Commons.  The government was given dictatorial power, but it was used with restraint.  And the House of Commons was ever vigilant.

I remember that while London was being bombed in the daylight, the House of Commons devoted two days to discussing conditions under which enemy aliens were detained on the Isle of Man.  Though Britain fell, there were to be no concentration camps here.  I remember that two days after Italy declared war an Italian citizen, convicted of murder in the lower court, appealed successfully to the highest court in the land, and the original verdict was set aside.  There was still in the land, regardless of race, nationality, or hatred, representative government.  Equality before the law survived.  Future generations, who bother to read the official record of proceedings in the House of Commons, will discover that the British Army retreated from many places, but that there was no retreat from the principals for which our ancestors fought.

The record is massive evidence of the flexibility and toughness of the principles and traditions we share with the people who live in this island.  It will, I think, inspire and lift men's hearts long after the names of most of the great sea and land engagements have been forgotten."

Mr. Murrow saw the above adherence to principles as one of the most important events in WW II.  What will future generations read about our government's decision to legalize torture?  How will we be judged for remaining silent during this period?  What has happened to our principles?
Mark O'Brien
Ketchikan, AK - USA




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