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Sunday's letters: Torture's stain on America

The Guantanamo Memoirs | May 12

Torture's staining of America

Although "Crimes" would have been much more appropriate than "Memoirs," the Times is to be commended for shedding light on this flagrant program of officially sanctioned torture. But when the name of the innocent victim is made public, why are the names of his torturers blacked out? It's not as if they will ever be called to account for their actions. From George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld on down the line to the actual torturers, thanks to a cowardly Congress, a wimp for a president and a pathetic "Justice" Department under an even bigger wimp like Eric Holder, nobody will ever be questioned, let alone charged.

Some points to remember. The first several hundred detainees at Gitmo were Afghans, but no Afghan played any part in 9/11. Without a shred of evidence, Rumsfeld called them "the worst of the worst" and the name has stuck, leading to unwarranted torture by our criminal interrogators ever since. He referred to them being "rounded up in the heat of battle," but there was no battle. When Tommy Franks led his troops into Afghanistan, they could not tell one Afghan from another, so he told the warlords that he would pay cash ($5,000 to $25,000) for every Taliban and al-Qaida member that they turned in, so they turned in everybody they did not like and pocketed the cash.

So we have a situation where more than 100 Afghans guilty of no crime have been mistreated and tortured for up to 11 years without being brought to trial because there is nothing they can be tried for. It's a crime against humanity that most Americans never give a second thought to, but rest assured that better-informed people around the world know the facts and will continue to hold this country in contempt until the matter is resolved and justice prevails.

R.G. Wheeler, St. Petersburg

My medical choice | May 15, commentary

Many don't have the choice

I applaud Angelina Jolie's efforts to educate women about their health options. In her case, she chose a pre-emptive mastectomy after learning of her elevated risk of breast cancer. Good for her — she will live to see her children grow up.

Sadly, most of us do not have the range of options Jolie has. I doubt standard health insurance pays for the preventive surgery Jolie chose, and it is a rare person who has the funds to pay for a procedure such as this. In fact, in Florida, many of our citizens would be lucky to get adequate treatment after a diagnosis of breast cancer due to lack of health insurance.

What a luxury it would be to be able to follow Jolie's advice. Too bad our legislators care more about politics than about women's (or anyone's) health other than their own.

Marlene Bloom, Tampa

Diversity meeting turns divisive | May 16

Warped idea of diversity

Silly Kevin Beckner. You thought you knew something about how to help historically oppressed minorities just because you're a member of one. But your naive idea of inclusiveness was no match for that of the people of Southern and Northern European heritage — Victor Crist, Ken Hagan, Al Higginbotham and Sandy Murman — who voted to make sure that everyone, especially the intolerant, had representation on your proposed diversity committee.

I think we can all count ourselves lucky these people were there to "balance" your ideas about diversity with contempt for the notion itself, and to "balance" the mission of the body with the fact that Terry Kemple really, really wanted to be on it. For as those of us who read the news know, there's an unwritten rule that all Terry Kemple's emails must be answered, all his concerns addressed, and all his ambitions facilitated, even if he can't manage to get himself elected to the School Board.

Crist justifies this by saying there are a lot of people who agree with Kemple. That's the problem in a nutshell: Not that there are intolerant people in the world or in our community, but that there are sometimes enough of them to curtail the rights guaranteed to all Americans. That's called "the tyranny of the majority." Crist, Hagan, Higginbotham and Murman voted to preserve it, even if the matter was ultimately tabled.

Those four and others like them can pervert the idea of diversity all they want to argue that even haters deserve a voice in a privileged forum like Beckner's proposed committee, but let's make no mistake: All things are not relative. Some groups in society have more power than others. This committee and others like it need to exist to curb and correct the historic abuses of people — heck, let's be frank, usually men — of "Southern and Northern European heritage." There can be no clearer proof that the approving commissioners wanted to preserve this power disparity than that they chose to endorse as the voice of that constituency the most intolerant representative they could find.

Andrew McAlister, Tampa

Welcome differing views

I looked up the word "diversity" and it means difference and opposing views. Apparently the National Diversity Council has that idea backwards. They do not want true diversity. They want people who look different but all think the same way, their way.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner also feels the same way. Diversity to him means you agree with everything he says. He wants the appearance of diversity by having people of different ethnic and racial backgrounds, without having any diversity when it comes to the ideas he supports. Why is he so afraid of real diversity?

Bob Bost, St. Petersburg

A last-ditch, losing play for tutoring money May 12

Tap into pool of talent

The state of Florida has access to a pool of tutors second to none. This pool exists in the state's institutions of postsecondary education. Many of the students enrolled in these institutions have themselves overcome some of the same hurdles as those with tutoring needs. These students could, with preparation, become excellent tutors. In point of fact, many of them already are. These students know what it takes to be academically successful and they can also serve as excellent role models.

There is no need to privatize tutors. The talent pool described above exists, and the funds used for privatization could be made available to the state's public and private institutions to prepare and supervise their students as tutors. The funds would help students meet their educational costs and at the same time allow them to engage with their community.

It is a proverbial field of dreams. Provide the opportunity and the tutors will come.

Bill Heller, St. Petersburg

Sunday's letters: Torture's stain on America 05/18/13 [Last modified: Friday, May 17, 2013 3:53pm]
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