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August 1-9, 2007

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Letters to the Editor

Don't Be Such an Ingrate

REGARDING DECINZO, July 18: Disgusting—not funny. A despicable slap against the United States of America, Santa Cruz, Beach Flats in particular and the Russian people. In 1986, I was privileged to see the Moscow Circus in Moscow. The beautiful Russian people I met were incapable of saying anything derogatory about the USA. Wake up and smell the roses in Santa Cruz County—best place to live on the planet. Please, please clean up your act.

 Dossie Perkins, Aptos


A Crisis in Command

THERE ARE MANY kinds of betrayal in human affairs. But in the affairs of state, there is no greater act of disloyalty than to send young men and women to their deaths on the basis of fraud. No soldier should ever give a life, or take a life, for a lie.

All American ranking officers and commanders take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. Their oath is a solemn obligation to the American people, especially to their own troops, to abide by the law. Our men and women in uniform place great trust in their superiors. They risk their lives in the belief that they will not be used falsely, illegally or for ill-gain. There is no group of Americans with greater interest in the enforcement of international law than American troops themselves. Our youth pay a heavy price when their own rulers plunge them into operations beyond international law. Immediately after the Abu Ghraib scandal, the infamous, retaliatory beheadings began. The legal status of the occupation of Iraq is not a mystery.

Generals know very well that the occupation is based on lies, carried out in defiance of U.S. treaties. The Nuremberg Conventions explicitly repudiate the doctrine of pre-emptive war. The U.N. Charter, for which many of our parents and grandparents gave their lives on the battlefields of Europe, outlaws war as "an instrument of policy." Every general knows that the occupation is a "war of choice." They also know that, except for special U.N.-sanctioned interventions, defensive necessity is the sole legal basis for war. The U.S. Army Field Manual states without equivocation: "Treaties relating to the law of war have a force equal to that of laws enacted by Congress." Many soldiers of conscience who dared to speak openly about the immorality and illegality of the war have been court-martialed and imprisoned.

Their cases, dating back to 2004, raise serious doubts about the capacity of our soldiers to receive justice in our military courts. Five months prior to the Abu Ghraib scandal, a soft-spoken Army soldier named Camilo Mejia was visibly upset by the atrocities he observed during his tour of duty in Iraq. Repelled by the slaughter of civilians and the needless deaths of American GIs (all reported in Mejia's riveting combat memoir, The Road from Ar Ramadi, 2007), Camilo gathered up his courage and made formal complaints to his superiors. Commanders refused to listen and questioned his patriotism. Eventually Mejia refused to participate in the atrocities around him, and he was sentenced to a year in prison for desertion. His trial, like subsequent trials of war resisters, was a travesty of justice. Judge Col. Gary Smith ruled that evidence of the illegality of the war was inadmissible in court, that international law is irrelevant, that a soldier's only duty is to follow orders, regardless of their legality.

It is a sad day in military jurisprudence when a soldier of conscience is court-martialed, not for lying, but for telling the truth; not for breaking a covenant with the military, but for upholding the rule of law in wartime. Had commanders listened to Mejia, had judges respected due process and the rule of law, the Abu Ghraib scandal that humiliated our troops might never have occurred. Our military system is passing through a profound moral and legal crisis. A commander who knowingly orders his troops to participate in crimes against peace betrays himself and those who serve under him or her. The time has come, it is long overdue, for American generals of conscience to break their silence.

Phillip P. Pflager, Veterans for Peace Cupertino


I WANTED to let you know that there are some of us out there who aren't fooled by the media representing what everyone thinks, and that there are some of us who want a president who will follow what our Founding Fathers set out for us in the Constitution. If Fred Thompson decides to run for president, he has my whole vote. He is definitely someone who can turn this country around and start focusing on values and what this country used to stand for. Vote for Fred Thompson.

Jennie Forni, San Ramon

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