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October 19, 2007 | Page 4

Death machine moving forward
Neither new nor unique

Death machine moving forward

MY NAME is Kim, and I have a pen friend on death row in Nevada. On the 15th of October, one of his friends, William ("Billy") Castillo, will be executed.

He has been on death row for 10 years and just gave up his appeals. He seems ready to die, and who can blame him? He is 34 and has spent 10 years waiting for this day, with no chance of a commutation to a life sentence. He is guilty and has always admitted his guilt.

I am extremely saddened by this. I did want to let you know that at least one execution will be taking place, since your story says that all death row prisoners may have a reprieve ("Death penalty derailed," October 12).
Kim, from the Internet

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Neither new nor unique

THE NEW York Times wants us to believe that the Bush administration's use of torture is an historical aberration, editorializing that torture is "abhorrent both to American law and values and international norms," and that former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' authorizing of torture constitutes an "expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency" ("The American way of torture," October 12).

All this is self-serving rubbish. Declassified School of the America training manuals reveal that the very same torture techniques--use of extreme temperatures, sensory and sleep deprivation, sensory overload, humiliation, and "stress positions"--were all taught to prospective police and military personnel from Latin America.

It is widely documented that systematic torture was used by U.S. forces both in the conquest of the Philippines (including "waterboarding") at the turn of the last century and in the invasion of Vietnam.

According to historian Alfred McCoy, the CIA's notorious Phoenix program in Vietnam had "agents...operating 40 interrogation centers in South Vietnam that killed more than 20,000 suspects and tortured thousands more." And then there is the long history of police and prison torture in the United States.

What makes this administration's approach a departure is less the practice of torture and more the brazenness of its support for it. What used to be denied is now almost proudly admitted--with the caveat that it isn't really torture.

September 11 did not "cause" a turn toward torture any more than it "caused" the United States to invade Iraq. It merely provided a pretext for the United States to pursue more openly and aggressively its imperial aims, of which torture plays a component part.

In our legitimate zeal to reveal the particular depravity of this administration, let us not overlook the fact that torture is an American ruling-class pastime.
Paul D'Amato, Chicago

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