- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 7, 2007

In defense of coercive interrogation

In “Bush and torture” (Op-Ed, Monday), Nat Hentoff quotes various military commanders as being opposed to torture.

Certainly there are moral objections to inflicting pain in order to obtain intelligence. But there is another side to this issue. Terrorists who set out to bomb other people are by definition torturers. Survivors of their bombs, who are burned, mutilated and blinded, suffer pain for the rest of their lives. Suppose, a bomber is caught in possession of a vehicle loaded with explosives that has failed to ignite. Knowing that a common tactic is to set of multiple bombs (as happened in London in July 2005), our society should surely be entitled to inflict discomfort on that individual to forestall an explosion that would kill and maim hundreds of people.

Furthermore, our police forces should be trained and equipped to carry out such coercive interrogation. Let those who would kill and maim indiscriminately be aware of how they will be treated. And let those who find such a policy morally repugnant ask themselves how the police should react if the object we are looking for is a nuclear device.

WILLIAM T. SMITH

McLean, Va.

Rethinking Iraq policy

Professor Anthony Celso in his “A different plan in Iraq” (Op-Ed, Monday) rightly notes the need to rethink current policy. His proposal to partially disengage and then try to pit our rivals against one another, however, raises serious practical and ethical questions.

Its main premise is to hope for a lengthy chain of events leading to the exhaustion of our adversaries in an expanded regional conflict. We presumably would have to manipulate it very successfully. Our track record in doing so is not enviable. Yet all this assumes that an unusual number of key contingencies go as planned. What if they do not? The author does not mention how these conflicts could unfold or spread in ways the United States surely would not want. Past and recent U.S. efforts in the Middle East show how hard it is to predict and control who will do what to whom when in a conflict (or not). The speculative optimism underlying the position needs shoring up, at best.

Suppose all goes as promised. Oddly little is said in the hoped-for “bloodbath” about the thousands of innocent lives it would claim or grievously disrupt. The loss and diminution of life, innocent and not, might far outweigh the present dismal arrangements. I often ask myself and other people in the academy or media how we would investigate our theoretical proposals if we and our families had to live under their real-life consequences, even at their worst. I don’t know the solutions, and likely few of us would choose to live under the ones we have. Still, before investing in the blood-soaked vision of a larger regional conflict, we should look first at possible outcomes the proposal fails to mention and the ethical implications of some that it does.

PETER WEIGEL

Chestertown, Md.

Whatever happened to legislating?

In regards to “Clinton hit over Libby criticism” (Page 1, Friday): According to Democratic political pundit Robert Schrum, the reason that Bill and Sen. Hillary Clinton chose to criticize President Bush at the Des Moines rally was that the Clintons believe that going on the offensive is a good defense. Mr. Schrum also told Chris Mathews on MSNBC’s “Hardball” that the Clintons knew they would be hearing about Mr. Clinton’s infamous last minute pardons sooner or later, so they brought up the matter now so that will be dropped and not an issue in November. Or, as Perry Como sang in this theme song, “dream along with me”

Now that he doesn’t have to feel the heat from the House Ethics Committee for using his office staff for personal reasons, Rep. John Conyers Jr., plans to hold Judiciary Committee hearings to investigate the Libby affair. Kudos to White House spokesman Tony Snow, who suggests that the Clintons’ criticism of Mr. Bush’s Libby decision offers a “nice chance” to review the Clinton pardons, obviously making reference to Mr. Conyer’s upcoming investigation.

Based on their record to date, it now appears that under House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s leadership, voters in 2008 will be looking at a party that knows how to hate (24/7 Bush bashing), knows how toinvestigate (600 oversight hearings since assuming power), but so far has only proven to be but a party of angry liberals that does not know how to legislate.

BILL SMITH

Topeka, Kansas

Hijacking the spectrum auction

I was disappointed to read that Reagan-era Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Mark Fowler has joined one of the groups (Frontline Wireless) seeking to hijack the next FCC spectrum auction (“Wireless nation,” Op-Ed, Thursday). This auction of 60 megahertz within the 700 MHz band has been described as “beachfront property.” But this isn’t Oregon coastline; it’s the spectrum equivalent of South Florida because this band will allow high-content video services as well as provide coverage across rural areas, among other attributes.

Frontline’s and other comparable plans have several serious flaws. First, they are unnecessary. Frontline hides behind the skirt of “public safety” to justify this regulatory arbitrage, which would cost the federal government, i.e., taxpayers, billions in auction revenue and add no value to the public. It would, however, line the pockets of Frontline partners, including former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt, and “famed venture capitalists” John Doerr and Ram Shriram. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be interested.

The plan is unneeded because Congress has set aside 24 MHz of spectrum for public safety and has committed $1 billion in grants to help emergency-responders build an interoperable communications network. Contrary to Mr. Fowler’s implication, these funds won’t come from taxpayers, but from auction revenues, which go to the Treasury.

Second, as noted, the plan would cost the government billions in revenue by attaching regulatory conditions to the spectrum and its eventual license holder. Consequently, industry behemoths such as AT&T; and Verizon would bid substantially less than if the spectrum were unencumbered. The last spectrum auction of comparatively Gulf-coast beachfront brought in an unexpectedly high $15 billion. The 700 MHz auction could go as high as $25 billion, but not if the winner has to create a national broadband network for emergency responders, operate exclusively on a wholesale basis, and adopt net neutrality. Mr. Fowler failed to mention the latter two restrictions, and his claim that Frontline’s plan “does not depend on federal appropriations” fails to consider the opportunity costs to the government of unrealized billions.

Third, Mr. Fowler is disingenuous when stating that “rontline might not win in this auction. Anyone could bid.” He knows that Frontline’s chances are greatly enhanced when the spectrum’s value is diminished, resulting in fewer and lesser bids.

Finally, Mr. Fowler fails to mention a result of the last major FCC conditional auction for cellular services in 1996 which provided certain “designated entities,” e.g., minorities and small businesses, with bidding credits. Similar to interest-only option-ARM mortgages, in which credit-challenged borrowers can buy more house than they can afford, this “FCC intervention” resulted in numerous bankruptcies costing the government billions and leaving valuable spectrum fallow for a decade. The infamous NextWave case is merely the best-known example. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Current FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin should keep this in mind.

In truth, the market is the best mechanism for providing 21st-century wireless broadband services, and the private sector doesn’t need the FCC to take any step other than provide an unencumbered auction.

There is no need for a regulatory hijacking by self-interested parties who would profit at the taxpayers’ expense. First-responders have been allocated sufficient spectrum to meet public needs, and funds will be available to build a national emergency network.

ROBERT BRANTLEY

Alexandria, VA