Letters to the editor
Regarding your editorial of May 15, 2008, “Pardon Ramos and Compean,” I am disappointed that more than a year after the trial transcripts were posted on my office’s website, responsible publications such as yours continue to rely on myth, misconception and misunderstanding to characterize former Border Patrol agents Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos as victims of a misguided prosecution.
An El Paso jury convicted Compean and Ramos after hearing their testimony and the testimony of other Border Patrol agents, as well as Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila. One agent, an eyewitness to the encounter, testified he saw Aldrete-Davila raise his empty hands to surrender to agent Compean. He did not see a firearm and said he did not draw his own weapon because Aldrete-Davila did not pose a threat or danger to Compean or others. Compean also testified that he did not see a firearm in Aldrete-Davila’s raised hands. Aldrete-Davila’s testimony that he was unarmed confirmed what Compean and this other agent said.
In their testimony at trial, Compean and Ramos simply could not give plausible accounts of what happened just before, during or after the shooting. Their justification smacked of fabrication. And their feeble excuses for Compean collecting and discarding their empty shell casings and for jointly failing to report the shooting only underscored their mendacity. While Aldrete-Davila was a drug smuggler, which the jury knew, they found his account of events more believable than the agents’. Every day in thousands of courtrooms in America, courts charge juries with resolving credibility. This jury discharged its duty and found the agents’ telling not worthy of belief. There is no rule of law in this country that a policeman’s testimony must “prevail over” that of an accused criminal. If that were the rule, there would be no need for juries or trials.
Aldrete-Davila has been held accountable for smuggling drugs after he was shot. He pled guilty to drug charges filed by my office, and he awaits sentencing. His crimes were adjudicated in a court of law, just as were the crimes of Compean and Ramos. Courts, not law-enforcement officers, mete out punishment. Police cannot shoot just because a suspect is fleeing. These are not novel propositions. Adhering to these principles does not undermine our safety.
Compean and Ramos have appealed their convictions. The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit will determine whether their claims of trial error have merit. This office looks forward to the court’s ruling. But their trial, like their conduct, will be judged according to the rule of law. This case is a “mess,” as you characterize it, only because purportedly responsible voices continue to ignore the record facts to excuse Compean and Ramos from this rule.
San Antonio, Tex.
Saudi Arabia’s clout is fading
Jon Ward’s report “U.S. not at war with Islamic faith, Bush says” (Page 1, Saturday) adds to the dilemma facing the United States in the Middle East. Investing politically in an absolute monarchy is becoming a liability as the kingdom of Saudi Arabia resists the democratic transformations the rest of the world has been experiencing. Oil prices will continue to rise for the following reasons: First, there is a surge in demand from countries such as China and India, fueled by development. Second, the existing level of production will dwindle as the existing oil fields start to deplete. Third, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states cannot afford price decreases like in the 1980s because of a growing population that is dependent solely on oil revenues.
The United States needs to balance its immediate interests with its long-term interests. Because Iran and Iraq will reshape the future of the Middle East and because Saudi Arabia’s political and economic clout will decline, it will be a miscalculation to remain unconditionally supportive of an absolute monarchy, which produced al Qaeda and the Sept. 11 hijackers. Saudi Arabia is becoming a powder keg. The Wahhabi sect is still regulating the lives of local Saudis and is often forced upon the expatriate labor force. Women remain second-class citizens, and the rest of the population has no say over its life. Shi’ites are still discriminated against, and any other faith outside Wahhabism is considered heresy. It is time for the United States to rely on the founders’ ideals to bring change in the Middle East and start building relationships with the future regional powers. Saudi Arabia is no longer a viable ally, and its clout is fading away.