Letters to the Editor
Readers write about the safety and humanity of conditions at Guantánamo, living conditions for refugees in Sri Lanka, and why the US should not tax road mileage.
Conditions at Guantánamo are safe and humane
Regarding the Feb. 20 article, "Guantánamo detention: How harsh is it?": Author Warren Richey's excellent, balanced report about living conditions at Guantánamo substantiates much of what I learned in five visits and years of research into the facility. In my book, "Inside Gitmo," published by HarperCollins, I present both sides of the Gitmo debate and conclude that it is a vital component of our national security.
Guantánamo detainees are kept in better conditions – albeit confined – than detainees in average US prisons are kept, including modern Supermax facilities. Social interaction for highly aggressive detainees is controlled because of a history of coordinated attacks on guards when they were allowed too much intermingling. Detainees receive Islamic-approved halal meals, have ultramodern medical equipment dedicated to their use, and see medical personnel on average four times monthly. More than 500 attorneys represent the fewer than 250 remaining detainees. Legal processes, now under review, were approved by an act of Congress and have withstood court challenges.
"Safe and humane treatment" is more than a mere motto at Guantánamo: It is the mission of the men and women serving there despite being attacked by detainees more than 400 times annually.
Sri Lankan refugees need help
In regard to the Feb. 25 article, "Sri Lankan refugees face open-ended detention in camps": I thank correspondent Simon Montlake for his account of what is happening in the internment camps of detained Tamils in Vavunia, Sri Lanka.
The government uses food and medicine as weapons of war, combined with continued aerial and artillery bombardment on the civilians caught up in a shrinking area in the Vanni district. Humanitarian workers are expelled, denying basic needs to civilians, and the media are barred in order to stop reporting of the horrors. The Tamil-English translators are found to be agents of the Army and therefore it's vital that the civilians who are restricted feel free and are guaranteed safety to speak frankly to the media.
US should not tax road mileage
Regarding the Feb. 27 editorial, "A road map to better US roads": This editorial truly missed the mark. A gas tax is effectively the same as a tax on miles driven, except that it penalizes drivers of inefficient vehicles. The fact is, not all vehicle miles are equal.
At some point in the future, when plug-in electric cars constitute something other than a minuscule portion of vehicles on the road, your point may have some merit. Until then, we should simply index the gas tax to inflation, and list the gas tax separately at the pump.
Why should a driver of a lightweight vehicle that gets 50 miles to the gallon pay the same mileage tax as the driver of a Hummer weighing six times as much and getting eight miles to the gallon? Which vehicle wears out the road more quickly?
If 18 cents a gallon isn't going to fund the roads because we aren't using as much gas, then raise the gas tax. We may ultimately need to find ways of taxing alternative fuels used in transportation, but miles driven tells nothing of the wear and tear on the infrastructure.
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