January 10, 2013

In his Jan. 6 Outlook commentary, “Sorry, Hollywood. What we did wasn’t torture,” Jose A. Rodriguez Jr. stated, “Inevitably, films like [“Zero Dark Thirty”] come to be seen . . . as a sort of proxy for reality. Even those who should know better get caught up in false arguments, debating, for example, ‘Can torture (as shown in the film) be justified?,’ rather than ‘Are harsh but legal measures (as not shown in the film) sometimes necessary?’ ”

Lest this statement also be taken as a proxy for reality, it should be made clear that, leaving aside the clearly torturous nature of waterboarding, any debate over the legality of the other “harsh” interrogation measures to which Mr. Rodriguez referred also represents a patently false argument. It matters not whether these measures rise to the level of torture. Reality rests in the fact that measures such as these are clearly unlawful, their use specifically prohibited by both customary and codified international law.

David E. Graham, Charlottesville

The writer is executive director of the U.S. Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School.

Jose Rodriguez’s commentary split hairs over what may have been just a teeny bit of torture. Ridiculous. Torture is torture — whether sanctioned by Washington or not.

Also, the article overlooked the United States’s “remanding” of prisoners to brutal police states for “enhanced” interrogation. Torture is not a political issue in such places, but at least they don’t dance around their immoral methods.

Either way, Mr. Rodriguez described a shameful episode in our history when we undercut our own values — and the rest of the world knows it.

Rita Parrilli, Alexandria