Pamela Constable notes in her July 17 Outlook article "Torture's Echoes" that Chile was, before the military coup, "an unusually law-abiding and democratic country."

But Ms. Constable should move the golden era back to before Salvador Allende became president. He announced that "our objective is total, scientific, Marxist socialism." Inevitably, what he did achieve was an economic and political mess, under a state of lawlessness indeed unusual for Chile until then. In short, Mr. Allende was no innocent actor in this drama, and the military coup was a predictable outcome of his misgovernment.

Tragic episodes such as Chile's should be understood in all their complexity and not reduced to morality tales in support of a labored analogy.

LUIS C. ARIBE

McLean

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I would only add one item to Pamela Constable's analysis: Yes, we must support our troops in danger, but we must also condemn acts of torture, even "torture lite." Naming, condemning and trying to stop torture is a powerful way to support the troops, now and when they are back among us.

I'm a Vietnam veteran. No one is more sickened than former soldiers, who tried to act honorably under fire, by the predations of a Lt. William Calley, by the notorious tiger cages, by the practice of throwing POWs out of helicopters or shocking suspects' genitals. The stench of these acts clings to us all. That's why it was no surprise that a dozen flag-rank retired officers signed a letter opposing Alberto R. Gonzales's confirmation as attorney general because of his complicity in smudging the bright lines against torture.

BOB STECK

Washington