Ed Koch Commentary: The Chavez Handshake, Cuba, and the Release of the Torture Memos By Edward I. Koch

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Koch-EdHonorable President Obama appears to be moving aggressively to make
needed changes that were blocked or ignored by the Bush administration. 
More power to him, as they say.  Yet, I find it inexplicable that, while
seeming to move in new directions in foreign policy and in energy, education
and health, he has so far failed to change two major misjudgments of the Bush
administration which would save billions and would be near universally

One is to remove all impediments to purchasing prescription
drugs manufactured by U.S.
companies and shipped directly to Canada
where they are sold from 40 percent up to 70 percent below the prices charged
for the same drug in the U.S. 
The same or perhaps steeper discounts are available on Canadian manufactured
drugs that are subject to Canadian government price controls.  Why the

Similarly, why has the Obama administration delayed allowing
Medicare to use its purchasing power to obtain volume discounts for drugs, now
barred by the legislation covering prescription drug availability created by
President Bush and the Congress.  Why aren’t Speaker Nancy Pelosi and
Majority Leader Harry Reid making this a legislative priority?  Are the
drug companies still in command because of their campaign contributions to
Democratic and Republican legislators?


The picture of a smiling President Obama shaking hands with
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez did not offend me, nor should it offend
anyone, no matter how incensed one may feel towards Chavez because of his
authoritarian tactics and his unconcealed enmity to the U.S. 
From what I saw on television, Chavez walked over to President Obama, extended
his hand and offered the President a book.  It would have been the height
of unacceptable rudeness to refuse to shake hands at the time.  Shaking
hands is a social grace and not a imprimatur of social acceptance.  What
is important is what the president does in formulating and executing foreign


President Obama has moved to some extent on Cuba,
but not enough.  President John F. Kennedy brilliantly handled the nuclear
missile threat which arose when Soviet missiles were placed in Cuba
The answer was obvious and J.F.K. embraced it, stating “It shall be the policy
of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba
against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an
attack by the Soviet Union on the United
States, requiring a full retaliatory
response upon the Soviet Union.”  At the same time,
he conveyed to the Soviet Union that we were prepared to
remove our nuclear missiles from Turkey
noting that the U.S.S.R. borders Turkey
We subsequently removed our missiles from Turkey
after the Soviet Union removed its missiles from Cuba.

I believe our nation would overwhelmingly support President
Obama if he lifted the U.S.
trade embargo against Cuba
Fidel Castro and successor, brother Raul, are now toothless tigers, militarily
speaking.  But Cubans are extraordinary people who make substantial
contributions in various fields, such as providing high quality medical care in
Cuba and as
volunteers around the developing world.  The entire membership of the
Organization of American States (OAS) wants Cuba
back as a full member now.  Why not do that without requiring any
preconditions?  Yes, they are a communist state.  So is China,
which is now our largest trading partner, and appears to be our largest
creditor as well, lending its money to pay our bills.  And let’s not
forget our growing relationship with Vietnam,
another communist state.  Treat Cuba
as we now treat Vietnam.

we know Cuba
has kept General Motors, Chrysler and Ford cars running for 50 years. 
Let’s find out how they do that and maybe have some of those Cuban auto
mechanics on special visas to visit the U.S.
to show those companies things they should know about their own cars. 
What do we have to lose?


believe President Obama’s making public the memos on what actions could be
taken against terror detainees to elicit information was a good thing. 
His critics’ argument that it gives terrorists helpful information that will
allow them to prepare for torture and confinement techniques are
ridiculous.  Surely all of these methods are known to them.  I
suspect they employ worse.  But they weren’t all known to the American
public and most important, the American public wasn’t aware of who authorized
their use in the name of the American people.

It is
shocking to learn that waterboarding was used 266 times against two terrorists
and apparently produced no additional information.  Dianne Feinstein
(D-Ca), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has said she
asked the C.I.A. to tell her what invaluable information was elicited from
terrorists as a result of torture, and that they provided no cases where such
information was produced.  Shouldn’t we know, under oath, if torture ever
produced key information?          

I still believe that torture is permissible in the case of
the ticking bomb.  I also believe that it should never be authorized by
law and that we have to depend on whoever is in charge to step forward and
authorize its use, knowing he or she could ultimately be held responsible for
abuses and depend on the good judgment of the government or a jury of their

I also believe that the proposal of Senator Patrick Leahy
(D-VT) to hold hearings in the style of the Truth Commission of South Africa
presided over by Bishop Tutu makes sense and should be authorized.  Those
testifying under oath telling the absolute truth would be given immunity after
testifying.  Those declining to testify or lying would be criminally prosecuted. 
The old maxim “the truth shall make you free” is even more relevant today.

The Honorable Edward
Irving Koch served New
York City as
its 105th Mayor from 1978 to 1989

eHeziEd Koch Commentary: The Chavez Handshake, Cuba, and the Release of the Torture Memos By Edward I. Koch

Comments 1

  1. Koch you were a great mayor,but you are are in left field when it comes to defending our country from terrorist attacks.Any al-Qaida prisoner should be tortured for informatiom about their operations. Senator Leahy is a representing the Communist state of Vermont and communists throughout the world are supporting in everyway they can terrorist attacks against America.

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