Democrats & Liberals Archives

Our Tortured President

Ever since the obscene pictures of Abu Ghraib prisoners being tortured swept across the world, we have been subjected to a barrage of pictures and stories about the mistreatment of prisoners at the hands of American troops. Evidently, torture is part of the system. Senator John McCain, who experienced torture first hand, introduced an amendment to a defense bill to prohibit torture. The amendment passed but unbelievably, the president is threatening to veto it! Is President Bush in favor of torture?

Torture and abuse of prisoners is endemic. John Sifton, in his article "Abuse: Systematic and Chronic," tells us:

"The reality—which was eclipsed by the particular story of Lynndie England and her comrades at Abu Ghraib—is that abuse has been systematic and widespread. Human Rights Watch and other groups have compiled hundreds upon hundreds of allegations of abuse, including serious cases that go well beyond the infamous humiliations at Abu Ghraib."

Andrew Sullivan has been spending the last few weeks talking about torture allegations on his blog. He has been praising Capt. Fishback for telling us the horrible truth. Andrew Bacevich, blogging on Huffington Post, says:

"Captain Ian Fishback, West Point Class of 2001, is a decorated veteran of campaigns in both Afghanistan and Iraq, where he served with the fabled 82d Airborne Division. During his tour with that division in Iraq, he witnessed American soldiers brutalizing Iraqi detainees. By Fishback’s own account the abuse was not an isolated event. It was systematic and widespread. It directly violated the law of war and served little apparent purpose other than as a source of sadistic entertainment."

Senator McCain, who was tortured terribly when he was a prisoner in Vietnam, together with Senator Lindsey Graham, introduced an amendment to the Defense authorization bill that would prohibit all “cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment” of detainees. John McCain said on the floor of the Senate:

“We have to clarify that this is not what the United States is all about. This is what makes us different from the enemy we are fighting.”

The amendment passed by a vote of 90 - 9. This is a bipartisan achievement like very few others. All Americans are disgusted with a policy that allows our armed forces to indulge in torture.

And what does our president say? He is threatening to veto the entire Defense authorization bill to make sure that the anti-torture amendment does not become law. Prospectively, this would be his first veto. And for what? To tell America and the world that Americans favor torture?

I suppose Bush loyalists in the House will get rid of this offensive amendment during the House/Senate Conference. This would put a red badge of shame on all of us.

Why must our tortured president torture all of us by fighting for torture?

Posted by Paul Siegel at October 11, 2005 5:36 PM
Comments
Comment #84975

Duh! Why else would the President issue an edict stating that the US will not be bound by the Geneva Conventions in our war against terrorism? This President’s relationship to terrorism is very much like throwing gasoline on a fire to put it out.

Posted by: David R. Remer at October 11, 2005 6:25 PM
Comment #84984

Personally, I’d like to take this rare chance to heap some praise on the Republican’s for voting for this amendment! I’m proud of them for doing this despite the fact that our president issued a warning to them that he would veto the entire bill because of it.

As for Bushco’s views on torture, I agree, those guys are a bunch of cuckoos.

Posted by: Adrienne at October 11, 2005 7:44 PM
Comment #84987

Yup….one veto in 5 years, and it would be used to uphold the use of torture.

Bravo Bush voters! Bravo!

Posted by: Burt at October 11, 2005 8:06 PM
Comment #84991

You guys do know Bush has forbidden anyone from obtaining his Administration’s Documentation EVER!!! Wonder what George has to hide?

Posted by: Aldous at October 11, 2005 8:45 PM
Comment #85114

Good article, Paul. It is really shameful that the President of the United States so firmly advocates torture and brutality.

Kudos to Republicans in the Senate who are finally on the right side of an issue.

BTW, did you notice that the NYC subway threat turned out to be a tall tale told by an Iraqi who wanted to avoid torture?

Posted by: American Pundit at October 12, 2005 5:03 AM
Comment #85165

OK, I get it. Eliminate torture, which by the examples I have seen defining torture are quite nebulous and, the prisoners, knowing they are safe from discomfort will simply reveal everything we want to know.

Good plan.

In fact, IMO we will wind up with lot’s more prisoners than we could ever imagine since incarceration equates to clean-dry-warm and well fed.

Posted by: steve smith at October 12, 2005 9:10 AM
Comment #85168

Why should we treat dogs according to the geneva convention when they themselves do not treat us the same way. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

Posted by: Keith smith at October 12, 2005 9:20 AM
Comment #85178

Steve,

the prisoners, knowing they are safe from discomfort will simply reveal everything we want to know.

Great rethoric usage of discomfort in place of torture. Does being dead qualify as some sort of discomfort to you? Because some of the “prisoners” you’re talking about actually died from such discomfort, you know.

In fact, IMO we will wind up with lot’s more prisoners than we could ever imagine since incarceration equates to clean-dry-warm and well fed.

You forget freedom in your equation!
How comes??? Isn’t War On Terror and Iraq War about spreading freedom and democracy?

Keith,

Why should we treat dogs according to the geneva convention when they themselves do not treat us the same way.

1. Because your country ratified the Geneva Convention and until your leader get enough balls to officially cancel this ratification, you are morally obliged to comply with.

2. Because terrorists never ratified the Geneva Convention.

3. Because your GOP is the moral value party and should show it in its actions, not just in speeches.

4. Because if you consider them dogs, you can’t expect them to be able to read neither understand the Geneva Convention. Dogs are dogs, not humans.

5. Because torturers are evils and USA in its war against evilness is supposed to be the good guy, not the bad one?

6. Because the end don’t always justifies the means.

From EuroLand,

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at October 12, 2005 9:54 AM
Comment #85186

Can anyone provide a link to the legislation that McCain wants, and to how it will change the current policies regarding torture?

Its clear to me that torture is not something we want to engage in. Its just as clear that we need a solid definition of what torture is and what it isnt. The Geneva Convention says that “coercion” of any kind should not be used. But coercion is a legitimate practice used by virtually every police department in our country. By offering to reduce a sentence, or to give immunity or any such thing, the police are “coercing” the suspect into giving information. So we need a clear definition of what is acceptable and what is not.

If McCain’s bill clarifies the definitions without handcuffing legitimate interrogation practices, then I’m all for it.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at October 12, 2005 10:17 AM
Comment #85188

This whole business of identifying the legal loopholes to justify detention without trial and to allow torture has been one of the most alarming trends of the past few years. The squabbling over who has or has not signed the Geneva convention, or whether or not fighters are state-sponsored serves only to undermind the “Freedom and Democracy” message the US is trying to spread. The professed goal is to replace tyrranical regimes with those dedicated to the will and well-being of the people. It seems elemental that the US NOT BE TYRRANICAL in forwarding that goal. From the point of view of the US military, using abuse to coerce information from prisoners (especially in retalliation to some terrorist act) proves nothing other than that terrorism works.

Posted by: Fadi at October 12, 2005 10:22 AM
Comment #85192

Using a religious statement only because it is the best way to enter the “torture” chamber of discussion :

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

The argument that the Geneva Convention relating to torture/treatment of prisoners should dictate our conduct I think is no longer valid. We have lists of people and situations where we have been tortured and other wise mistreated while in captivity.

“Dead” is not discomfort, “Dead” is “Dead”. At least those that are dead allegedly as a result of US captivity still have their heads and other body parts.

“Freedom” - the right of freedom is sacrificed when you or someone you support (in fact or by association) fires a weapon at or harms a US citizen or service person.

How can the war possibly be about spreading freedom and democracy when it is well known that the people of Iraq are culturally and religiously unable to operate in a democracy. Unlike the US and other democratic nations, religion is not and cannot be seperated from state.

Posted by: steve smith at October 12, 2005 10:31 AM
Comment #85196

Steve,

Thank you for illustrating the intellectual, practical, and moral bankruptcy of the far right.

Posted by: Burt at October 12, 2005 10:49 AM
Comment #85203

Burt,

The only error in your note of thanks was the inclusion of the word “bankruptcy”.

Posted by: steve smith at October 12, 2005 11:23 AM
Comment #85204

`Those terrorists are evil and bad guys, so they should be held accountible for their acts of torture & violence, We are the good guys, so we are ont accountible for our acts of torture & violence. So Sayeth our great leader.

Posted by: HereticSpeaks at October 12, 2005 11:27 AM
Comment #85205
The argument that the Geneva Convention relating to torture/treatment of prisoners should dictate our conduct I think is no longer valid.

I’ll disagree until your government cancel your country ratification of Geneva Convention. Period.
It’s really easy to do, your president should try (because “he can”) one day!
Meanwhile, you should honor your country signature or face world anger, sadness and discredit for moral bankruptcy. Wait! That’s already the case.

At least those that are dead allegedly as a result of US captivity still have their heads and other body parts.

Oh. So according to you torturing for weeks a prisoner before he dies is of greater moral value than a quick death but barbarous beheading?
I dunno for you, but if I had to chose, I would take the quick death.

Murder is murder is murder. Death from torture is murder. Comparing torture methods is like comparing apples and oranges.

“Freedom” - the right of freedom is sacrificed when you or someone you support (in fact or by association) fires a weapon at or harms a US citizen or service person.

Thanks, I didn’t know freedom stop when US were hurted. BTW, you forget to put the (tm) US trademark after “freedom”, don’t you?

How can the war possibly be about spreading freedom and democracy when it is well known that the people of Iraq are culturally and religiously unable to operate in a democracy.

Hey, I’m not the one saying the wars were about spreading freedom and democracy! Ask your government during the next speech about wars motivations. I know, it’s hard because there’s so much now…

Unlike the US and other democratic nations, religion is not and cannot be seperated from state.

And your post starting with a religious statement as torture justification and your government using in several speeches “evil” and “divine mission” show how easy religion and state separation is in US and other democratic nations.
Tell me again why?

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at October 12, 2005 11:29 AM
Comment #85216

“The argument that the Geneva Convention relating to torture/treatment of prisoners should dictate our conduct I think is no longer valid”

Of course its not Steve. The war is over, we are now dealing with terrorists.

““Dead” is not discomfort, “Dead” is “Dead”. At least those that are dead allegedly as a result of US captivity still have their heads and other body parts”

How dare you place Americans before the terrorists. It is Americas fault that terrorists exist and it is Americas fault they are animals that need to be hunted down and killed. Not captured and not coddled. Its all our fault!

““Freedom” - the right of freedom is sacrificed when you or someone you support (in fact or by association) fires a weapon at or harms a US citizen or service person”

There you go again, placing America first. Before you know it, you will be saying trash like the American people have more rights than almost all the other developed countries combined and you will start on your “we are a Constitutional Republic, not a democracy” rant.

America first, bah humbug. How can you, an American, possibly believe that drivel!

Posted by: kctim at October 12, 2005 12:21 PM
Comment #85218

Philippe Houdoin,

Obviously we are not in agreement about the torture issue. Expressing this affirms our first amendment rights. I love America.

World Anger
Is it possible that there is any nation in the world that we have not already angered. They were likely very angry when the Enola Gay flew over Hiroshima and Nagasaki but, we overcame.

Separation of Church and State
Regardless of what words are used in speeches, US law and/or policy is not the result of religious mandates as it is in Iraq and other Middle East countries.

I notice in your posts that you refer to US related issues as “your”. Also you sometimes end your messages with “From EuroLand”. Can one conclude from this that you are a US citizen living abroad.? Or, that you are not a US citizen. In either case, it is good to have your perspective.

Posted by: steve smith at October 12, 2005 12:41 PM
Comment #85222

“An eye for an eye - a tooth for a tooth.”

The fastest way to a sightless, toothless world. (Forgot who said this…)

Posted by: tony at October 12, 2005 1:02 PM
Comment #85234

Justify torture however you want. I am saddened because the America I was raised to believe in was better than this.

Posted by: chantico at October 12, 2005 2:13 PM
Comment #85238

It’s hard for me to believe that any American would condone torture. There are some things that we just should not do. If the administration vetos the legislation, it is a source of shame for us as a nation.

Posted by: Dennis at October 12, 2005 2:40 PM
Comment #85246

Dennis:

Interestingly, Alan Dershowitz, one of the brighter shining lights of liberalism, has stated that torture should be condoned, but only under certain specific instances. He uses what is called the “ticking bomb” scenario that you see on tv and in Hollywood. Yknow the type: Bomb is set to go off at 3:00 pm and one terrorist with knowledge is in custody. Bomb will kill 100,000 people unless defused, but the clock is ticking. How do you get the info on where the bomb is?

Under this scenario, Dershowitz suggests that torturing one person is for the greater good. The principle can also apply to a battalion in action that might be ambushed, a child kidnapped and likely to be killed, etc.

Its a bit of a slippery slope, of course. But if someone had MY daughter, and I had someone who knew where that someone was, I’d do most nearly anything to find out.

Dennis, in general I agree with you. I’d simply like to better understand what people are calling torture. In my mind, sleep deprivation to a degree does not constitute torture—-to some, it does. So I think a solid definition needs to be arrived at so that all are speaking about the same thing.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at October 12, 2005 3:24 PM
Comment #85260

JBOD, yep, I hear where you are coming from. I have three kids and would do just about anything to save them. I also agree that we need to quantify what torture means and your example of sleep deprivation is a one that I would not classify as torture until it gets to the point of threatening the subject’s life or sanity.

It’s not an easy subject I’ll grant. I also think there are extinuating circumstances as in your examples cited above. I just don’t think we should get into the business of torture sanctioned as a matter of policy.

Torture, indefinite imprisonment without charge, violation of civil rights, and other actions that affect a person’s liberty have generally been viewed as reprehensible for a civilized society. I would hate to see us get to the point where the ends always justify the means…

Of course, if it were my son or daughter who was in danger and I could find a way of saving them by torturing someone, I would most likely do so.

Posted by: Dennis at October 12, 2005 3:57 PM
Comment #85262

kctim,

You are right, my bad. I ask a thousand pardons.

Posted by: steve smith at October 12, 2005 4:05 PM
Comment #85266

I think torture should be made illegal in all cases. If someone feels that their situation justifies the use of torture, then let them make that appeal in a court of law, knowing all along that they will face that judgment. If the case warrants the use of torture, then that is the courts decision on a case by case basis. Trying to define torture before hand only allows people to bend or abuse the law.

Kind of like saying that running people over with your car is illegal. If you do so to stop a mad man from shooting a gun at a bus load of kids, then let the court decide to drop the case.

If the case is so severe that it warrants torture, then it should warrant your potential sacrifice if the courts don’t agree with you.

Posted by: tony at October 12, 2005 4:16 PM
Comment #85282

Steve Smith,

World Anger
Is it possible that there is any nation in the world that we have not already angered.

I was talking about present anger. Sure, in the past every country had angered the others at least once. And sure your country will get over. I hope it’ll, in fact, the sooner the better.

Regardless of what words are used in speeches, US law and/or policy is not the result of religious mandates as it is in Iraq and other Middle East countries.

Agreed. See, we can agreed on something!

I notice in your posts that you refer to US related issues as “your”. Also you sometimes end your messages with “From EuroLand”. Can one conclude from this that you are a US citizen living abroad.? Or, that you are not a US citizen.

I’m french, living in France.
And yes, I’am a frog ;-)

In either case, it is good to have your perspective.

Thanks. That why I came to WatchBlog the first time: to get perspectives from americans.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at October 12, 2005 5:16 PM
Comment #85288

Why should we treat dogs according to the geneva convention when they themselves do not treat us the same way. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

Yes, and what I want for this country is for us to lower ourselves to the level of those we are fighting. Bravo! Great thinking there, skippy! That’s absolutely certain to work really well, and not create any more terrorists at all!

Here’s a piece of advice. Go rent the film The Battle of Algiers. Study the history of the Maquis guerrilas in France in WWII. Then come back and tell me how really well torture works.

The words “morally bankrupt” were spot on, sport. You’re just too blinded by propaganda to see it.

Posted by: Rumblelizard at October 12, 2005 5:34 PM
Comment #85291

What is all this talk about “defining” torture? The amendment in question simply requires all service personal to follow the procedures ALREADY found in the Army Field Manual when they detain and interrogate terrorism suspects. Which, by the by, is suppose to conform to the Geneva Convention. My only hope is this would also apply to everybody, including contracted “consultants”.

On a personal note… If you thought I was a witch (er, warlock), and you tortured me, soon I would confess to being a witch. More torture, I will rat out my witch friends, and spill the beans on all my evil witch plots. I’m not joking. If you torture me, or almost anyone, we humans will confess anything the torturer wants. Sometimes you don’t even have to lay a finger on them. See what happens if you lock someone up and not allow them to see their kids for a couple of years. I just hope you will think about this before you burn me at the stake. Please read 1984 people!!!

Finally, I wish people would slow down and realize all of the prisoners are not terrorists. We’ve jailed a lot of people very quickly. Now before you start jumping all up and down, think about this… We’ve let some of them go, years after we caught them. The reason… some of these people detained for years and tortured were INNOCENT!

Posted by: Patrick Howse at October 12, 2005 5:40 PM
Comment #85733

Yes, all you idiots that do not know what you are talking about, go ahead and sprout. I am a regerestered Democrat and ashamed of it. Their is no doubt in my mind that the party has turned Comunist, the beleive in killing babies, homosexuals and most of all the ACLU AND THAT OUTFIT IS TRYING TO DESTROY OUR COUNTRY.

At one time the Democrats were for working class of people, not now.

Posted by: Walter Flatt at October 13, 2005 11:24 PM
Comment #85734

Their is only one way to treat radicals, kill them and do anything that we have to do to get the rats out of their holes.

Folks, it is kill or be killed, if you do not take prisioners, you do not have to worrry about all these idiots that would love to see them start blowing us up here.

Posted by: Walter Flatt at October 13, 2005 11:28 PM
Comment #85749

The problem with torture is that it assumes guilt. But this Administration has proven NOTHING about those it holds prisoner, and believes it doesn’t have to. Bush arrogates to himself the “right” to imprison anyone he wants, for as long as he wants, without proof. Is this still America? What if we hold someone for YEARS, torturing him all the while, and he ultimately turns out to be innocent (which could easily happen when you sweep through a country rounding up anyone you can get your hands on in hopes of pinning something on them later)? How can we ever repay someone for stealing so much of his life, and for nothing?

Rumsfeld said, early on in this war, that even if some of these “terrorists” prove to be innocent, we might just hold onto them anyway. And the Bush Administration has spent 5 years saying, “That doesn’t apply to us” or “That doesn’t apply in this case” whenever they run up against an inconvenient law that would prevent them from doing whatever they want. This is the most dishonest, power-hungry Administration I can remember. They seem to think that, because we see ourselves as the “good guys” we are entitled to do and act however we (they) want. They make Nixon look good by comparison.

The torture scandal is too wide-spread to be the work of a few bad apples, as the Bush Administration would have us believe. It came about because those at the top created an atmosphere in which anything goes; as “the world’s last remaining super-power” we are also the last big bully. There is no one to stop us. We invade other countries and torture prisoners for one reason only: because we can.

I can’t wait for these guys to be gone. I just hope that, after 8 years of Bush, there is still something of “America” left. And I’m glad there are a few like McCain remaining, Senators who can think for themselves and not be enslaved by the party line or misguided notions of party loyalty.

Posted by: Michael S. at October 14, 2005 1:12 AM
Comment #85758

This amendment takes the high road on the issue of torture and I commend it.

The type of gratuitous humiliation of prisoners we saw in Abhu Ghraib was a disgrace. There is no way you can seek to justify this type of moral idiocy.

On the other hand, there may be cases when it is necessary to pressure a suspect to reveal information. For example, if an enemy combatant is privy to information about the whereabouts of a bomb in a downtown location, and hudreds of civilian lives are at risk, any measure that succeeds in extracting the information should be used. I doubt that any law known to man will ever prevent militaries from using physical intimidation to acquire information if hundreds of innocent lives are at stake.

This is quite different however, from random brutality and degrading treatment aimed at humiliating captives.

Posted by: Aidan Maconachy at October 14, 2005 2:19 AM
Comment #85765

First, I will not lower myself and gratify Mr. Smith’s (both of them) obvious attempt to “prove” his self-perceived debating “skills” while parroting the administration’s propaganda—and while trolling on a liberal blog! He’s obviously looking for a fight, like MOST Bush supporters. (That’s how you can tell they know the implosion is near!)

Second, anyone with any knowledge of history and/or psychology KNOWS THAT TORTURE DOES NOT WORK! One will admit to ANYTHING in the hopes of stopping it! Just like the so-called “witches” who were tortured, resulting in MOST ADMITTING THEY WERE WITCHES! Therefore, the burning at the stake for them. ARE WE NOW TO BELIEVE THAT TENS OF THOUSANDS OF WOMEN WERE ACTUALLY WITCHES? Even the Catholic Church has admitted they couldn’t possibly have ALL been witches at that time; therefore, THOUSANDS OF WOMEN WERE BURNED UNNECESSARILY!

Oh sure, torture really works. It seems the only thing Bush and his supporters are trying to do is move us back to the Dark Ages, where the “stronger” (read: meaner and less humanistic)one is, the more “powerful” he becomes…what’s next, the Final Inquisition?

Posted by: Carri at October 14, 2005 4:36 AM
Comment #85787

when i saw the movie “closetland” years ago (a fine film made by amnesty international back in ‘91) i never DREAMED that the barbaric practices of torture it highlighted taking place in other countries would become something we ourselves wanted to emulate in the united states. those of you who are all for torture of the so-called “enemy” might want to see this film to find out where we are headed. eventually the torture won’t be confined to our “enemies;” it will be inflicted upon our own citizens. after all, if Bush can justify doing it to anyone who poses a threat to america or who MIGHT be guilty of a crime against america it wouldn’t take much to accuse americans themselves. patriot act anyone? we are only a few years away from living out the horrors of 1984.

Posted by: shiela at October 14, 2005 9:26 AM
Comment #85863

—-
Their is no doubt in my mind that the party has turned Comunist, the beleive in killing babies, homosexuals and most of all the ACLU AND THAT OUTFIT IS TRYING TO DESTROY OUR COUNTRY.
—-

I’m not Communist, and I try to avoid killing babies… I don’t think we should be killing homosexuals either. As far as killing the ACLU…hmmm No idea how you would do that…???

(American Civil Liberties Union… sounds pretty damn America to me…)

Posted by: tony at October 14, 2005 6:52 PM
Comment #86106

Walter,

Their is only one way to treat radicals, kill them and do anything that we have to do to get the rats out of their holes.

Folks, it is kill or be killed, if you do not take prisioners, you do not have to worrry about all these idiots that would love to see them start blowing us up here.

So I assume you’re against torture, right?
Torture is far from being the best effective way to kill people. These days, nukes are probably the best way.

So I assume you’re for nuking islamic countries, right?

Yeah, Walter, keep talking about radicals…

PS: Hey, at least you found sometime this funny capslock key on your computer, congratulations! What happened in your next posts? Did you break it by anger on lowercases moderate posts or what?

Posted by Walter Flatt

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at October 17, 2005 5:52 AM
Comment #216026

It is ok to have our boys head cut off on worldwide tv, but it is not ok to kick a— to the basterds that is doing the head cutting. GET REAL, I would cut of fingers one at a time if it would save one American life.

BY THE WAY, IF YOU WANT TO STOP THIS WAR. ANNOUNCE TO THE WORLD THAT YOU ARE COATING ALL YOUR AMMUNITION WITH PIGS BLOOD AND THIS WORLD WAR WOULD STOP OVER NIGHT. RADICALS BELIVE THEY WOULD GO TO HELL IF THEY DIE UNCLEAN. THIS HAS HAPPENED TWICE IN HISTORY. WAKE UP AN SMELL THE ROSES, YES, WE ARE IN A CHRISTIAN WAR AGAINST THE MUSELMS.

Posted by: WALTER T. FLATT at April 11, 2007 11:32 AM
Comment #216027

It is ok to have our boys head cut off on worldwide tv, but it is not ok to kick a— to the basterds that is doing the head cutting. GET REAL, I would cut of fingers one at a time if it would save one American life.

BY THE WAY, IF YOU WANT TO STOP THIS WAR. ANNOUNCE TO THE WORLD THAT YOU ARE COATING ALL YOUR AMMUNITION WITH PIGS BLOOD AND THIS WORLD WAR WOULD STOP OVER NIGHT. RADICALS BELIVE THEY WOULD GO TO HELL IF THEY DIE UNCLEAN. THIS HAS HAPPENED TWICE IN HISTORY. WAKE UP AN SMELL THE ROSES, YES, WE ARE IN A CHRISTIAN WAR AGAINST THE MUSELMS.

Posted by: WALTER T. FLATT at April 11, 2007 11:32 AM
Post a comment