Newspapers around the County Blast President Bush’s Torture-Ban Veto

Last Saturday, President Bush vetoed a bill that would have shut down the CIA’s “enhanced” interrogation program by applying the Army Field Manual standards of interrogation to all government agencies. Across the country – and around the world – the reaction to the President’s refusal to ban torture has been overwhelmingly negative. Here’s what editorial writers have said:


Los Angeles Times: “The truth on torture; Bush’s double-talk and a recent veto are shameful. Congress can help reclaim the moral high ground.”

‘We do not torture,” President Bush insists, yet assurance is accompanied by an unspoken “but.” In vetoing legislation that would require CIA interrogators to abide by the same humanitarian standards imposed on their counterparts in the U.S. military, Bush again has drowned out his denials with an ominous silence about just what “enhanced” interrogation tactics he considers appropriate.

…Bush has been playing a dangerous game, forswearing torture while making the argument that suspected terrorists must be made to give up their secrets at any cost. In his radio address, he claimed that the CIA interrogation program pried loose information that helped avert a series of terrorist attacks, including one in Los Angeles. If the stakes are that high and the alternatives futile, why not torture?

The best answer to that question was offered by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2005. Calling terrorists “the quintessence of evil,” McCain insisted that “it’s not about them; it’s about us. This battle we’re in is about the things we stand for and believe in and practice. And that is an observance of human rights, no matter how terrible our adversaries may be.”

Alas, the man who spoke those words before he became the presumptive Republican presidential nominee voted against the legislation Bush vetoed. But McCain was as right in 2005 as he is wrong now. By reserving the right to use unspecified enhanced interrogation methods, the United States — especially the United States under this president — abandons the moral high ground. That is why, on balance, it serves America’s interests for there to be a single standard for interrogation techniques.

The Army Field Manual provides such a single standard. And, yes, it tells America’s
enemies in specific terms what this country will not do. Are those the techniques Bush wants to preserve as options for the CIA? If so, terrorists already know from the Field Manual what they involve and, according to the president, can undergo training to resist them. If the president has other, even harsher, tactics in mind, then the assurance that “we don’t torture” rings even hollower. Congress should end his word games by voting to override his veto.

March 11, 2008


Orlando Sentinel: “Our position: Congress should override Bush’s move allowing torture in CIA interrogations”

President George W. Bush often deflects calls to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq by declaring he’ll listen to his commanders. But on torture, Mr. Bush has turned a deaf ear to his top commander.Army Gen. David Petraeus, in a letter last year to U.S. forces in Iraq, wrote that torture is not only illegal, but also “frequently neither useful nor necessary.” Yet Mr. Bush vetoed legislation last week that would have barred the CIA from any interrogation technique that might be considered torture.

…Congress needs to rule out torture if the president won’t, and override his misguided veto.

March 11, 2008

The Tampa Tribune: “Override Veto of Torture Ban”

Against the advice of former military leaders, President Bush continues to insist that harsh methods of interrogation have secured valuable information for the country in the war against terrorism.

…Supporters of torture say dangerous times require difficult decisions, and they’re right. It is difficult to remember that constitutional protections are never more important than when the temptation is greatest to evade them.

March 11, 2008


Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette: “Disgusting Support for Torture”

…“This is no time for Congress to abandon practices that have a proven track record of keeping America safe,” Bush said in his weekly radio address.

Yet most experts in interrogation say torture simply doesn’t work.

“Torture is counterproductive on all fronts,” retired Army Lt. Gen. Harry E. Soyster, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the Washington Post. “It produces bad intelligence. It ruins the subject, makes them useless for further interrogation. And it damages our credibility around the world.”

The president’s veto further damages U.S. credibility and sends the dangerous, disgusting message that the U.S. condones torture.

March 11, 2008


The Milford Daily News: “Editorial: Bush veto defends the indefensible”

President George W. Bush seems intent on undermining whatever respect around the world the United States maintains seven years into his presidency. Again this past weekend, he made a principled stand against a principle unquestioned before
he took office: that the United States would not torture those it held in custody.

…As commander-in-chief, Bush should be ordering the use of techniques that provide reliable information. As the nation’s leader, he should be working to enhance America’s standing as a civilized power. Both goals are undermined by this veto.

March 11, 2008

New Hampshire

The Concord Monitor: “Gregg, Sununu dead wrong on torture vote”

…New Hampshire Sens. Judd Gregg and John Sununu, in voting against a bill that would have prohibited water-boarding and other forms of interrogation historically considered torture, are complicit in what should be seen as crimes against humanity. Shamefully, they were joined in their opposition by Sen. John McCain, a man who knows about torture and its lack of efficacy first hand. His vote smacked of political expedience and hypocrisy.

… We urge Gregg and Sununu to live up to the ideals that once made this nation an exemplar and reject torture by voting to overturn Bush’s veto. If not, the task will be left to a new president – and new members of what we hope is a morally responsible Congress.

March 12, 2008

New York

Daily Gazette: “Editorial: Bush torture veto more of the same”

…Bush claimed, in his Saturday radio address announcing the veto, that waterboarding has stopped several terrorist attacks. But he has shown before that he is not above making misleading, inflated claims to justify doing what he wants, legal or not. And so, barring the unlikelihood that Congress overturns his veto, George Bush and the United States reserve the right to torture.

March 12, 2008

The New York Times: “Radio Fear America”

Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia read the funnies over the radio to cheer up New Yorkers
during a newspaper strike. President Franklin Roosevelt gave ”fireside chats” to bolster Americans during the depression. President Bush used his radio address on Saturday to try to scare Americans into believing they have to sacrifice their rights and their values to combat terrorism.

Mr. Bush announced that he had vetoed the 2008 intelligence budget because it contains a clause barring the C.I.A. from torturing prisoners. Mr. Bush told the nation that it ”would take away one of the most valuable tools in the war on terror — the C.I.A. program to detain and question key terrorist leaders and operatives.” That is simply not true. Nothing in the bill shuts down the C.I.A. interrogation program. It just requires the C.I.A.’s interrogators to follow the rules already contained in the Army field manual on prisoners.

The manual does not stop interrogators from questioning prisoners aggressively. It
simply forbids the use of techniques that are regarded by most civilized people as abuse and torture, including sexual abuse, electric shocks, mock executions and the infamous form of simulated drowning known as waterboarding.

…This is not the first time that Mr. Bush has misled Americans on intelligence-gathering and antiterrorism operations, and it may not be the last. It will be up to the next president to restore the rule of law.

March 11, 2008

Newsday: “Just say no to torture; Congress must override Bush’s veto”

On the subject of torture, President George W. Bush seems intent on going out with his guns blazing.

…What are some of the restrictions that Bush finds so onerous? Service members are barred from beating, shocking or burning prisoners. No waterboarding is allowed. Neither is intentionally inducing hypothermia or heat injury, mock executions or depriving prisoners of food and water.

Those practices should be prohibited, and they already are by international conventions and domestic law. The recent unambiguous statement by the Congress is redundant but necessary because of Bush’s intransigence. The law and the reality should both be that this nation does not torture.

March 7, 2008

Watertown Daily Times: “Reject Torture: U.S. should renounce coercive methods”

The United States should lead the way in the area of human rights. That means humane treatment of prisoners and avoiding the use of torture in interrogations
of suspected terrorists.

…Congress may not have the votes to override President Bush’s veto. But the members are correct in taking a principled stand for human rights.

March 9, 2008


The Register-Guard: “A legacy of shame, Bush’s veto of CIA torture ban is unreasonable”

It is time to stop pretending that “reasonable” people can disagree about what kind of interrogation techniques constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody. President Bush has demonstrated time and again that on this issue, he is relentlessly unreasonable….

March 11, 2008


The Philadelphia Inquirer“Editorial: Waterboarding Veto; Shaming America”

President Bush doesn’t believe that American civilians are also willing to sacrifice their lives to uphold the values that have served as the emblem of this nation for more than 230 years. If he did, he would know that millions of Americans who don’t want to die in a repeat of 9/11 also don’t want their country to torture people – even if it’s in an attempt to stop a terrorist plot.

These are people who grew up being taught that torture is un-American; that it’s what happens to people in despotic nations – not in the land of the free. To see their hypocritical president equivocate about what is or isn’t torture is not just disheartening, it’s tragic.

Bush doesn’t care. He vetoed a bill Saturday that would have stopped the CIA from
using so-called enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding. That practice has been called simulated drowning, but experts say there’s nothing simulated about it; it’s just that the torture stops before death occurs.

Nonetheless, Bush continues to insist that there is value to inflicting pain on captives.
“The fact that we have not been attacked over the past 6 1/2 years is not a matter of chance,” he said. “This is no time for Congress to abandon practices that have a proven track record of keeping America safe.”

Bush completely disregards the assessment of expert interrogators who say a tortured captive is more likely to say anything just to get the pain to stop. Other captives would rather die than speak, especially if they believe death is the means to martyrdom.

More than 40 retired military officers recently signed a letter supporting the Senate bill that would have mandated that the CIA follow the Army Field Manual’s rules on
interrogation, which prohibit torture.

Two of those retired officers – Rear Adm. John D. Hutson and Brig. Gen. David R. Irvine – discussed torture Sunday at the National Constitution Center. Also on the panel were former Bush Justice Department officials John Yoo and Larry Thompson.

Their conversation, part of the annual Peter Jennings Project for Journalists and the Constitution, was considered off-record. Yoo is being sued for his role in the detention and alleged torture of convicted terrorist Jose Padilla.

But what Hutson and Irvine have previously said on the record should be considered in light of the president’s veto.

Hutson, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee last year, said it was wrong to quibble about waterboarding. “Other than perhaps the rack and thumbscrews, waterboarding is the most iconic example of torture in history.”

Irvine once wrote that the abuses of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay have cost this nation stature in the world that won’t be regained until it rejects torture in all its forms. America’s lost stature helps terrorists recruit would-be martyrs.

March 11, 2008

Pocono Record: “At what price, our freedom?”

What separates the United States from terrorists ought to be this country’s long-standing reverence for personal freedom, a consistent championing of the rule of law and a respect for human rights and dignity.

But President Bush jeopardizes this nation’s security, its reputation and the lives of its citizens when he declares that U.S. officials need the option of torture in order to battle terrorists….

March 11, 2008


Austin American-Statesman: “Bush veto sends wrong message about torture

President Bush’s veto Saturday of a bill to restrict the CIA’s interrogation methods was another example of his continuing push to expand executive power at the expense of his country’s reputation.

…That’s too bad, because the bill is a good one that would return to the United States a bit of moral authority it has lost during the Bush presidency. The shorthand is wrong – the veto doesn’t mean Bush endorses terror. But the president missed a chance to make a powerfully symbolic statement against torture by signing the bill.

March 10, 2008

The Caller-Times: “President’s veto keeps torture options open”

The Bush administration continues to believe that the war on terror will be won
in interrogation rooms and prison cells, where the only rule that applies is the one that says no rule applies to interrogation of suspects. That the conflict is essentially a battle between principles and the rule of law against violent nihilism, a contest in which this nation is strongest when it holds the moral high ground, obviously has little traction when President Bush vetoes legislation that would prohibit methods that the world calls torture….

March 12, 2008

Waco Tribune-Herald: “Editorial: Let’s get out of torture business”

…For the president to say that this nation doesn’t torture and then to veto a bill that forbids torture sends a message loud and clea r that we don’t want to project to other nations: Despite what we say about human rights in other lands, we will do what we deem expedient in ours.

March 11, 2008


The Barre Montpelier Times Argus: “Torture and values”

…And, sadly, that respect has hardly been universal. In World War II, the Japanese were especially brutal in their treatment of their prisoners, and of course the Germans under Hitler were guilty of terrible atrocities on a massive scale, not so much against their prisoners of war as against Jews, homosexuals, Gypsies and others deemed “undesirable.” We don’t want to be like them, do we?

…The United States is either a civilized nation or it’s not. We can’t have it both ways.

March 11, 2008


Seattle Post-Intelligencer: “Torture Bill: Override this Veto”

Any bill banning the use of controversial torture techniques by the CIA seems
like the sort of common, values-based bill most of us could get behind. Harsh,
inhumane treatment of terror suspects (who knows to what extent those being
waterboarded are actually culpable?) is a dark and foolish road to travel. The
Washington Post reports that according to torture experts and congressional
testimony, the CIA’s waterboarding technique is similar to methods used by the
Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and to what is now being employed in Myanmar.

…Congress must overturn this odious veto.

March 10, 2008

Bush’s Torture Ban Veto Harms U.S. Reputation Abroad

The Toronto Star (Canada): Bush’s shameful legacy of torture

U.S. President George W. Bush stumbled into office as the “accidental president”
after losing the popular vote to Al Gore in 2000 but winning the electoral college. Then Al Qaeda made him the “9/11 president” who fought terror. Now, as Bush prepares to bow out early next year, he is rebranding himself again as the “torture president.”

At least, that is how critics such as Jennifer Daskal of Human Rights Watch see it, now that Bush has damaged America’s image yet again by vetoing legislation to prevent the Central Intelligence Agency from using “waterboarding” and other “coercive interrogation” techniques. These include beatings and sexual abuse, mock
executions, withholding of food and water, and menacing by dogs. The law would
have forced the CIA to use only army-approved techniques. As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi puts it, America’s global leadership depends “not only on our military might, but on our moral authority.” While the Bush administration argues that waterboarding and the like aren’t “torture,” they are widely perceived as such.

And the U.S. Army rightly argues such practices bring discredit on the U.S. and its troops, undermine domestic and foreign support, and place captured U.S. soldiers at greater risk. Yet this isn’t the first time Bush has surrendered the moral high ground by legitimizing the indefensible.

Apart from practices that offend the United Nations Convention Against Torture, Bush has hurt America’s image in other ways:

The administration has reinterpreted the Geneva Conventions to deny legal protection to detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and CIA-run holding tanks. It hauled Canadian Omar Khadr and others before military tribunals where normal standards of justice do not apply. It despatched Canadian Maher Arar and others via “extraordinary rendition” to torture in Syria and elsewhere.

Bush’s veto of the no-torture law is consistent with his efforts to affirm and expand presidential power, and to rationalize bad decisions. He ignored bipartisan advice to ban torture from scores of former members of Congress, generals and diplomatic and security officials.

As a troubled presidency draws to a bleak close, American voters will get the chance to weigh this and other issues of character.

The likely Republican presidential nominee, John (Straight Talk) McCain, has backed Bush’s refusal to rein in the CIA, even though McCain – a former, tortured Vietnam prisoner of war – lobbied to put a stop to harsh army interrogations. Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both see roughing up detainees for what it is: an affront to American values. They rightly endorse a blanket ban.

March 11, 2008

The Dominion Post (New Zealand): “Editorial: Weapon of shame in war on terror”

To take a man, blindfold him, strap him to a board and pour water into his mouth and nose – preferably through cloth to encourage the sensation he is both drowning and being smothered – is clearly torture. Unless, that is, you are President George W Bush or one of his acolytes. Then it is a “specialised interrogation procedure” and a vital weapon in the war on terror, The Dominion Post writes.

…The US acknowledges it has used waterboarding on three detainees – the man identified as the September 11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and al Qaeda operatives Abu Zubaida and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Those men are almost certainly guilty of deliberately waging war on civilians, an act of evil for which they deserve the most severe of punishments.

However, that does not mean they should be tortured, and that is what was done to them when they were waterboarded.

President Bush should not need a law to tell him that, nor to tell him that it is something that civilised countries and civilised people do not do.

March 11, 2008

Gulf News (United Arab Emirates): “Bush uses veto for the wrong reasons again”

Torture can never be justified. In this day and age, we expect it to be completely outlawed and banned by all countries, including non-democracies. The use of torture against detainees or prisoners must be anathema to any country that not only calls itself a democracy but also preaches democracy to other states. Against this backdrop, the latest news of US President George W. Bush vetoing a bill that would ban the CIA from using harsh interrogation methods, such as waterboarding (making a suspect believe he is drowning) to break terrorist suspects comes as a major disappointment; it is a blow to democratic values and principles. But Bush’s move is not entirely shocking.

Late last year we learned that in 2005, the CIA destroyed hundreds of hours of videotapes showing the “interrogation” of suspected terrorists.

The UN Convention on torture defines it as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person…” in order to get information.

Waterboarding, one of the several controversial methods during interrogation, is unlawful under international law. The use of this technique always causes pain and suffering – and therefore constitutes torture. The US bill, which was overwhelmingly backed in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, and which Bush vetoed, would have banned inhumane and degrading treatment of detainees by Americans.

That Bush has decided to use his presidential power to keep the CIA’s “enhanced” techniques of torture in use might prove to be costly for a president most known for his “anti-terror” policies. It would have been wise – not to mention humane – for him to have let the popular bill pass. Instead, his latest veto undermines the very values his country stands for.

March 10, 2008

Khaleej Times (United Arab Emirates): “Terror Tactics”

Torture seems to be just a matter of semantics for President Bush. What unambiguously appears to be torture to the rest of the world is simply “specialised or enhanced interrogation procedure” in the US President’s lexicon.

Turning a deaf ear to the worldwide condemnation of the CIA’s inhuman interrogation tactics, President Bush has vetoed a legislation that sought to ban such harsh methods as the controversial “water-boarding” technique used by the CIA to extract information out of terror detainees. The bill would have actually prevented CIA officials from using the 19 interrogation methods as referred to by the US army field manual.

… Perhaps President Bush will do well to remember what fellow Republican McCain, who has been a prisoner of war in Vietnam, has to say on water-boarding. According to the presidential candidate, water-boarding is nothing short of torture!

March 10, 2008

The Independent (United Kingdom): “Leading article: A president’s shameful legacy”

Anyone who imagined that, with the clock running down on his tenure in the White
House and America’s attention concentrated on the election of his successor, George Bush could do no more serious damage to America’s reputation in the world must now surely be rueing their complacency.

At the weekend, President Bush vetoed a bill that would have specified what CIA interrogation techniques can legitimately be used against suspected terrorists. The
intelligence bill, passed by the Democrat-controlled Congress, would have limited CIA interrogators to the 19 techniques allowed in the 2006 Army Field Manual. This would have ruled out methods such as simulated drowning (“waterboarding”), sensory deprivation, mock executions, hypothermia, beating, burning, electric shocks and sexual abuse.

Whether such techniques constitute “torture” or not (and the Bush administration is pretty much alone in believing that they do not), the dishonesty of the President’s position is glaring. He claims that the bill “would take away one of the most valuable tools in the war on terror” and argues “this program has produced critical intelligence that has helped us prevent a number of attacks”. If such techniques are so useful, why did he consent to a previous bill in 2005 that outlawed their use by military, as opposed to CIA, personnel?

…This latest veto by Mr Bush is another example of a recurrent theme in his Presidency: a disregard for the international rule of law and a fatal indifference to how America is viewed by the rest of the world. This self-declared patriot who wraps himself in the Stars and Stripes at every opportunity has actually done as much
as any American in recent years to undermine the values his country claims to
stand for.

March 10, 2008


Published on March 12, 2008


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