The Overwhelming Opposition to the President’s Torture Ban Veto

Here it is again: a round-up of some of the editorial reaction to President Bush’s veto of a bill that would have shut down the CIA’s secret interrogation program. As you can see, there is overwhelming opposition to the veto — and to policies allowing for torture and official cruelty.


The Anniston Star: “The torture legacy”

We suspect historians at some future date will wonder how the United States in the early part of the 21st century looked the other way at government-sanctioned torture. How, they will ask, could the nation betray its values and several international treaties banning prisoner mistreatment? Who aided this shift?

March 11, 2008, was an important date. On that day, the House of Representatives failed to muster enough votes to override a presidential veto of a bill explicitly banning many forms of torture.

…Assisting the president in this rejection of American values were five Alabama congressmen, who, along with many of their House colleagues, upheld the veto. Voting with the president were Reps. Robert Aderholt, Spencer Bachus, Jo Bonner, Terry Everett and Mike Rogers. It’s difficult to categorize the votes, as well as the Bush administration’s stance, as anything but pro-torture. Making sense of the fullest ramifications of all this is something best left to historians. March 13, 2008


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

Mercury News: “Editorial: Granting CIA an exemption on torture ban is a disgrace”

Congress has failed to override President Bush’s veto of legislation banning the CIA from using torture. Had lawmakers succeeded, they would have raised America’s standing among civilized nations. These are tactics that dozens of retired generals and former secretaries of defense say not only are ineffective but also put American troops at risk.

…Two years ago, Arizona Sen. John McCain led the effort to ban waterboarding. He still says he finds it abhorrent but, with tortured logic, voted with the president and Republican conservatives to exempt the CIA. Moral suasion became the first victim of his presidential ambitions. March 13, 2008


The Hartford Courant: “Torture is Un-American”

…The interrogation methods espoused by Mr. Bush also infringe on the Geneva

Convention, which prohibits cruel and inhuman treatment of prisoners that is regarded as torture by most civilized nations.

Aside from saying one thing and doing another, Mr. Bush has seriously undermined America’s reputation as a land that stands for fairness, individual liberties and the rule of law, as well as its moral authority to call other nations to task for human rights violations.By allowing Mr. Bush to have his way, Congress is giving terrorists an excuse to expose American soldiers to the same abuses that the president is so zealously hanging on to.… March 17, 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 Bangor Daily News: “Theory behind the veto”

In a veto last weekend, President Bush once again approved past and future use of torture in the interrogation of terrorist suspects.

…Mr. Bush argued that what he called “specialized interrogation procedures” were essential in extracting secrets from captured terrorists. But he was ignoring advice from the FBI and other agencies, whose officials have testified that the extreme methods are unnecessary and counterproductive. And commanding Gen. David H. Petraeus, in a statement last May to the troops in Iraq, said: “Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy. They would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary. Certainly, extreme physical action can make someone ‘talk,’ however, what the individual says may be of questionable value. In fact, our experience in applying the interrogation standards laid out in the Army Field Manual on Human Intelligence Collector Operations that was published last year shows that the techniques in the manual work effectively and humanely in eliciting information from detainees.” … March 17, 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 Jersey

The Star-Ledger: “Veto is America’s disgrace”

Unfortunately, the president’s “victory” is the nation’s loss. Americans, military and civilian, are now in greater danger of being tortured if they are captured. The likelihood that our enemies will want to inflict the same torture on us is inescapable.

Meanwhile, other nations have one more reason to dismiss U.S. requests for help fighting terrorists in Afghanistan, Iraq or other places. The veto cements anti-American feelings even in nations that long have been our allies. The cost to this country’s reputation is incalculable. March 11, 2008

The Times (of Trenton): “Terrible tactics”

…But we’re as skeptical of that claim as they should be of the information sputtered by any prisoner who believes he’s drawing his last breath.

..We don’t know how much misinformation has been collected in this barbarous manner or how many innocent people were tortured to within an inch of their lives. We don’t know how many others will be needlessly subjected to this cruel treatment, and we don’t know if it will be limited strictly to terror suspects.

…We have seen in vivid detail the abuses inflicted on prisoners under the scrutiny of the military — which is not allowed to use waterboarding, sensory deprivation, mock executions, hypothermia, beating, burning, electric shocks and sexual abuse.

We will not see what the CIA does with the free hand given it by President Bush. And that thought is much more disturbing than the awful images of Abu Ghraib. 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 frombeating, 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 ation 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

Watertown Daily Times: “Torture Stands”

The president’s desire to protect America against terrorism is a crucial goal. But we do not need to torture people to do it. There are other ways to keep America safe.

However, Congress had a chance to override the veto and failed to do it. March 14, 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

Lufkin Daily News: “Editorial: Tortured”

…Many experts in this matter, including former POW McCain, say torture tactics —

including waterboarding — are rarely effective, yet the administration continues its efforts to preserve its option to resort to “specialized interrogation” techniques it insists are legal but which it won’t describe.

Some observers say the debate is as much about the Bush administration’s efforts to

assert executive authority for the presidency as it is about the conduct of interrogations.

All we know is that the debate continues to follow a tortuous path of doublespeak and disingenuity. Now McCain has made it even more tortuous with his disclaimer that he has not backed off his strong stand against “harsh interrogation” even though he has sided with the White House on the veto.

Let’s hope that whoever wins the presidential election in November — even if it is McCain — will enter the White House with a much clearer picture on how our nation should treat people in its custody.

America has lost some of its luster because of its treatment of foreign combatants and terrorists. Clear laws and guidelines on what is acceptable treatment would help our nation regain its stature as the world leader in fair and humane treatment of all people in its custody. March 14, 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


The Roanoke Times: “Editorial: A failure of U.S. ideals”

When the U.S. House on Tuesday failed to override President Bush’s veto of a bill that would ban the CIA from torturing detainees, it surrendered America’s strongest weapon against terrorism: the idea that human rights are inviolate.

…It is an error rooted in fear and sold to the nation with false promises of security in a war against a radical ideology.

Every U.S. abuse of human rights wins converts for the enemy.

…With his veto, Bush has reasserted a claim of executive authority to condone human rights abuses incompatible with American ideals. What is at stake is greater than transitory political power.

It is the idea of America itself. March 13, 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

The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin: “Bush’s veto of anti torture law is misguided”

This nation cannot win the war on terror if it insists on using the same tactics as terrorists. Therefore it is critical the U.S. policy makes it clear that suspected terrorists are treated humanely and never tortured.

…Why then has President Bush opted to go to the mat over torture in the remaining

months of his presidency, particularly when a number of experts — military as well as FBI officials — have made it clear they don’t want the authority to torture?

Hubris is the only reasonable explanation. Sadly, Bush’s ego-driven decision taints the nation in the eyes of the world.”Torture is a black mark against the United States,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., co-sponsor of the anti-torture legislation. “It drives a wedge between us and our allies, making the war on terror harder to fight. And it makes it more likely our own troops will be abused by future captors.”…

March 13, 2008


The Journal Sentinel: “Editorial: Moral low ground: The president’s veto of legislation banning torture helps further damage the U.S. image abroad”

Be wary of those who plant their flags on the moral high ground to open the door for doing what is patently immoral.

It is what President Bush did last weekend when he vetoed legislation that would limit the CIA to interrogation techniques contained in the Army field manual.

…This bill and the president’s veto are about torture. The president avers that it’s

about allowing what is legal, but his definition of “legal” has been suspect. And the CIA chief says the handbook does not represent the universe of effective interrogation techniques. Fine, ban torture – in statute. Any takers in this crowd?

The United States’ top general in Iraq, David Petraeus, whose troops are certainly faced with the day-to-day necessity to get information fast, has some words of note on the topic.

In a letter last year to the troops, the general said, “Our values and the laws governing warfare teach us to respect human dignity, maintain our integrity and do what is right. Adherence to our values distinguishes us from our enemy.

This fight depends on securing the population, which must understand that we – not our enemies – occupy the moral high ground.”

He added, “Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy. They would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary.”

Well put. Enough said. March 12, 2008


Published on March 17, 2008


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