About Face

February 14th, 2008 by Editor B

In an abrupt reversal, former POW John McCain votes for torture; fortunately the Senate votes the other way.

11 Responses to “About Face”

  1. Joe Nickell Says:

    Ya know, this guy….I just don’t know what to think. So many people talk about how he’s a master of “reaching across the aisle,” which I believe is a critical trait in a president — one that our current president totally lacks.

    But is he really that? Or is he, simply, unpredictable and unwilling to listen (whether to those in his party or elsewhere)? I think the latter are traits we most definitely need to avoid.

  2. Editor B Says:

    I think he’s hoping to get elected president and is betraying his principles in an attempt to pander to the conservative base.

  3. Garvey Says:

    I think it’s also important to note that the two other senators who want to be president didn’t even show up to vote on it. The difference is only by degree.

  4. Garvey Says:

    His remarks that were read into the Congressional Record are either illuminating or “cake and eat it too,” depending on your position.

    Mr. McCAIN:
    Mr. President, I oppose passage of the intelligence
    authorization conference report in its current form.
    During conference proceedings, conferees voted by a narrow margin to
    include a provision that would apply the Army Field Manual to the
    interrogation activities of the Central Intelligence Agency. The
    sponsors of that provision have stated that their goal is to ensure
    that detainees under American control are not subject to torture. I
    strongly share this goal, and believe that only by ensuring that the
    United States adheres to our international obligations and our deepest
    values can we maintain the moral credibility that is our greatest asset
    in the war on terror.
    That is why I fought for passage of the Detainee Treatment Act, DTA,
    which applied the Army Field Manual on interrogation to all military
    detainees and barred cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of any
    detainee held by any agency. In 2006, I insisted that the Military
    Commissions Act, MCA, preserve the undiluted protections of Common
    Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions for our personnel in the field. And
    I have expressed repeatedly my view that the controversial technique
    known as “waterboarding” constitutes nothing less than illegal
    torture.
    Throughout these debates, I have said that it was not my intent to
    eliminate the CIA interrogation program, but rather to ensure that the
    techniques it employs are humane and do not include such extreme
    techniques as waterboarding. I said on the Senate floor during the
    debate over the Military Commissions Act, “Let me state this flatly:
    it was never our purpose to prevent the CIA from detaining and
    interrogating terrorists. On the contrary, it is important to the war
    on terror that the CIA have the ability to do so. At the same time, the
    CIA’s interrogation program has to abide by the rules, including the
    standards of the Detainee Treatment Act.” This remains my view today.
    When, in 2005, the Congress voted to apply the field manual to the
    Department of Defense, it deliberately excluded the CIA. The field
    manual, a public document written for military use, is not always
    directly translatable to use by intelligence officers. In view of this,
    the legislation allowed the CIA to retain the capacity to employ
    alternative interrogation techniques. I would emphasize that the DTA
    permits the CIA to use different techniques than the military employs
    but that it is not intended to permit the CIA to use unduly coercive
    techniques–indeed, the same act prohibits the use of any cruel,
    inhumane, or degrading treatment.
    Similarly, as I stated after passage of the Military Commissions Act
    in 2006, nothing contained in that bill would require the closure of
    the CIA’s detainee program; the only requirement was that any such
    program be in accordance with law and our treaty obligations, including
    Geneva Common Article 3.
    The conference report would go beyond any of the recent laws that I
    just mentioned–laws that were extensively debated and considered–by
    bringing the CIA under the Army Field Manual, extinguishing thereby the
    ability of that agency to employ any interrogation technique beyond
    those publicly listed and formulated for military use. I cannot support
    such a step because I have not been convinced that the Congress erred
    by deliberately excluding the CIA. I believe that our energies are
    better directed at ensuring that all techniques, whether used by the
    military or the CIA, are in full compliance with our international
    obligations and in accordance with our deepest values. What we need is
    not to tie the CIA to the Army Field Manual but rather to have a good
    faith interpretation of the statutes that guide what is permissible in
    the CIA program.
    This necessarily brings us to the question of waterboarding.
    Administration officials have stated in recent days that this technique
    is no longer in use, but they have declined to say that it is illegal
    under current law. I believe that it is clearly illegal and that we
    should publicly recognize this fact.
    In assessing the legality of waterboarding, the administration has
    chosen to apply a “shocks the conscience” analysis to its
    interpretation of the DTA. I stated during the passage of that law that
    a fair reading of the prohibition on cruel, inhumane, and degrading
    treatment outlaws waterboarding and other extreme techniques. It is, or
    should be, beyond dispute that waterboarding “shocks the conscience.”
    It is also incontestable that waterboarding is outlawed by the
    Military Commissions Act, and it was the clear intent of Congress to
    prohibit the practice. The MCA enumerates grave breaches of Common
    Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions that constitute offenses under the
    War Crimes Act. Among these is an explicit prohibition on acts that
    inflict “serious and non-transitory mental harm,” which the MCA
    states “need not be prolonged.” Staging a mock execution by inducing
    the misperception of drowning is a clear violation of this standard.
    Indeed, during the negotiations, we were personally assured by
    administration officials that this language, which applies to all
    agencies of the U.S. Government, prohibited waterboarding.

    [[Page S935]]

    It is unfortunate that the reluctance of officials to stand by this
    straightforward conclusion has produced in the Congress such
    frustration that we are today debating whether to apply a military
    field manual to nonmilitary intelligence activities. It would be far
    better, I believe, for the administration to state forthrightly what is
    clear in current law–that anyone who engages in waterboarding, on
    behalf of any U.S. Government agency, puts himself at risk of criminal
    prosecution and civil liability.
    We have come a long way in the fight against violent extremists, and
    the road to victory will be longer still. I support a robust offensive
    to wage and prevail in this struggle. But as we confront those
    committed to our destruction, it is vital that we never forget that we
    are, first and foremost, Americans. The laws and values that have built
    our Nation are a source of strength, not weakness, and we will win the
    war on terror not in spite of devotion to our cherished values but
    because we have held fast to them.
    I yield the floor.

  5. liprap Says:

    Nice. A man in a POW camp in Vietnam for as long as he was advocating torture. That’s really great.

  6. Garvey Says:

    I am no fan of McCain, but can you point out where he “advocates torture,” or do you mean his vote is such, regardless of his comments? That’s like saying that anyone who voted against a partial-birth abortion ban is “advocating infanticide.”

  7. Jon Konrath Says:

    Who knows, maybe he liked it back in Vietnam, wanted others to try it out.

  8. Kent Says:

    Quoting from Garvey: Thatís like saying that anyone who voted against a partial-birth abortion ban is ďadvocating infanticide.Ē

    Many who oppose partial birth abortion would feel that conclusion is completely rational! Indeed, if you feel abortion is murder, as surprisingly many people believe, then the conclusion follows.

    Simply stated, McCain claims to abhor torture, yet forwent his opportunity to stop it. It’s an unprincipled decision. I agree with liprap. It advocates torture.

  9. Garvey Says:

    Hillary and Obama also are advocating torture. Only votes for the ban count. Not showing up is the same as a vote against the ban. Glad to see all the candidates are on the same page.

  10. Kent Says:

    This is a fair argument, as far as it goes.

    But no one seriously questions the commitment against torture among the Democratic contenders. McCain is standing against the Republican party line. He’s also making a stand against the policies of a sitting president from his own party. Additionally, his voting presence during a hard campaign, in a vote the anti-torture contingent was expected to win, suggests a strong commitment to his vote. The issue, and making a vote supporting the sitting president, seems more important to him than campaigning.

    Had a Democratic candidate for president, contrary to their platform, voted against the ban, there would be an equal, or very possibly louder, outcry from supporters.

    That being said, I find it curious that you are drawing democratic candidates into a discussion about McCain. No one else is doing that. Others are addressing whether McCain’s vote indicates hypocrisy on his part, and a sort of political nepotism. A discussion regarding other candidates might reveal similar or equal levels of hypocrisy. But it’s a different discussion, which only you are having.

  11. Garvey Says:

    It’s not that odd, Kent. It’s an election year, so let’s point out all the bums–and not just pretend that only one candidate is “bad.” It is a lack of critical thinking skills in the American electorate that worries me, only listening to one side of things (and ignoring the blatantly obvious).

    You claim, “But no one seriously questions the commitment against torture among the Democratic contenders.”

    I question it, as should you!!! How is “commitment” defined? Lip service at a rally, or showing up to vote? It’s really not that complicated.

    And so what if I am drawing in ALL candidates into this discussion? Isn’t it important enough to really examine the truth?

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