Thursday, October 6, 2005

Bush Threatens to Veto Torture Limits

From the Washington Post:

The Senate defied the White House yesterday and voted to set new limits on interrogating detainees in Iraq and elsewhere, underscoring Congress’s growing concerns about reports of abuse of suspected terrorists and others in military custody.

Forty-six Republicans joined 43 Democrats and one independent in voting to define and limit interrogation techniques that U.S. troops may use against terrorism suspects, the latest sign that alarm over treatment of prisoners in the Middle East and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is widespread in both parties. The White House had fought to prevent the restrictions, with Vice President Cheney visiting key Republicans in July and a spokesman yesterday repeating President Bush’s threat to veto the larger bill that the language is now attached to — a $440 billion military spending measure.


The Senate’s 90 to 9 vote suggested a new boldness among Republicans to challenge the White House on war policy. The amendment by McCain, one of Bush’s most significant backers at the outset of the Iraq war, would establish uniform standards for the interrogation of people detained by U.S. military personnel, prohibiting “cruel, inhuman or degrading” treatment while they are in U.S. custody.

McCain’s allies included Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a former military lawyer, and Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner (R-Va.). They said new detainee standards are needed to clear up confusion among U.S. troops that may have led to the mistreatment alleged at the Navy’s Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba and to the abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.


In its statement on the veto threat, the White House said the measure would “restrict the president’s authority to protect Americans effectively from terrorist attack and bringing terrorists to justice.”

But as new allegations of abuse surface, the chorus of McCain supporters is broadening. McCain read a letter on the Senate floor from former secretary of state Colin L. Powell, who endorsed the amendment and said it would help address “the terrible public diplomacy crisis created by Abu Ghraib.” Powell joins a growing group of retired generals and admirals who blame prison abuse on “ambiguous instructions,” as the officers wrote in a recent letter. They urged restricting interrogation methods to those outlined in the U.S. Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation, the parameters that McCain’s measure would establish.

Does it bother you that the president would threaten to veto the entire military budget while, as he keeps saying, “we’re at war” and over something that should be as morally clear as not using dictator-style torture tactics on prisoners of war? It sure does me.