That's Right, 90-9
Last night, I am proud to report, the Senate voted by the overwhelming margin of 90-9 to back Senator McCain's amendment to ban the use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" against any person held in American custody.
Forty-six Republicans, forty-three Democrats, and independent Jim Jeffords supported the measure. Democrat Jon Corzine, busily running for governor in New Jersey, did not vote. The nine dissenters were Senators Allard, Bond, Coburn, Cochran, Cornyn, Inhofe, Roberts, Sessions, and Stevens. The president's spokesman, Scott McClellan, told the New York Times that if this provision is in the final bill, "there would be a recommendation of a veto."
We've still got a long way to go. This provision either has to pass the House or survive a conference committee (and then pass both chambers again). But with a vote so clearly in its favor, it will be very hard, if not impossible, for its opponents to quash it entirely. Senator McCain and others spoke forcefully and ardently in the amendment's favor yesterday ... and growing support from former top military officials doesn't hurt the cause. They, and we, must now keep up the pressure on the House of Representatives and the White Houseand ensure that this amendment is part of the final bill that goes to the president's desk.
The president is in no position right now to veto an entire Defense Department spending bill over this provision. It must be part of the package, and he will just have to swallow it. If he does not, Congress should override his veto by even wider margins. Our troops in the field must not be put at further risk by vague and unclear policies. It is not too much to demand that the techniques used to interrogate prisoners in our custody not be cruel, inhuman, or degrading. In fact, it would be far too little to demand any less.
In his closing statement last night, McCain summed up the arguments perfectly, speaking of his personal experiences in the "Hanoi Hilton" as a prisoner of war:
"Our enemies didn't adhere to the Geneva Convention. Many of my comrades were subjected to very cruel, very inhumane and degrading treatment, a few of them even unto death. But every one of us - every single one of us - knew and took great strength from the belief that we were different from our enemies, that we were better than them, that we, if the roles were reversed, would not disgrace ourselves by committing or countenancing such mistreatment of them."