Saturday, November 05, 2005

Anti-Torture Provision Gets Renewed Support

The Senate on Friday reapproved the McCain language to the Defense Appropriations Bill that would ban the use of "cruel, inhuman, or degrading" treatment against detainees held by the United States. Earlier it was supported 90-9; this time it was approved by voice vote as part of a revised spending bill.

Senator McCain and others went to the floor to speak in support of the amendment, and took direct aim at those in the House and the White House who are trying to block or delay its passage.

McCain (long excerpts, because they're good, and more thoughts below): "I say again on this issue, No. 1, it is not going away. It is not going away. If, through some parliamentary maneuver, temporarily the will of the majority of both Houses, both bicameral and bipartisan, is thwarted, it will be on every vehicle that goes through this body because you cannot override the majority of the American people and their elected representatives in a functioning democracy. ...

Why is it some people feel we should carve out an exemption for a branch of our Government to practice cruel and inhumane treatment or even torture? Let me tell you what the consequence of that is, in case of another war. If we get in another war and one of our men or women in the armed services is captured, they will be turned over to the secret police because they will use the same rationale that is being argued by the proponents for the continuation of cruel and inhumane treatment and torture, that they have to have this information. We all know we need intelligence. We all know it is vital. We know how important it is. But to do differently not only offends our values as Americans but undermines our war efforts because abuse of prisoners harms, not helps, us in the war against terror. ...

Nevertheless, the administration has held that the prohibition does not legally apply to foreigners held overseas. They can, apparently, be treated inhumanely. That means America is the only country in the world that asserts a legal right to engage in cruel and inhumane treatment. How far have we come? ...

A democratic, freedom-loving society does not accept that investigators use any means for the purpose of uncovering the truth. The rules pertaining to investigations are important to a democratic state. They reflect its character. As I have said many times in response to a few Members of the Senate: It is not about them; it is about us. ...

Our brave men and women in the field need clarity. America needs to show the world that the terrible photos and stories of prison abuse are a thing of the past. Let's step up to this responsibility and speak clearly on this critical issue. We should do it not because we wish to coddle terrorists; we should do it not because we view them as anything but evil and terrible; we should do it because we are Americans and because we hold ourselves to humane standards of treatment of people, no matter how evil or terrible they may be. America stands for a moral mission, one of freedom and democracy and human rights at home and abroad. We are better than these terrorists--and we will win. I have said it before, but it bears repeating: The enemy we fight has no respect for human life or human rights. They do not deserve our sympathy. But this isn't about who they are, it is about who we are. These are the values that distinguish us from our enemies, and we can never allow our enemies to take those values away. ..."

Senator Graham also made a great speech yesterday. He mentioned the possibility of some kind of wording compromise, but concluded by saying "I will not entertain a retreat. I will not entertain an exception that washes away what we have been standing for and fighting for and what over 2,000 young men and women have died for. ... If we do not get this right now, people after us are going to pay a heavy price."

It is speeches like this that make me know that I was not wrong in supporting John McCain back in 1999-2000, and why I continue to harbor the greatest respect and admiration for him as a man and as a legislator. Dick Cheney and the would-be Torquemadas within our government should take some lessons in decency from McCain, from John Warner, from Lindsey Graham and others who will stand up to their nonsense in support of our troops and our values, as Americans and as human beings. There can be no retreat from human dignity.

1 Comments:

At 7:30 PM, Blogger Phil S said...

McCain, of course, is very right on this; and , thankfully. will not let it go! Good for him!!!!

 

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