Bush Accepts Torture Ban

President Bush has begrudgingly accepted the ban on torture and other inhumane treatment of terrorist suspects after months of pressure led by Senator John McCain.

Bush Accepts McCain’s Ban on Torture (AP)

President Bush reversed course on Thursday and accepted Sen. John McCain’s call for a law banning cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of foreign suspects in the war on terror. Bush said the agreement will “make it clear to the world that this government does not torture and that we adhere to the international convention of torture, whether it be here at home or abroad.” “It’s a done deal,” said McCain, talking to reporters in a driving rain outside the White House.

Under the deal, CIA interrogators would be given the same legal rights as currently guaranteed members of the military who are accused of breaking interrogation guidelines. Those rules say the accused can defend themselves by arguing it was reasonable for them to believe they were obeying a legal order.

“We’ve sent a message to the world that the United States is not like the terrorists,” McCain said earlier as he sat next to Bush in the Oval Office.

The White House at one point threatened a veto if the ban was included in legislation sent to the president’s desk, and Vice President Dick Cheney made an unusual personal appeal to all Republican senators to give an exemption to the CIA. But congressional sentiment was overwhelmingly in favor of the ban, and McCain, a former Navy pilot who was held and tortured for five and a half years in Vietnam, adopted the issue.

This is another long-overdue course correction. For all intents and purposes, the United States already had a ban on this conduct. But by maintaining the legal option, we lost the public relations battle.

Those who are inclined to see no moral distinction between the United States and the terrorists are unlikely to be swayed by this gesture. It may have some negligible effect with our allies, however.


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Herb says:

    One day this country will recognize McCain as the fraud and phony that he is.

    McCain is “out for himself” and this is his way to score political points for his bid to the Presidency.

  2. McGehee says:

    I’d settle for Bush recognizing McCain for the phony that he is.

  3. DL says:

    How can Bush be so strong and resolute against terrorists but cave in continually to this infantile egomaniac?

    Tell McCain: Just pass any bill I don’t like and watch the veto ink fly.

  4. Jack says:

    Often, these type of “symbolic” gestures are far, far more important than they may appear at the time, especially to the partisans who proclaim that “Bush can do no wrong!”

    A strong stand against the institutionalized use of torture is needed, and I am very saddened that so many cannot see this need.

  5. Darren7160 says:

    Thank you for your thoughts!

    It is heartening to see that a conservative is just as concerned about the soul of America and the abstract Ideals that make us a great nation.

    Unlike partisan hicks that remind me of the 1960’s, “My country, right or wrong!” There are some who believe that only by living our principles can we promote them! If our contry is doing something wrong it doesn’t get better by condoning them. Only by monitoring the actions of the government can we truely make sure that the government is “Of the people, by the people and for the people.”

    I am surprised at the Conservatives who have posted against McCain. I am sure that it has absolutely nothing to do with torture… must be something else. Why else would they be willing to abandon the entire conservative belief that government needs to be responsive to the people. Are their conservative beliefs so easily cast aside for convenience? That is scary and it might show that maybe they are willing to consider torture aa an appropriate means of conducting governmental business.

    What they need to do though is to look beyond today or tomorrow. Look beyond next election. If you are willing to sacrafice your principles and integrety today then don’t be surprised if, in the future it is sacraficed again… but this time for something you don’t agree with.

    Sigh… I know you won’t like this… but that is called… THE SLIPPERY SLOPE!

    If we take the low road in pursuit of protecting and promoting what is right about democracy and America can we really be true to what America stands for?

    Oh My Goodness!!! Do you possibly mean to say that someone might use the Iraq war and the war on terrorism to promote their own political egenda? That is terrible. I am sure that President Bush would have never have done that!

    The only fraud or phony I find are those that are willing to surrender their God given ability to think for themselves to a partisan, “don’t confuse me with the facts”, position.

    How can we promote the advantage of a democratic society where the very power of the govenment comes from the law? The Constitution, the separtation of powers? The protection of the minority groups?

    Do we tell the Iraqis that these are only to be adhered to in good times? That it is okay to do whatever one person feels is necessary (without oversite) when that person feels it is necassary?

    OOooops! Iraq has 3 separate groups… Shiites, Sunni and Kurds. How do you think two of those groups will respond if one of the groups acts unilaterally?

    Do we wag our finger and tell them to do as we say, not as we do? How can we show them the superiority of a land ruled by law? That the law is not dependant on your political point of view, because then that would be relative morality and we don’t believe in relative morality… do we?

    Please, please, please… think! Count to 10 if necessary and give consideration to your thoughts… not just some knee-jerk reaction because your President did not get his way.

    Dear God. Does anyone remember Civics? You know… where they taught about how the 3 different parts of the government are designed to provide “checks and balances”? The purpose of the Free Press to keep the citizens informed?

    The President’s job is to enforce all our laws… not to pick and chose as he goes along. Congress makes laws, the President enforces them, and the Surpreme Court Interprets them. Sorry if you don’t like, that is the American way.

    Do not dare to talk to me about a politican using legislation, Iraq or the War on Terrorism! Bush and Rove wrote the book. How hypocritical can you be and still face yourself in the mirror? Are you really serious or just a troll?

    I saw a bumper sticker that said, “The Road To Hell Is Paved By Liberals.” Maybe it should say, “The Road To Hell Is Paved By Those Use This War On Terrorism To Abandon All We Stand For.”

  6. Darren7160 says:

    Just one last thought… the only difference between you who would support the torture of people and the terrorists is that they are willing to scarifice themselves for their beliefs (rightly or wrongly) … you are willing to sacrifice others for yours (rightly or wrongly). See a difference? I do.

    Maybe if someone had besides Jack was able to put though into their posts it would be worth reading… as it is… you others have the intelligence of about 1/2 inch wide by 1/2 inch deep.