Again, credit where credit is due. On Face the Nation this morning, Sen. John McCain just said that the U.S., under Bush, violated the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Convention Against Torture. He underscored his comments by saying that torture is wrong, counterproductive and doesn’t work.

MCCAIN: [Torture memo author Jay Bybee] falls into the same category as everybody else, as far as giving very bad advice and misinterpreting fundamentally what the United States is all about, much less things like the Geneva Conventions. Under President Reagan, we signed [the Convention] Against Torture. We were in violation of that.”

Here’s the video:

Although McCain said that we now just need to move on, I’m impressed by his ability to speak the truth. To his point about moving on, however, if McCain admits that the Bush administration violated the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Convention Against Torture, that means that the people that formulated the torture policy are guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. I just don’t get how you can “move on” from fundamental violations of U.S. and international law that we routinely call on other nations to prosecute.

Earlier: McCain Unequivocally Says That Waterboarding is Torture

Update: Video posted above. A CBS summary of the interview can be found here. Not surprisingly, they myopically focus on the fact that McCain called for no investigations, rather than the real news they made today with Senator McCain’s statement that the US violated the Convention Against Torture.

Update 2: Steve Benen makes a great point:

On CBS’s “Face the Nation” this morning, John McCain dismissed the entire idea of criminal wrongdoing in relation to the Bush administration’s torture policies. “No one,” McCain said, “has alleged ‘wrongdoing'” on the part of former administration officials. He added, “We need to put this behind us. We need to move forward”…

The problem, then, is with John McCain’s definition of “wrongdoing.” As Metavirus noted, the reference to the agreement endorsed by Reagan was the United Nations Convention Against Torture, signed in 1988. The Bush administration, McCain conceded, was “in violation of that.”

Given this, it sure would be helpful if McCain could clarify matters for us. McCain believes Bush administration officials aren’t guilty of “wrongdoing,” so there’s no need for any kind of investigation. McCain also believes Bush administration officials violated U.S. and international law.

So, I’m curious — what, exactly, does McCain consider “wrongdoing”? And why should U.S. officials deliberately ignore evidence of violations of the law?

  1. SGEW says:

    Good catch. Any chance for vid or transcript?

  2. vjack says:

    I wonder if this will lead more on the far right to disown McCain (assuming there are some left who haven't already done so).

    • Metavirus says:

      i can't find a link right now but i've read a couple of quotes in recent days from wingnuts dismissing anything john mccain has to say on torture because, well, he was tortured and is therefore somehow inherently biased. yes, this is what passes for logic in their circles

    • P Tobin says:

      Ah, let me see: "Torture" is anything the United States can do to field combatants, to get life saving information, but is prevented from doing so, because … civilians think every combatant we ever faced NEVER used such "Torture" techniques to get information from our combatants?
      It is convenient that the ONLY combatant the UN and Geneva Conventions are held up to obey is … the United States. Gee, I guess, if the combatants we face in the field, DID NOT sign the Conventions, "torture" is OK to do: like cutting heads off?
      Personally, as a former field combatant, of McCain's era, "TAKE NO PRISONERS" is and was my mantra. No prisoners means they die as they lived, trying to kill me. This is still true today. Too many American youth have little to be thankful for and thus, cannot appreciate what sacrifice is all about.

  3. Gherald says:

    > So, I'm curious — what, exactly, does McCain consider "wrongdoing"?

    Bad things not done by a Republican administration he supported.

    • Metavirus says:

      oh, yeah, like Clinton's marc rich pardon, for which all the Republicans in Congress wanted the new Bush administration to launch a vigorous investigation.

      Like McCain's BFF Lindsay Graham:

      We need to look at to make sure exactly what happened is known to the public and to deter any future president from doing like behavior, if it was wrong. In that regard, if we can do it in a bipartisan fashion, I think that's what we should do. Every American benefits when you can control X abuse of power. If this was an abuse of power, then we need to know about it.

      Amazing how "looking forward, not backward" is only asked for by the establishment media when its a Democrat taking over from a Republican.

  4. Missyme says:

    McCain said that "our enemies will abide by the Geneva Convention" because they will fear consequences. However, he is asking that we "the Americans who broke the Geneva convention" should not pay any consequence for torture. He says we should acknowledge that we tortured and move on. Is he for real?

    • Metavirus says:

      great point — the mind of a GOP politician right now must be a complete descent into Dante-level madness

      • Gherald says:

        Not so much his mind as what the base would have him do. They won't stand for admitting wrongdoing on the part of Republicans because it could compromise more important things like babies to save, taxes to cut, and gays to discriminate against.

        Nevermind that they might have more luck pursuing such goals if they didn't condone torture--wingnuts don't reason that way. Besides, some of them like torturing A-rabs.

        • Metavirus says:

          >Nevermind that they might have more luck pursuing such goals if they didn't condone torture--wingnuts don't reason that way.

          Doesn't that presuppose that there is any reasoning going on in their heads? I think reasoning left the building a while back :)

  5. vet says:

    Torture does not work and leads to unreliable information. People will say anything to stop the pain. This is according to the extensive knowledge of the CIA and the FBI. More and more people are taught what to believe instead of thought how to think! Know your history.

  6. Tim James says:

    It seems to me that everything surrounding the "War" with Iraq, the invasion, the tortures, was all part of a not so well thought out plan to take over as much of the middle east as possible, for the oil, under the guise of protecting America. The objective was to get the oil and to make them richer so they had to make it look, as much as possible, like a real war. They needed attorneys to back them up for the torture part of the "War". Cheney and Bush were drilling for oil and had to kill a lot of innocent people to get it. OF COURSE THERE WAS WRONG DOING!!!! MURDER FOR OIL!!! And if you have seen the objective of PNAC it also included control of the world.

    • P Tobin says:

      No, no, no, "Extreme measures of extracting information" works. Did you not read the "confessions" of the Vietnam prisoners of war? Nealy all of them gave up to providing the information the North Vietnamese wanted from them. Those that did not, died, or became gravely disabled.
      Information was secured from several high level operatives in the "War on Terror" campaign. It works and no army in the history of mortal combat restrained itself from "Extreme Measures" of extracting information … "know your History."
      The present "war on terror" is against a foe who DID NOT sign the Geneva Conventions, nor do they fight like any opponent since WW II. The Korean War should have taught us that prisoners of war are fair game to the captors to treat them meanly and waste them as they see fit! The North Koreans were very good at "mistreatment" of its prisoners… there is ample testament to this fact.


  7. Joe says:

    I find it interesting-Al Qaeda attacks the US on 9/11/01. Bush, as he said he was going to do, goes after those responsible for the attack. We capture KSM, who wants to kill Americans, waterboard him and George Bush is the "war criminal". KSM is not protected under the Geneva Convention. What our POWs went through in Vietnam-that was torture. Oh, I forgot, they were Americans, so it is OK for Americans to be tortured.

    • Gherald says:

      You should educate yourself:

      Article 5 of the GCIII states that the status of a detainee may be determined by a "competent tribunal." Until such time, he is to be treated as a prisoner of war. After a "competent tribunal" has determined his status, the "Detaining Power" may choose to accord the detained unlawful combatant the rights and privileges of a POW, as described in the Third Geneva Convention, but is not required to do so. An unlawful combatant who is not a national of a neutral State, and who is not a national of a co-belligerent State, retains rights and privileges under the Fourth Geneva Convention so that he must be "treated with humanity and, in case of trial, shall not be deprived of the rights of fair and regular trial."

      The phrase "unlawful combatant" does not appear in the Third Geneva Convention (GCIII). However, Article 4 of GCIII does describe categories under which a person may be entitled to POW status; and there are other international treaties that deny lawful combatant status for mercenaries and children. In the United States, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 codified the legal definition of this term and invested the U.S. President with broad discretion to determine whether a person may be designated an unlawful enemy combatant under United States law. The assumption that such a category as unlawful combatant exists is not contradicted by the findings of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in the Celebici Judgment. The judgment quoted the 1958 ICRC commentary on the Fourth Geneva Convention: Every person in enemy hands must be either a prisoner of war and, as such, be covered by the Third Convention; or a civilian covered by the Fourth Convention. Furthermore, "There is no intermediate status; nobody in enemy hands can be outside the law," because in the opinion of the ICRC, "If civilians directly engage in hostilities, they are considered 'unlawful' or 'unprivileged' combatants or belligerents (the treaties of humanitarian law do not expressly contain these terms). They may be prosecuted under the domestic law of the detaining state for such action".

      The Geneva Conventions do not recognize any lawful status for combatants in conflicts not involving two or more nation states. A state in such a conflict is legally bound only to observe Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and may ignore all the other Articles. But each one of them is completely free—and should be encouraged—to apply all or part of the remaining Articles of the Convention.

      The treatment of prisoners who do not fall into the categories described in Article 4 has led to the current controversy regarding the interpretation of "unlawful combatants" by the George W. Bush administration. The assumption that such a category as unlawful combatant exists is contradicted by the findings by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in the Celebici Judgment. The judgement quoted the 1958 ICRC commentary on the Fourth Geneva Convention: Every person in enemy hands must be either a prisoner of war and, as such, be covered by the Third Convention; or a civilian covered by the Fourth Convention. Furthermore, "There is no intermediate status; nobody in enemy hands can be outside the law,"

      (continued below)

    • Gherald says:

      (continued from above)

      In addition, the evidence provided to the Trial Chamber does not indicate that the Bosnian Serbs who were detained were, as a group, at all times carrying their arms openly and observing the laws and customs of war. Article 4(A)(6) undoubtedly places a somewhat high burden on local populations to behave as if they were professional soldiers and the Trial Chamber, therefore, considers it more appropriate to treat all such persons in the present case as civilians.
      It is important, however, to note that this finding is predicated on the view that there is no gap between the Third and the Fourth Geneva Conventions. If an individual is not entitled to the protections of the Third Convention as a prisoner of war (or of the First or Second Conventions) he or she necessarily falls within the ambit of Convention IV, provided that its article 4 requirements are satisfied. The Commentary to the Fourth Geneva Convention asserts that

      Every person in enemy hands must have some status under international law: he is either a prisoner of war and, as such, covered by the Third Convention, a civilian covered by the Fourth Convention, or again, a member of the medical personnel of the armed forces who is covered by the First Convention. There is no intermediate status; nobody in enemy hands can be outside the law. We feel that this is a satisfactory solution – not only satisfying to the mind, but also, and above all, satisfactory from the humanitarian point of view." Jean Pictet (ed.)

      Article 51.3 of the Commentary: IV Geneva Convention also covers this interpretation: "Civilians shall enjoy the protection afforded by this section, unless and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities.". In the words of the International Committee of the Red Cross, or ICRC "If civilians directly engage in hostilities, they are considered "unlawful" or "unprivileged" combatants or belligerents (the treaties of humanitarian law do not expressly contain these terms). They may be prosecuted under the domestic law of the detaining state for such action. Both lawful and unlawful combatants may be interned in wartime, may be interrogated and may be prosecuted for war crimes. Both are entitled to humane treatment in the hands of the enemy."

      If what Americans went through in Vietnam was torture (and of course it was) then what KSM and some of what detainees at Abu Ghraib went through (as authorized in the Bush administration's torture memos) is also obviously torture. Anyone neocon arguing otherwise should go to Cambodia and demand that waterboarding be removed from the Khmer Rouge torture museum, for instance.

    • Metavirus says:

      The reason Bush is a war criminal is that he violated the law of war. He implemented a scheme of torture, which is against the law. As a result, he is a war criminal

    • schu says:

      If Bush was going to get those responsible why did he hold back the troop in Afghanistan and let the head of Al Qaeda escape? And you are extremely uninformed about the treaties that our nation has signed since the end of WWII. Just as Bush was. In fact he had to look far and wide to find legal representatives to back him.

  8. Joe says:

    Baloney, these people are terrorists!! All this talk of "torture" is pure propaganda to put the U.S on the defensive and make Al Qaeda like like the good guys. KSM should have been shot. Also let us not forget that only 3 detainees were subjected to "waterboarding". This hardly makes the Bush Administration "war criminals". Deliberately targeting civilians, and beheading them, which Al Qaead does both, is a violation of the Geneva Convention, yet no one talks of Al Qaeda as war criminals.

    • Metavirus says:

      if this is pure propaganda, then is McCain part of the evil propaganda cabal? he said that waterboarding is torture (he should know).

      so just because some of them are "terrorists", that means we can torture them? if so, why can't we rape his wife in front of him in order to get him to talk? or rape him? or his 9-year-old daughter? or why can't we just cut off his penis if he doesn't talk?

      and not only that, what about the hundreds of people who we captured and tortured who were innocent! (see, e.g., the scores of detainees BUSH released). is it ok that we torture INNOCENTS?

      • Joe says:

        What innocents were tortured? And yes, I believe McCain is part of the propaganda cabal.

        • schu says:

          To start with the hundreds of people that were picked up in Iraq, turned over to CIA informers because they were dislike, and tortured for information that did not exist. Unless you are so paranoid and egotistical that you think anyone who is a Muslim needs to be tortured because of their religion you might read the released reports from the US military. The deep dark conspiracy that you fear does exist. The oil companies, with their elected officials were blindside by the terrorists while trying to take over all of Iraq's Oil. If they would have been doing their jobs and letting the intelligence arm do theirs you would have to have a different conspiracy to ponder. Like closing the boarders to all but white immigrants, trying to figure out how you lost an election to a black man, and why US conglomerates are going out of business.

    • Gherald says:

      No one talks of terrorists like Al Qaeda as criminals? Which planet do you live on?

      Bush-Cheney are war criminals for torturing a prisoner. Obviously their crimes do not rise to the level of Al Qaeda's or, say, Hitler's, but that is no excuse. America does not torture--and when Americans torture they go to jail. Or so it had been in modern times until Republicans went batshit crazy after 9/11 and fucked us up.

      • Joe says:

        We do not torture, in fact we have a very track record when it comes to the Geneva Convention

        • Metavirus says:

          yes, up until we STARTED TORTURING PEOPLE. torture is against the geneva convention and, even as mccain said here, we violated that. we were doing great on torture until, well, we started torturing.

    • schu says:

      This is just more Republican situation ethics. We can do anything that we want because we are in control and said that it was moral. One quick trial and then execution would have been quite fine for KSM but the GOP had to screw that up with torturing for fun and revenge. Like we are some sort of Latin American Banana Republic. 9/11 happened on the Republican watch while the party controlled the White House and Congress and it totally responsible for the results. And they have been weaseling ever since.

  9. Joe says:

    Batshit after 9/11-3000 Americans were killed that day. Did we go "batship" after December 7, 1941

    • Gherald says:

      Nope, we followed domestic and international law.

    • Metavirus says:

      No. And we didn't go around torturing people. In fact, we thoughttorture was pretty shitty back then

    • schu says:

      We should go bat shit after the politicians that allowed the disaster to happen because they had all our intelligence assets look at Iraq. How many Iraq's and Iranians piloted those planes? How many Saudis, you know Bush's buddies? Pearl Harbor was the result of an attack by a country, Japan, on us. 9/11 was an attack by terrorists that was allowed by an inept politician and his hand picked crew.

  10. Joe says:

    I guess if you support the War against Al Qaeda, you are now a proponent of torture. That is like saying if you support the war against Nazi germany you support incinerating civilians like the raid on Dresden! As a general rule, we do not torture. Let us remember in the case of people like KSM, we are dealing with people who want to kill us. In fact, their desire to kill us exceeds our desire to "waterboard". No, we were not torturing for fun and revenge. That is just absurd!!!

    • schu says:

      When you through out you rules and morals in war you become what you fight. You comparison of using torture as a method of war to using the bombing of Dresden is weak and pitiful. The way that an inept politician directed the CIA to deal with KSM has magnified the problem intensely. Since intelligence officials constantly assert that torture is counter productive and gives to many false leads it is only used for revenge and "fun." As long as you refuse to listen to our military experts you are just absurd!!!!

  11. Joe says:

    We are not using torture as a method of war when only three terrorists were waterboarded. The fact is that these people want to kill Americans. If they have information on a possible attack on the U.S. we should use all means possible to get this information and save American lives. To allow information to be withheld and have many Americans Killed, as you advocate, is actually irresponsible. As for torture, the American Heritage Dictionary defines torture as "infliction of severe PHYSICAL pain as a means of punishment or coercion". Waterboarding does not fall under this category.

    • Metavirus says:

      Just stop. It really is becoming painful to read the rrubbish you type.

      • schu says:

        The pain is what he is after. If he cannot find a justification for the use of torture then he cannot live with himself. He is like the "right winged Christian" leaders who signed on to this view and try to justify their position by claiming that Jesus would justify it to protect their families, while deep down they know different.

    • schu says:

      Once again you are madly spinning the available data. As a nation we signed treadles outlawing water boarding and defining it as torture. Now you want to spin the facts and redefine the process. This process did not provide any data that saved American lives and only supplied the irresponsible feelings of revenge and hatred. Even the idiot and his sponsors stopped using it in 2004 because of its ineffectiveness. The use of torture was totally irresponsible.

  12. […] against torture by pointing out that it’s illegal and well, that law can be changed. John McCain pointed out we violated the Geneva Conventions regarding torture. Does that make McCain, a Vietnam veteran who was tortured, a liberal in your eyes, Bernie? So if […]

  13. […] international law as well as America’s treaty obligations as signed by Reagan in 1984. Even John McCain recently admitted that the interrogation techniques violated the Geneva […]

  14. […] Face the Nation in 2009, Sen. McCain said that the U.S., under Bush, violated the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. […]

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