14 February 2008

Will Bush Veto the Torture Ban?

Yesterday, the Senate approved, by a vote of 51 to 45, Conference Report HR 2082. This conference report, already passed by the House, is an authorization of intelligence activities. The bill restricts interrogations by all intelligence agencies (including the CIA) to the interrogation techniques outlined in the Army Field Manual. The effect of this restriction is to ban waterboarding and other extreme interrogation techniques.

Only one Democrat, Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, voted against this restriction. Five Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Gordon Smith of Oregon and Olympia Snowe of Maine, all voted in favor of the ban.

As recently as last October, Senator John McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, said this to the New York Times about waterboarding:

All I can say is that it was used in the Spanish Inquisition, it was used in Pol Pot’s genocide in Cambodia, and there are reports that it is being used against Buddhist monks today...It is torture.

Yesterday, McCain took time out from his campaign for president to vote against the ban on waterboarding. This vote certainly appears to be a craven abandonment of the Senator's principles in order to curry support from the most conservative wing of his party. He desparately needs this support in order to stave off a late charge by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama did not return to Washington to vote on this important issue.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island delivered a very moving speech during the debate for this bill. Here is video of a portion of his remarks:

The bill now moves to the desk of President Bush. Will he veto it and shine a spotlight on his determination to torture prisoners, therby further eroding the previous high moral ground which our country used to occupy?

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