Senate defies Bush on torture

The Republican-controlled Senate voted Oct. 5 to impose restrictions on the treatment of terrorism suspects. Defying the White House, senators voted 90-9 to approve an amendment to prohibit the use of “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” against anyone in US government custody. The amendment was added to a $440 billion military spending bill for the budget year that began Oct. 1. The proposal, sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), also requires all service members to follow procedures in the Army Field Manual when they detain and interrogate terrorism suspects.

Bush administration officials say the legislation would undermine the president’s authority and flexibility in war. But lawmakers from both parties said Congress must provide US troops with clear standards for treatment of terrorism suspects. “We demanded intelligence without ever clearly telling our troops what was permitted and what was forbidden. And when things went wrong, we blamed them and we punished them,” said McCain, a prisoner of war in Vietnam. “Our troops are not served by ambiguity. They are crying out for clarity and Congress cannot shrink from this duty.”

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed McCain’s effort. “The world will note that America is making a clear statement with respect to the expected future behavior of our soldiers. Such a reaction will help deal with the terrible public diplomacy crisis created by Abu Ghraib,” Powell said in a letter that McCain read on the Senate floor. (AP, Oct. 5 via TruthOut)

See our last post on the ongoing torture scandal.

  1. Soldier reports more abuse to senator
    From the Oct. 5 New York Times, via TruthOut:

    Washington – An Army captain who has reported new allegations of detainee abuse in Iraq met Tuesday with Senator John McCain and staff aides on the House Armed Services Committee and gave them additional accounts of abuse in Iraq that other soldiers had sent him in recent days, Congressional aides said.

    The officer, Capt. Ian Fishback, in a brief interview after his half-hour meeting with Mr. McCain declined to describe the new information he gave the senator or, in a separate meeting, to the House aides. But Captain Fishback said that since he and two other former members of the 82nd Airborne Division last month accused soldiers in their battalion in Iraq of routinely beating and abusing prisoners in 2003 and 2004, several other soldiers had contacted him and asked him to relay to lawmakers their own experiences.

    Mr. McCain, an Arizona Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said nothing in a statement about any new reports of abuse, saying only, “I’m even more impressed by what a fine and honorable officer he is.”

    But a senior House aide who met with Captain Fishback said the officer had read a letter from a sergeant describing detainee abuse in Iraq and allowed the aides to read the document before taking it back. The aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because Captain Fishback related the information in confidence for use in a possible Congressional investigation, declined to give details of the abuse.

    In separate statements to Human Rights Watch, Captain Fishback and two sergeants related their experiences as they recounted how members of the First Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry, had repeatedly beaten Iraqi prisoners, exposed them to extremes of hot and cold, and stacked them in human pyramids at Camp Mercury, a forward operating base near Falluja.

    The abuses reportedly took place between September 2003 and April 2004, before and during the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.

    The Army has started a criminal inquiry into the allegations by Captain Fishback and the two sergeants.