October 10th, 2007
04:01 PM ET
5 years ago

Carter: America tortures

Watch Wolf Blitzer's interview with former President Jimmy Carter.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former President Jimmy Carter said Wednesday he is convinced the United States engages in torture that clearly breaches international law and told CNN President Bush creates his own definition of human rights to escape violating them.

"I don't think it. I know it, certainly." the former president told CNN's Wolf Blitzer when asked if he thinks the United States commits torture.

"Our country for the first time in my lifetime has abandoned the basic principle of human rights," Carter continued. "We've said that the Geneva Convention does not apply to those people in Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo, and we’ve said we can torture prisoners and deprive them of an accusation of a crime to which they are accused."

Carter's comments come on the heels of a New York Times report that disclosed the existence of secret Justice Department documents supporting the use of "harsh interrogation techniques" including, according to the Times, "head-slapping, simulated drowning, and frigid temperatures."

Last week, the White House confirmed the existence of the documents though would not make them public. Responding to the report last Friday, Bush defended the techniques used and said, “This government does not torture people.”

Asked about the president's comments, Carter said, "That's not an accurate statement if you use the international norms of torture as has always been honored - certainly in the last 60 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was promulgated."

"But you can make your own definition of human rights and say we don't violate them, and you can make your own definition of torture and say we don't violate them," Carter added.

Responding to Carter's comments, a senior White House official said, "Our position is clear. We don't torture. It's just sad to hear a former president speak like that."

Watch the full interview with Carter tonight on The Situation Room, 7 p.m. ET. 

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soundoff (279 Responses)
  1. Dave, Atlanta, GA

    The white house stance on torture sounds like this to me: "Officially we will denouce torture but we won't officially make it against military regulations to torture."
    It sounds to me like they are telling the troops that they will condone and encourage torture, but if any of the troops get caught, they will officially deny that torture is policy and sacrifice the solder's career to save their political hides.

    October 10, 2007 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  2. Bob, Seattle, WA

    Jimmy Carter has a proven track record of NOT emitting 'fear' in our enemies. It took the specter Ronald Reagan to free American hostages in days. The same hostages that Carter couldn't free in over a year and a half. If my son were taken captive but a 'third world' lunatic like Ahmadinejad I certainly would rather have a Republican President than 'Jimmy'.

    October 10, 2007 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  3. Ryan Indianapolis

    Oh my GOSH......If you just listened to his speeches you would think this Lil man was a member of Al Queda or some terrorist organization. I mean what is he trying to prove. Jimmy Carter knows he is the WORST PRESIDENT in America History and will not give it up. I mean this is the same guy that got pushed around by IRAN making Gas go up to astronomical prices, interest rates for homes were at 19%,the economy was horrible....etc I could go on.....This TRATIOR is out of his mind but more than that he is just giving propaganda to our enemy. Jimmy please either go away or join the forces you really want to...Al Queda

    October 10, 2007 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  4. Tres Hewlett, Des Moines Iowa

    I am glad to see that someone is finally stating the obvious! Of course the Bush administration tortures people. Just because you don't call it torture doesn't mean it's not torture! Glad to see Bush being such a compassionate Christian. I am sure that this is what Jesus would do. Under this flawed logic I should be allowed to steal, only I won't call it stealing. I shall call it "permenatly borrowing."

    October 10, 2007 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  5. Thomas, St. Petersburg, FL

    President Carter is one of the least successful presidential administrations of the late 20th century:

    (1) Double digit inflation;
    (2) Double digit unemployment;
    (3) Gas shortages and long gas lines;
    (4) Double digit interest rates;
    (5) 53 Americans held hostage after Iranians storm the American Embassy in Tehran, Iran; the USA was the joke of the world during this time.

    Furthermore, it is critical to understand that Iran was America's ally (when it was ruled by the Shah of Iran). However, when the Iranian government was overthrown by Islamic extremists in 1979, President Carter did nothing to help our Iranian friends.

    Next, Carter thought the new Iranian government was become our friend "since we did not intervene". On the contrary, the new Iranian government had a tremendous amount of rage against the USA since it supported the prior Iranian government.

    Hence, the birth of America being labelled "The Great Satan" was born. Thank you, Jimmy Carter.

    Summary: Carter giving any administration presidential advice is tantamount to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays giving tips on how to win the World Series. It just doesn't fly.

    October 10, 2007 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  6. Common Sense

    I know this revelation comes as quite a suprise to many that the United States would participate in torture. I fortunately am not one of them. Wake Up People. President Bush says that his administration does not torture people, well how about the entire US population jerk? You've been torturing us from day one. Good for Carter speaking out against this totalitarian regime we are enduring.

    October 10, 2007 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  7. Zachary Marquette, Sarasota FL

    That senile old guy needs to realize he isn’t the president anymore. Wasn’t that election a sorry misjudgment by the American people?

    October 10, 2007 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  8. spinstopper

    Maybe Carter should scream louder and demand to know who gave him that authority..

    October 10, 2007 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  9. Echo

    Clinton was (almost) impeached for an indiscretion with Monica, and it was largely a private affair.

    What will it take to impeach Bush and Cheney?

    It's astonishing....

    October 10, 2007 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  10. Jon, Sacramento ~ Ca

    I would rather endure water-boarding than return to the disasterous Presidency of Jimmy Carter!

    "Head-slapping, simulated drowning, frigid temperatures"... right... ask Daniel Pearl what he things. Oh wait, his head was sawed off by khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Or perhaps we should just employ the "nice" ways Saddam treated his enemies (wood chipper)?

    How about we just ask the bad guys nicely to tell us their plans? We'll give them lawyers, 3 square meals, health care, 8+ hours of uninterrupted sleep, climate-controlled cushy rooms, and religious devotion time.

    President Clinton gutting the military, imposing the "hands-off" approach to intelligence gathering, and the ACLU terrorist-coddling approach to interrogation IS the reason America will continue being targeted and attacked.

    October 10, 2007 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  11. JD, Evansville, IN

    Jimmy Carter is tellin' it like it is! He needs to march right on up to President Bush and say all that he really wants to say right to his face. Right in front of all the video cameras he can.

    October 10, 2007 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  12. Cable King Pittsburgh PA

    Jumping Jimmy:

    Very mediocre President.
    Excellent ex-President.

    Sounds odd, but the peanut farmer actually has a conscience and believes that America has an obligation to play by the rules.

    October 10, 2007 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  13. Terry, El Paso, TX

    It is sad day when patriots like me are ashamed of the American government. It is embarrassing now to discuss America's actions with foreigners. The national character is stained and our national pride has gone into hiding.

    What we have to do, after this batch of hard-hearted lightweights has left Washington for an endless retirement, is to open up all the file cabinets where the secret things we have done are currently hidden. We need to bring them all out into the open for a period of self-examination and national cleansing. We all share the blame for this.

    October 10, 2007 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  14. Ben, Des Moines, IA

    "President Carter told CNN Thursday he thinks the Unite State's uses torture. "

    What country is this? U-N-I-T-E-D S-T-A-T-E-S

    October 10, 2007 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  15. Joe, Miami, Fl

    Jimmy Carter's presidency was unsuccessful to say the least. But the man is now a great statesman and he's telling the truth about Israel and our Middle East Policy. By the way, the only positive thing he did during his presidency was help broker the accord between Israel and Egypt. We basically bribed Egypt. To this day, Egypt receives a nice sum of money to remain peaceful with Israel. Why can't we do the same with Iran? Because some people just want war.

    October 10, 2007 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  16. therealist

    Come on CNN, this is just another disgusting liberal attempt at making the news.., shame, on, you.

    Do you think we have forgotten where Jimmy left our US/Middle East relationship when he was voted(thrown)out of office?? Sorry CNN, no matter how hard you guys try to push this, Carter has zero credibility on foreign policy and international law.

    October 10, 2007 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  17. matt, philly, pa

    Let me see if I understand what some people are saying:

    "We don't want to get our hands dirty...but we DEMAND that the goverment DO something to protect us from the bad men."

    October 10, 2007 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  18. Scott, Honolulu Hawaii

    It is far beyond time for this man to simply go away. His Presidency wasn't so good that he has the right to interject himself into every topic that comes up. His rationale is that the "international norms" have not been followed. Maybe not, but defense of the homeland is paramount in this day and age, and a little "head-slapping, simulated drowning, and frigid temperatures" may provide data that helps us do that. Maybe not, but the win-win situation is to assume that it can. To simply assume that it does not, and avoid it all together, is akin to putting your head in the sand and lessens the ability to find out. You can take that chance, but I am not willing to do so. Anything that might protect us is worth it to me.

    Besides, No matter what he says, I'm spending far less money on my quality of life, percentage wise, than I did when he was President. My freedoms are still intact, and I feel safer under Bush that I ever did with Carter.

    October 10, 2007 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  19. Rafael R. Chicago Illinois

    It seems the list of U.S. atrocities and violations of domestic and international laws gets longer each day. We give our hired guns immunity, torture prisoners, extinguish the right of Habeas Corpus, disregard the Geneva Convention, ignore basic human rights and trample upon our Constitution. Is it just me or are we living in a Kafka novel? I think its time for Billy Joel to update his song – you know the one that goes "we didn't start the fire..." And if he does, I hope it includes the part where Bush and Cheny are tried for crimes against humanity.

    October 10, 2007 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  20. Usman, Toledo OH.

    So many of you are malinformed. First off, Iran deliberately refused to release the hostages until after Reagan started his term in office. This was done only to spite Carter. In truth, Carter's the one that worked to get the hostages released. Reagan wasn't even in office yet when the decision was made. Carter was the last honest and good man we've ever had in office. Since then, we've had war-mongering elitists and calculating adulterers.

    Second, I'd love to see Dubya, or any of you, volunteer to undergo some of these "non-torture" techniques. I can promise you'd all be singing a different tune afterwards.

    October 10, 2007 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  21. Tony Cesnik Concord, California

    Former President Carter is absolutely right. We all saw the pictures of Abu Gabbi. President Bush has lied since day one of his Presidency. It is clear the majority of the American people want out of Iraq. There is nothing to save.

    October 10, 2007 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  22. RightyTighty

    America tortures to prevent terrorism.

    Problem? What problem??

    October 10, 2007 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  23. Kent, Nashville, Tn

    Jimmy Carter, one of our worst presidents, and one of our best Ex-presidents.

    He simply tells the truth, which is horrid for a president, As Bush proves you can't be president if you ever tell anyone the truth.

    But absolute proof in an ex-president works rather well. Bush and company practice torture regularly, The hate the constitution and try to destroy it at every opertunity. (Bush called it "that inconvenient piece of paper").

    Assuming our republic ever recovers from His attempt at Dictatorship, Bush will be placed by historians as a far worse president then Carter ever hoped to be.

    October 10, 2007 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  24. Henry Tucker, Ga

    "Clinton was (almost) impeached for an indiscretion with Monica, and it was largely a private affair. "

    Ummm, Echo, hate to break the news but President Clinton WAS impeached. No "almost" about it.

    The House of Representatives draw up articles of impeachment and vote to "impeach". The Senate hears the case and votes to "remove" the President – which did not happen. SO... President Clinton was impeached but not removed.

    To answer your question (What will it take to impeach Bush and Cheney):

    Evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors – not just accusations or ill-feelings. Your elected leaders (Reid, Pelosi) who HAVE the greatest amount of information and "evidence" have already concluded that impeachment is off the table.

    Sorry! Thanks for playing.

    October 10, 2007 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  25. Bill, Stanford CA

    This comment is directed to the ignorant, those in denial, the demented, the mentally drained, the blubbering blabbermouthed degenerates Republicans whom I do not even consider to be American. I do not remember Carter's presidency nor do I care to. That has nothing to do with the the last twenty years of service he has offered to the United States and the World. He is a moral and upright man who lives his life according to the dictates of Truth, Justice, and Piety. This is the reason why he bothers the fascists who criticize his presidency rather than see the truth of his words. I have some advice for all of you. READ. Inform yourselves. Contemplate what real Justice is, what Truth is, and Piety. Begin the process of self-actualization instead of hiding in your corners which have been built by Republican Fear. I am not afraid. I am not afraid of Al Quada, bin Laden, Iran. I am not afraid of Republicans. You are merely fascists and you do not even realize it. Read the "Rise and Fall of the Third Reich," read "The Roman Revolution", read "Barbed Wire." Stop watching television. I guarentee you cannot. Stop listening to the radio. I guarantee you cannot. Make a decision to become a better person and fulfill your potential. This frightens you. It feels good to be afraid because you do not have to think. You merely have to hide, talk big, not value human life, believe lies, deny truth, plug your eyes and ears. Enjoy your ignorance and your anger. The reason why you are angry is because of your own self contempt. Feast on it, suck it all in. Good day.

    October 10, 2007 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
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