October 10th, 2007
04:01 PM ET
9 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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- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney

soundoff (279 Responses)
  1. tyler, jackson, ms

    Ok already! Jimmy Carter was "the worse" etc. It seems that people attacking Carter are still avoiding the main issue. Does the US torture? Do we violate human rights...the Geneva Convention? Stop attacking the messenger rather than face the issues.

    October 11, 2007 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  2. Allen - San Antonio, Texas

    Simply put, Jimmy Carter is a naive, naive fool.

    He was wrong on the Soviet Union.
    He was wrong on "Palestine."
    He was wrong on economics.
    He was wrong on foreign policy.

    Given his flaccid response to Muslim aggression in 1979, is it any wonder that radical Islam grew to be the hydra it has become today?

    If he had done his job as commander in chief, and SMASHED the Radical Muslim threat in its infancy in 1979, we might not be facing the global, fanatical, hyper-radicalized enemy we fight today.

    Today, Radical Islam is still non-nuclear. Do we take our bruises fighting a tough enemy today, or do we wait, pretend it's Sept. 10 and pretend the threat doesn't exist, and push this fight off onto our children?

    If not dealt with today, our children who will fight an insanely brutal and much better prepared enemy tomorrow (read: nuclear).

    It's our responsibility to tackle this monster today. If Carter is badmouthing the effort, he's simply illustrating with whom his allegiance lies.

    October 11, 2007 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  3. Randy, Washington D.C.

    Torture is immoral. Torture does not elicit useful information. The Bush administration condones and directs the use of torture. These are the facts. The Bush administration has caused lasting harm to the moral fabric of this nation and to its security. Terrorists could not have had better allies than the Bush administration.

    October 11, 2007 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  4. Quinn, Oakland, CA

    The Bush Administration has been caught lying about so much already. You'd have to be a fool to believe ANYTHING they say at this point.

    Bush and Cheney have brought nothing but shame to America and according to our government's own intelligence reports, their approach has not been effective against global terrorism, which is now a much bigger problem than it was when they took office. They should be impeached before that do more damage to our beloved country.

    October 11, 2007 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  5. Jon, Sacramento ~ Ca


    Article 5 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which governs the treatment of civilians in occupied territories, states that if a civilian "is definitely suspected of or engaged in activities hostile to the security of the States, such individual person shall not be entitled to claim such rights and privileges under the present Convention as would, if exercised in favor of such individual person, be prejudicial to the security of such State."

    Sorry folks – terrorists do NOT qualify for rights under the Geneva Convention.

    Don't let that stop you, though. Continue whining and crying about those poor poor terrorists and how we treat them. Assign them Geneva Rights, get them US attorneys, hell why not grant them amnesty – give them driver's licenses and demand the US give them free health care??

    The ACLU-cry baby wussies of this country are a greater threat than the terrorists!

    October 11, 2007 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  6. Terry, El Paso, TX

    Therealist imagines that "the US is still the envey of the world." Who is it that envies us? It is true that the world's impoverished want to migrate here for a job that pays more money than they could get back home.

    Employment is high, but good jobs with good income and a good future are disappearing and crappy jobs with no future are replacing them. Americans have traditionally depended on employment for income and for employers to value, train, and retain employees. That tradition is gone. Now employers see their employees a cost, like floor wax or light bulbs. The less you spend on costs, the more efficient your business has become.

    Most households have more than one wage earner. 71% of American households earn less than $50,000. 43% earn less than $25,000, about $2,000 per month gross pay. Health costs and fuel costs are eating into that income, of course. Employers are abandoning their traditional role of providing retirement income and covering most medical costs. CEO's once (1980) earned about 40 times the wage of the average worker they supervised; now it is 531 times that of their workers. CEO pay is often tied to the growth of company stock value, though that is not true for workers, as if the entire performance of the corporation depended on the CEO. Many CEO's who are fired for incompetence or illegal activities get severance bonuses in the millions, unlike a fired worker. If the average worker earns $30,000 working for a boss that earns about 16 million, then the boss is taking home $7,658.65 PER HOUR. Maybe Einstein was worth that much per hour when he was working on his theories. Maybe Eisenhower was worth that much in WWII when the western world depended on him to save it from Nazism. No CEO is worth that much. We could find another CEO from India or China who would run the corporation just as well for a lot less.

    Worker productivity is on the increase mostly because employers now demand more hours of work but do not provide more pay, as all salaried workers know. Those who succeed in corporate work are the men and women who put in 60-80 hour weeks. I read of a corporate CEO who noticed that a certain worker was not in his office two Sundays in a row. He called the employee to see if he was sick.

    In short, the more freedom we give corporations, the less they value their employees. This booming economy is only booming for the top ten percent.

    October 11, 2007 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  7. Allan Horn - St. Petersburg, FL

    The sad answer to that question is that the easiest people to persuade that violence, torture and destruction of human rights are necessary tools of war... are those who are most convinced that "God is on their side."

    Such was the case when people like them marched Jesus and his fellow prisoners to the hill two thousand years ago... such was the case when people like them followed Pope Urban II's instructions and slaughtered the women and children of Jerusalem 900 years ago... such was the case when people like them followed Torquemada's instructions and held their prisoner's feet to the flames in the dungeons of Europe 600 years ago... and such was the case when people like them removed the limbs and vital organs from live patients in the operating rooms of Dr. Josef Mengele 60 some years ago in Auschwitz and Birkenau... they were sure that "God was on their side".

    Some of the scariest people who ever lived were SURE that "God was on their side".

    October 11, 2007 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  8. Lori Yorktown, VA

    Jimmy Carter with an opinion?? You'd think he had another book or something coming out. Oh, WAIT! He DOES have a new book! Please, Mr. Carter, try to contribute something like you really mean it...not trying to promote yourself.

    October 11, 2007 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  9. Don Mississauga Canada

    Jimmy Carter is the only public figure in the US to speak up against the Junta in Washington. Better listen to him before you are all in jail

    October 11, 2007 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  10. spinstopper

    International law states that un-uniformed combatants captured on the battlefield can be executed by firing squad. Is Jimmy pressing us for international law??

    October 11, 2007 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  11. SpinyNorman

    I really love how all the comments by folks who don't agree with Carter attack his record as president and DO NOTHING to counter his accusations against Bush.

    That's called "Ad Hominem", people; it's a logical fallacy, and it's the easiest way to lose an argument.

    Next time, don't attack the source - argue the point he's trying to make. When you do that, we'll take you wilfully underinformed Bush apologists seriously.

    October 11, 2007 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  12. Danny Casolaro Martinsburg, WV

    Jimmy Carter? He has done absolutely nothing for humanity.
    He has spent his last twenty five years with Habitat For Humanity building houses for people who have lost theirs-can you think of anything that is more of a waste of time than that? His time would have been much better spent watching NASCAR, roaming the aisles of WalMart, eating at McDonald's four times a week, reading the Bible (but not living it–just reading it), working on his trailer, or shooting animals.

    October 11, 2007 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  13. Danny Casolaro Martinsburg, WV

    Jimmy Carter? He has done absolutely nothing for humanity. He has spent his last twenty five years with Habitats For Humanity building homes for people who lost theirs. Can you think of anything that is more of a waste of time than that?
    His time would have been much better spent watching NASCAR, roaming the aisles at WalMart, eating at McDonald's four times a week, working on his trailer, and shooting animals.

    How dare he criticize America? We are the land of the free and anyone who doesn't agree with that should be put in jail.

    October 11, 2007 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  14. Sarah, Kansas City, MO

    Thank God this former president speaks out. The issue is not his presidency but the current one. The current imperial presidency has dis-honored our country with its lies and use of torture. This must never be forgotten.
    As far as I am concerned Bush is a torturer as well as a terrorist. What he has done to this country is an act of treason.

    Our country installed the Shah in Iran, in 1953, forcebly, to replace a democratically elected prime-minister. No wonder they hate us. Can you imagine (you knuckle headed Bush supporters out there) how you would react if an outside country came in and replaced our democratically elected (we like to think so anyway) president or government with one more to their liking? Think, before you react here.

    I find that most of this country's problems are due to the fact that our government and its representives tend to react, in a knee jerk fashion, to every crisis without thinking about the consequences of that reaction. A good example of that is the war in Iraq and the use of torture. We were hurt in 9/11 and when we could not get Bin Lauden, right away, our president decided to strike out at another country instead. A country, no matter how odious the leader, that had not attacked us. Then they approved torture. Torture does not deliver good information.

    The simple-minded supporters of this policy and the republicans in general are only expressing their ignorance here today.

    October 11, 2007 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  15. Frank Virginia Beach VA

    Carter is senile.

    October 11, 2007 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  16. Gary Los Angeles, CA

    Ask him how much torture occurred following his support of the E. Timor Government – well 400,000 died; surely some were tortured in that crackdown.
    Or ask him about all of the genocide, killing, torture and suffering which occurred after he and Brzezinski – well, as Brzezinski stated:
    Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.
    And the next time you have Bill Clinton on, ask him how much grief was caused by his complacency during the planning stages for the Rwandan genocide, in early 1994. In addition to the 800,000 who were murdered (many hacked to death) there were untold others tortured and 15 UN soldiers had their genitals cut off and stuffed in their mouths – so Clinton said, "Never Again." Then of course, the conflict moved next door to the DR Congo, where more people have died than any place since the end of WWII – Millions of humans, Bill Clinton. "Never again", meant "Again and Again." Oh right, but at least, after the fact, you sent Brown & Root in to help - under the LOGCAP contract.
    And you can ask Clinton and Al Gore about setting up the US policy of extraordinary rendition – which was intended to send suspected terrorists to Egypt, where they could be tortured for information. Al Gore's view of that, according to Richard Clarke:
    Gore laughed and said, "That's a no-brainer. Of course it's a violation of international law, that's why it's a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass."
    There is less conflict and fewer folks dying in the world than (according to the UN) any other time since the end of WWII. Notably, as compared to the world during the Clinton era.
    Get over it. Between Carter and Clinton, Bush can go for another 30 years, and not create as many deaths in the world.

    October 11, 2007 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  17. Kevin. LA, CA

    While most Americans are decent and law abiding people, there are certain groups that are the antithesis of the American Constitution. These guys consider the noble words in the constitution irrelevant, they trash the UN , Geneva Conventions, Kyoto Protocol etc. for love of money/power. They could care less for American soldiers/Iraqi or any civilians dying in Iraq as long as they can get their hands on the billions from armament/oil sales. (9/11 was in response to policies of killing by these same people, not the other way around.)

    Torture!, heck these guys kill civilians for fun (Blackwater), imagine what they do to prisoners. They have flushed the soul of America down the toilet.

    Amazingly, they get voted in by ignorant Americans and the Supreme Court, so they kill and torture more. And the media controlled by these same power madcaps, lie down like dogs to please their masters.That is the real tragedy here.

    October 11, 2007 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  18. Jerry, Louisiana

    Jimmy Carter has spent his entire adult life living in a fantasy world. He didn't have a clue while he was President and still has not found one. The eutopia that he presided over included the creation of Jihad, 12% unemployment, 21% interest rates, gas shortages, Americans being held hostage for 444 days and the most botched rescue attempt that has ever been tried by our armed forces. It was not the soldiers fault, it was poor planning, lack of resolve and a lack of support of the administration. He should hide is face.

    October 11, 2007 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  19. Tom Dedham, Mass

    Good job Wolfie, the senile one actually said that "we had no problems with terrorists while Bill Clinton was in office".

    A real journalist would have said "wait a minute, how about the USS Cole, the first WTC bombing, multiple embassies, the Kubar towers etc, etc) were they not terrorist acts????

    When Carter said "he doesn't think it, he knows it", a real journalist would say, "do you have any specifics, names, situations etc,etc".

    Iran gave up the hostages for three reasons, they were afraid of Reagan and they were not afraid of Carter (who had ample time and didn't get the job done) and lastly the Iran/Iraq war was going to come down and they had too much on their plates.

    Quit blaming anyone but Carter for his failings, you already apologize for Clinton and it is stupid as hell.

    Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush could have said all kinds of crap about Clinton and Carter, but as ex-Presidents they stuck by the "code" that other Presidents don't do this.

    I get it Bush sucks and I agree, but this wholly TERRIBLE president has no legs to stand on.

    October 11, 2007 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  20. Kay, Las Vegas NV

    Terry in El Paso
    Why do idiots like you have to bring President Bush's daughters into these conversations? You're naive to think the Bush Administration is the first to participate in these acts. And if private citizens, Jenna and Barbara Bush are fair game, then so are you and your family. I say we hang you upside down underwater..better yet. your kids...let's make your kids responsible for the stupidity that comes out of your mouth!

    October 12, 2007 01:47 am at 1:47 am |
  21. Bharat Jashanmal, Fairford, England

    As far as I'm aware, President Bush is the first president, and this the first US administration,that has even been asked to respond to accusations of torture! In past conflicts, whilst there have been certain charges made against US administrations regarding its abuse of human rights (the internment of all citizens of Japanese origin during World War II for example), never before has any administration come close to being accused of torture, nor being this creative in its interpretation of the law!

    October 12, 2007 05:15 am at 5:15 am |
  22. Tom Dedham, Mass

    As expected I got no response, but then again Liberals don't respond to hypotheticals that could easily become a real life situation as then they would be proven to be the phonies that they are.

    "The Government didn't do enough to protect my family", when it is your family, these very minor methods would be welcomed if it saved your families life. No questions asked.

    October 12, 2007 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  23. Steve, Sumter SC

    Where's the proof?? We treat those who attempt to kill us more humanly than any one else in the world! Sounds like a jealous rant to me!

    October 12, 2007 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  24. Kalela Tucson, AZ

    I find it interesting that Mr. Carters presidency was such a failure that now he is trying to make himself look good by crircising others. What I would like to know, just how does he know all that he says he knows? He never gives the source of his knowledge. Sounds like a little boy in grade school.

    October 12, 2007 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  25. Tom, Macon, GA

    If Jimmy Carter was still in office, you wouldn't have a homeland to defend.

    Same thing will happen if Hill makes it to power.

    October 12, 2007 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
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