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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– CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney

soundoff (279 Responses)
  1. Justin Minneapolis MN

    Head slapping, simulated drowning are now considered torture? Sometime you have to take a strong stance to get information from and evil terrorist who wants nothing more than death to all Americans and westerners. Dont think for a second he and his people wouldnt tourure you and most likely cut your head off with a sword. Carter is just looking for another reason to have the camera on his face.

    October 10, 2007 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  2. Al, Great Meadows, NJ

    If head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures are going to force someone to divulge critical information and thus, help protect me and my family; I'm all for it.

    October 10, 2007 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  3. Riggs, Lyons NY

    Seems like Carter is trying to bring back weakness to the Presidency like he did when he was President. I've never really understood why anyone still wants to hear what he has to say... oh yeah, Liberal Media.

    I may be a horrible person for feeling this way but, if you are part of a group that is trying to kill as many Americans as possible, I am all for the torture techniques to help stop future attacks.

    On Cut-And-Run Carters comments about staying in Iraq.. Please tell me you are joking. Of course Americans want out of Iraq. Most are not saying pull out now, most I know are saying finish and go. Stop the PC war, actually allow our troops to fight and fix the trouble spots in Iraq, then we can leave.

    In short, I would take a 4 year Carter Presidency if I could be assured of a Reagan Presidency for the 8 years following.

    October 10, 2007 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  4. Tom Jones, Medford Oregon

    As the son of a hard nosed Marine, I can tell you that head slapping, exposure to cold environments, and "simulated drownings" are no big deal! Frankly, if you're not a US citizen, you should not expect to be treated like one. We are a sovereign nation, and as such should use any and all means to get the information we need in order to deliver hate and discontent to our enemies as rapidly and efficiently as possible. If terrorists get the idea that we'll mail their supporters home in little pieces if we catch them, so much the better. And Mr. Carter, if you'd gotten busy carpet bombing Tehran the day after our embassy had been invaded (which I think is an act of war, I could be wrong) instead of putzing around we might not be where we are today!

    October 10, 2007 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  5. Vernon, Elizabethtown, KY

    If Carter dislike the US so much. why does he not go live some were else.

    October 10, 2007 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  6. RightyTighty

    Carter has no class, he doesn't even have the common decency to not spew the same anti-American hate that Osama is spewing. Once again proving himself to be the worst president in the history of the United States of America. Sorry Bill, but you are a close second..

    October 10, 2007 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  7. Denise, Utica, MI

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

    Echo: Just to clarify-Clinton was impeached because he lied to a grand jury – congress did not care that he had an affair. Most of Washington has affairs.

    Clinton also bombed Bin Laden and other camps in the middle east just to cover up and distract the american people from his meetings in court and before congress – so much for wage the dog.

    October 10, 2007 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  8. Tom, ALBUQUERQUE, NM

    To the pathological moronic, discombobulated Bush acolytes, history will no doubt show President Bush as America's worst leader ever and perhaps one of the world's WORST. Carter at his worse was much better than Bush on his best day.

    October 10, 2007 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  9. Connie, Tn.

    Sorry to break it to you, but this isn't about Carter. This is about the torture of people going on under this administration. We have completely lost our morality. If an American gets tortured, there will be screams for the Geneva Convention. It doesn't only apply to us!

    October 10, 2007 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  10. Riggs, Lyons NY

    mike smith says
    "Perhaps Mr. Carter has the very common age related frontal lobe shrinkage of the brain that was described in the recent article entitled, "Why Grandpa says inapropriate things."

    Now that is probably the most tru thing I have read here today. Good Job!!

    October 10, 2007 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  11. Jacqueline Montisonno Chicago, Illinois

    Every former president in US history has maintained a policy of not publicly criticizing the President in office except one and only one – Jimmy Carter – the worst President the US has ever had. He publicly criticized Reagan, George H Bush, Bill Clinton, and now George W. Bush. For a President whom most historians consider his Presidency a failure Jimmy Carter needs to keep quiet.

    October 10, 2007 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  12. Amy, St. Paul, MN

    And you'd certainly have your son taken captive if you had a Republican President, Bob. A president like Jimmy Carter would more than likely keep your son out of captivity in the first place, which is his point, of course.

    October 10, 2007 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  13. Susan, Fort Pierce, Florida

    Carter is right! This country has lost all moral high ground thanks to Bush and company! I used to be proud of being an American but in the past seven years I have become ashamed in many ways to call myself an American. The Bush psychopaths have all but destroyed everything that was good about this country. We may still be called the United States but we are no longer "America".
    It will be a cold day in hell before I vote for a Republican!

    October 10, 2007 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  14. Disgusted, Atlanta - GA

    President Carter is stating what most Americans already know.
    This government has disregarded the human rights and geneva convention in the name of it's "war on terror".
    It is a sad historical precedent for a nation that has always been perceived as the defenders of "justice for all".
    President Bush has decided to re-write the rules and twist the truth to make them fit his plans. For how long are we going to let him do it?

    October 10, 2007 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  15. pl. at the UN for a while.

    Are we getting senile Mr Carter?
    As to ineffectiveness at the WH during your administration, the whole world knows about it.
    Pleeeease, retire! You don't have to keep reminding us about your BIG bad times.

    October 10, 2007 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  16. Gregory, Scottsdale AZ

    Although I was too young to remember the Carter Administration, so I can’t/won’t comment. I am father in this administration and I remember those pictures of (Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo) those detainees being tortured and held w/o due process. And please, don’t give me that C**p of it was few bad apples that committed those atrocities. They are soldiers and soldiers take orders! This one goes straight to the top and just like good little soldiers they kept theirs mouths shut. How sad…….

    I’ve read all of your comments and I would ask those who refuse to see Bush as doing no wrong…..I would ask that you please open your eyes. Perhaps you’re not hurt, by the things that are going on in this country, but there are a lot who are! I hope all of you are not like most (Bush supports) and have the attitude of ‘I just don’t care’! When the shoe is on the other foot one day (I wish No ill-will)……….

    When will those that voted for Bush (twice) simply admit that you got this one wrong!!! What’s the big deal, most of you probably just as economically deprived just like the rest of us. Enjoy your day.

    October 10, 2007 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  17. rsisk, reno

    Keep on making noise Jimmy!!!!

    There will always be the blow-hards that think this current administration is the next best thing to sliced bread. As long as they can keep their guns and feel like studly war mongers. Clearly these folks are over compensating for something!!!!

    W will "hands down" be known as the worst president in History. What's scary is at this rate we may not have a history.

    October 10, 2007 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  18. MediaJunkie, Washington, DC

    Actually Warren G. Harding was the worst president in the past 100 years, and second worst overall, according to historical rankings.

    October 10, 2007 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  19. Bob, Nervous, Insanity

    Discount Carter if you want you Super-Christian-Neo-Cons, but you can't discount his accomplishments. You don't get a peace prize for nothing, and one man can't be blamed for a gas crisis/shortages either. You could blame OPEC though.

    October 10, 2007 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  20. Joe Ossai, Bedford, NH

    The people who have negative response to President Carter's remark are very typical "bone head" Republicans.

    They did not discuss his remark rather they attacked him personally.

    The issue at hand is not how successful his Presidency was rather if the US Government headed by BUSH/CHENEY are encouraging torture of detainees.

    Come on people have an intelligent discussion. You guys look so bad.

    October 10, 2007 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  21. Jim F, Hartford, CT

    This is exactly the reason Carter was elected only once to office; he's a fool!

    October 10, 2007 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  22. Ft. Washington, MD

    I'm glad President Carter raised the question. We should not torture people because if we do, we are no better than Al Queda and the Taliban. Just look at Abu Ghraib.... we became just like them if not wrost. That being said, to all of you Carter hater's out there, what does his job proformance have to do with the question? It's simple.... Not a thing! Attack the messenger if you can't talk about the message. That's the GOP way. It's time for real debate people and not name calling. This is about human rights..... Finally, to quote one of my favorite singers, the late great Marvin Gay, " War is not the answer, for only love can conquer hate. Please try and remember that all you so call who Christians out there who promote hate and love...

    October 10, 2007 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  23. Tom, Texas, USA

    Peanut Carter should go back to installing dictators in third world countries. The buffoon should also take his worthless wife with him on a one way trip to his preferred dictator-run, third world country.

    October 10, 2007 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  24. Linda Minneapolis Mn

    Tom Jones, Medford Oregon:
    My father was part of the group of men who got our guys out of Tehran.
    I have always been Fiercely Proud of our Military and an obsessively strong supporter.

    I agree with you. Carter should have nailed them too the wall, just as Bush should have done.
    My Father always said.., When protecting yourself you should only have to throw 1 punch, the last one. Anything after that is reckless.

    Make is hurt, make it count and make it the last.

    I am not saying torture is bad. Sucks to be on the receiving end though.

    There are NO civilians in War!!
    If you are in the military be prepared to follow through with your job. If you are the family member of someone in the military be prepared to follow through with support.
    Do not sit at home saying how unfair it is that they should have to fight. After all they are fighting so that you CAN sit at home and cry about it.
    Whether you believe in the fight or not is not the issue, but you must believe in the men and women that are fighting. Fighting for you!!

    October 10, 2007 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  25. Al, Belleville IL

    Our enemies must be laughing that we are arguing among ourselves not to slap or deprive sleep while they plan to kill us. Carter is a joke, his Nobel Peace Prize for ending conflict in the Mid-East is a joke.

    Why do Democrats want to call defeat? Why do Republicans want to stay and help those who won't help themselves? No one cares about the U.S., it's all partisan nonsense

    October 10, 2007 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
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