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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soundoff (279 Responses)
  1. Ryan Indianapolis

    Jimmy Carter was not the worst president in history. George Bush is. I don't even remember to much about Carter except that he was in the peanut business with his brother who was a drunk

    Posted By laurinda,ny : October 10, 2007 2:45 pm

    Good Post Laurinda, you moron. If you dont remember much about Jimmy Carter than dont post. George Bush has more class in his pinky than Jimmy Peanut has in his family tree. Jimmy Carter and yourself fell from the DUMB TREE and hit every BRANCH

    October 10, 2007 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  2. Riggs, Lyons NY

    Maybe if Marvin Gaye ran the entire world that would be great, running just one nation, he would see the fall of his nation very quickly. Was is not always motivated by hate.

    Carter is being talked about, not becuase he is just passing along a message, but becuase he is giving his personal opinion on something. In order to understand why someone would say something, you need to understand what and where they have been.

    I could only wish Carter would run the government of Iran or would be in charge of any radical group. That would be the easist victory in the history of the US.

    October 10, 2007 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    The Geneva convention applies only to uniformed troops. Terrorists are not, almost by definition, uniformed troops. Therefore I do not see how anyone can WANT to offer them the protections of the Geneva convention. Let's face it, these people are hiding among their own people, and ours, hoping for collateral damage to occur to strengthen their cause. The penalty for this is, when caught, no protection under the Geneva Convention. My understanding is that according to the convention, terrorist found here in the US, or for that matter in allied nations, in civilian clothing can be summarily executed as spies.

    In fact according to wikipedia's article pertaining to "Islamic Military Jurisprudence" :
    "Different views regarding armed rebellion have prevailed in the Muslim world at different times. During the first three centuries of Muslim history, jurists held that a political rebel may not be executed nor his/her property confiscated. Classical jurists, however, laid down severe penalties for rebels who use "stealth attacks" and "spread terror". In this category, Muslim jurists included abductions, poisoning of water wells, arson, attacks against wayfarers and travelers, assaults under the cover of night and rape. The punishment for such crimes were severe, including death, regardless of the political convictions and religion of the perpetrator. Further, rebels who committed acts of terrorism were granted no quarter.[42]"

    October 10, 2007 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  4. MCD, San Francisco

    I don't understand you people who question his right to speak, or who call him unamerican because he is questioning the president. YOU are unamerican if you think that way... America is about freedom, freedom to question those in power and make them answer - they work for us - Bush is NOT GOD! Carter is absolutely right and he should keep on keeping on. The only thing he said I desagreed with was "I think most Americans want the troops home"... that should have been a resolute "The majority of Americans want the troops home know. They have said so time and time again!"

    October 10, 2007 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  5. David, Gilbert Arizona

    Posted By Mark C, Asheville NC: "...if you were serving in the military and in danger of being captured by the other side, you might see the problem..."

    Do you honestly believe that if the United States provided detainees in Gitmo with lawyers and all the rights afforded prisoners under the Geneva Convention that al Queda operatives would not have beheaded American captives and would have afforded them the same Geneva Convention rights? If you do believe such a thing I have lake front property in the Sahara I'd like to sell you.

    Jimmy is still as naive as he was when he was elected president. His comments about diplomatic relations with Iran during his presidency while stared in the face with hostages is a testament to that fact. The fruit of those negotiations never ripened.

    In the end the man is on a publicity tour trying to sell a book. He will say what ever is necessary to that end.

    October 10, 2007 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  6. Grey, Austin TX

    One has to wonder what motivates President Carter to mislead his audience by suggesting that the Bush administration is unique in its handling of these matters. The very arguments used to defend the actions at Guantanamo and the scope of the executive branch's independent control there were first constructed by the Clinton administration, a decade ago. If Carter is trying to tell us that the CIA didn't use harsh interrogation techniques under his watch while the Cold War raged, he is either willfully ignorant, or deliberately misleading us.

    October 10, 2007 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  7. Whitney Rugg, Newport, RI

    President Carter, please, please go away. While you are at it, please grab Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson and take them with you. You are all irrelevant, your opinion's do not matter and you only incite hate and misinformation. Who cares if there is some head-slapping and frigid temperatures. This is torture? Please. Your responsibility as a former president is not to criticize the current administration. Especially you of all presidents, who will go down in history as the biggest failure as an administration since Herber Hoover. Not only did you gut the military, but you also gutted employment, international relations and the economy. You were and still are the laughing stock of the 20th century. Take the lead from the real ex-presidents...George Bush and Bill Clinton and do something positive, instead of monday morning quarterbacking you moron!

    October 10, 2007 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  8. Riggs, Lyons NY

    Nobel Peace Prize... No one is more peaceful than Jimmy. Too bad the rest of the world will roll over you when you are that peaceful. Its not about being a war monger, but you have to understand how humans act and that every interation will not be peaceful.

    No one wants war, but some people understand that sometimes you cannot (or should not) avoid it.

    I would vote for Carter to run Mr. Rogers neighborhood, but thats as far as it would go.

    October 10, 2007 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  9. Darren, Houston, TX

    Jimmy, Give it a rest! You have zero credibility, seem to be scizo and you were such an impotent president that we are all just trying to forget that we allowed such a fruit to represent us for four years. Please go back to Georgia and stick to peanut farming. CNN, please stop covering this knucklehead.

    October 10, 2007 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  10. Yellow Dog, Wilton, ME

    What's sad is to watch the path that the WH has chosen for my country. For the first time in almost 70 years, I'm ashamed to call myself a citizen of the United States.

    I served in the military – an enlistee not a draftee.

    I taught in public schools.

    I've never missed an election.

    But today, I'm ashamed of what we've become. I thank Jimmy Carter for speaking the truth. History will label GWB the worst President in our 225 years. He is not merely incompetent or an ill advised fool, he is an arrogant fraud.

    October 10, 2007 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  11. Danny Casolaro Martinsburg, WV

    Does anyone remember when Bill Casey and George Bush, Sr. met with Ayatollah Khomeini and his government in Paris weeks before the elections and brokered a deal with our Islamic terrorist enemies not to release our hostages until after the election of '80 in return for military aid, cash, and diplomatic favors?

    You might say that this never happened and that it was simply a coincidence that the hostages were released at the very moment Reagan raised his right hand to take the oath of office.

    But if you did, you would be a typically ignorant, uneducated American idiot who has zero knowledge of history.

    October 10, 2007 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  12. R, Brooklyn, NY

    Wow, it's almost like the more honest and decent you are as a human being the more Republicans hate you. Guess that's why they love the Bushes so much. You people are a bunch of hateful morons who deserve the wretched government you currently have. Unfortunately, the rest of us are getting what you deserve as well.

    October 10, 2007 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  13. Neill C., Montgomery, Al

    When will someone in our government arrest this traitorous piece of garbage? He is an anti semite and a traitor. He makes numerous false accusations with nothing to back it up, and yet he still gets airtime whenever he wants it.

    He is a joke. He is a bitter old man who still can't come to grips with the fact President Reagan owned him in 1980. Maybe if he showed a little more courage in his speech, manner, and actions, he wouldn't have lost his Presidency to Ronald Reagan and maybe those hostages would not have been in Iran for 444 days.

    October 10, 2007 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  14. interested observer

    Bashing Carter and his presidency doesn't change the fact that he was speaking a very plain and obvious truth. The methods of interrogation that this administration is using do constitute "torture" by every meaningful and widely-accepted definition of the word. That question being answered, the next ones to ask are whether or not this is legal and whether or not it is acceptable. Given that the U.S. is a signator of the Geneva conventions and that the U.S. has always proclaimed itself not only as among the civilized nations of the world but as a model for them, the answer to both questions are clearly NO.

    October 10, 2007 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  15. Roman Piernick Kaiserslautern Germany

    Come on Jimmy you are talking about something you never had to deal with. what really needs to happen is we need show no murcey towards the enemy regardless of political opinion. Futhermore its just like the children taking guns to school. If parents were not in danger of child abuse laws then we as a society could dicipline those little brats so the would fear god and not shoot people just because they were made angry. PS get out of the public eye and enjoy what little life you have left.

    October 10, 2007 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  16. Frank Boca Raton, FL

    For all you Republicans, quit showcasing your coarse thinking by labeling anyone that tends to disagree with the current administration’s policies“traitor” and member of Al- Quaeda. We are the so called leader of the free and civilized world, yet our country is overly populated by half brains like you that discourage rational debate on all these legitimate concerns that one needs to address BEFORE going to WAR with Iran.
    Since our country has been involved (directly or otherwise) in most wars in recent times, it is absolutely crucial for our government to uphold the accords and agreement relative to human rights. This is the only way to protect our soldiers when they are taken as POWs. We are compromising our moral authority in this world by not playing by the rules. This administration has completely manipulated the system and still failed to achieve the desired results. How ironic!

    October 10, 2007 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  17. Ralph, Spartanburg, SC

    Top Five Worst Presidents In U.S. History.

    1. George W. Bush by a wide margin
    2. James Buchanan
    3. Warren G. Harding
    4. Ulysses S. Grant
    5. Jimmy Carter

    October 10, 2007 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  18. Danny Casolaro Martinsburg, WV

    And another thing, you good little drooling mindless fascist drones–

    The United States created the situation in Iran from scratch when in '53 the CIA overthrew Mossadegh, a democratically elected president, because he was not friendly to Western oil companies. The Shah was a CIA puppet (a brutal despot and murderous thug who hated democracy, just as much as you do, Jon from Sacramento and Thomas from St. Petersburg).

    Now I wouldn't expect any of you to know your history, unless of course it came to you in the form of a comic book distributed in a Happy Meal, Walmart weekly coupon paper, or NASCAR racing form.

    October 10, 2007 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  19. oenophilus

    To the ill-informed right:

    The Iranian Revolution only released hostages after the Reagan campaign promised to give them lots and lots of money to hold the hostages until after the election. Remember Iran-Contra???

    October 10, 2007 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  20. Mark, Oklahoma City Oklahoma

    I'm sorry, but I don't really care if it's called torture or something else. President Bush is doing what has to be done to protect our country from those that wish to destroy it.

    As far as the Geneva Convention is concerned, I think Carter would have a better leg to stand on if the terrorists followed the Geneva Convention. However, I really haven't seen anything in the news where they abide by it (please respond if there is unilateral proof).

    As far as Carter is concerned, I wonder if he has attempted to meet with Osama Bin Laden.

    October 10, 2007 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  21. Jorge Martínez Castañeda. Tacámbaro, Michoacán, México.


    October 10, 2007 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  22. john,san antonio, tx

    While I respect Jimmy for what he accomplished while being president, wait Reagan cleaned up his mess known as the Carter admistration. I think hes tired of being known as he worst pres. ever, and he will do and say anything to get the left in an uproar over dubya, so dubya can be known as the worst pres. ever. Not saying that what happens at abu graib is right, but it beats the alternative which is them flying more planes into our buildings or even worse.

    October 10, 2007 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  23. matt, TX

    you have to give Mr. Carter credit for speaking his mind. I agree with every single words he said. I know lot of folks don't think he was not a great president but since he left office, he became the greatest voice for democracy, justice and human right around the world.
    Bravo mr. president, I hope you live a long life and continue doing what are you doing.

    October 10, 2007 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  24. Josh, Atlanta GA

    If Jimmy Carter is so irrelevant, why is it that every time he states the obvious, all the conservative nutjobs come out and launch an ad-hominem attack blaming Carter for the economic disaster started by Nixon's wage-and-price controls and Ford's WIN buttons?

    As president, he was the only person, let alone U.S. President, to bring any peace in the Middle East, he returned the Panama Canal, every single American Hostages came home ALIVE (6 minutes after he left office), he avoided war with Iran, he installed Paul Volker (who Reagan kept) to successfully solve stagflation, he establishing the Department of Energy and Department of Education, he recognizing China, laid out SALT II, unrelentingly cut pork barrel spending, deregulated the airlines, trucking, rail, communications, oil, and finance industries, and even legalized home-brewing.

    Whatcha neocons got left? A speech outlining the dangers of foreign oil addiction? Yeah... he was real off base.

    If only he were a decent president, maybe we'd be in an endless war in the middle east with no end in sight while simultaneously destroying the Constitution to fight an idea.

    October 10, 2007 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  25. Jon, Pittsburgh, PA

    I find it amusing how many Americans know almost nothing of actual American history. So many have written so many inaccuracies regarding the Carter administration. This is due to our media misinforming the public – especially today's right wing talk radio that constantly rewrites history.

    Carter did indeed attempt a military response to the hostage crisis that unfortunately failed. Or he would be viewed today as the "greatest" president of the last 100 years. That being said, Carter negotiated the eventual release, Ronald Reagan had NOTHING to do with it. The Iranians waited for Carter to leave office as a slap to him.

    Gas prices being high were also nothing to do with Mr. Carter. Big Middle East Oil was playing with supply during Nixon's administration and the effects were very long lasting and were a big part of a worldwide recession. It wasn't just America having economic trouble.

    Please get your facts straight. We don't always have to like what happened but, we shouldn't rewrite it to suit our beliefs.

    October 10, 2007 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
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