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. 

Full story

Click here to see CNN's new political portal: CNNPolitics.com

- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney

soundoff (279 Responses)
  1. Carl, Dallas, TEXAS

    Nice to know Jimmy Carter doesn't understand history. Ask a Native American about the torture of their anscestors during the 1800s and into the 20th century... oh wait they don't count because it's not against the Republican Party.


    October 10, 2007 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  2. Max, Boston, MA

    Carter is to presidency what Round Table is to pizza. He was the last honest one.

    October 10, 2007 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  3. Jean

    It is sad that Mr. Carter, one of the worst Presidents to ever grace the White House, has stooped so low in an effort to redeem his record as President. Mr. Carter is perhaps more dangerous now then he was as President.

    October 10, 2007 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  4. Roberta, Sarasota FL

    Clearly Mr. Carter's days of globe-trotting around the world as America's ambassador are over. He's not a person to send anywhere anymore, except maybe back home. I think Jimmy Carter was one of the few American presidents who genuinely and truly had not enough qualifications to belong in the White House.

    October 10, 2007 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  5. Matt, Canoga Park CA

    How is it that most people do not see a direct and obvious connection between Carter's failures of office and lack of leadership during his administration and the first Gulf War (Iran vs Iraq), The second Gulf War, and the current War on Terrorism.

    These regimes grew from his inactions. The whole world faces a greater threat from his inaction back then.

    Bribing a rich country like Iran or Iraq will not work like the way Carter bribed Israel and Egypt.

    Know your history people. Islamic nations did not truely start hateing us till Carter decided to give Israel 3 billion per year. The US was looked at as neutral till he took a side. Now we are forced to go hand in hand with them.

    Maybe if we started giving Palistine 3 billion a year as well and helped their government we could go back to a live and let live policy.

    But if we did that the US would be called Anti Semetic in almost every paper and news program. Even if Palistinians and Muslims are Semites as well.

    October 10, 2007 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  6. J.Crobuzon

    Ryan, good grief, are you thirteen? Show some class.
    Tom Jones, your dad used to Abu Ghraib you? How long did you hold out? Were your core beliefs changed? Did your mom divorce him? What strange lives some of these commenters must live.

    He's right, of course, if it quacks it's a duck. Tom Jones underwent simulated drowning at his father's hands, and says although it's not torture it will make a prisoner reveal secrets. Mike Smith says Osama has cable in a cave and that America is demoralized, well, gee whiz, Mike, demoralized implies your morals are gone. Are we losing our morals? Jon, like several others, just comes out and says we should use torture.

    Here's my problem: if you torture, you are a torturer. I notice no one has mentioned having religious scruples. Should we take these prisoners and nail them to a cross? Will you hammer in the nails?
    And quickly, Iran told us for months that the kidnappers were 'student fanatics' and not the Iranian government. You don't 'carpet-bomb' people while they're negotiating. Our military actions since WWII have ALL been designed to bring our enemies to the bargaining table; that's how we roll.

    October 10, 2007 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  7. Bradley Schaubs, Greeley, CO

    Bush: "the US does not torture people." That is lie number...I've lost track, he's told so many lies already! Carter is right to say it, because it's true. Like it or not, we torture innocent people just so Bush can have his way (as usual).

    However, I think Carter was wrong to attack Obama's stance on ending affairs in Iraq. To be realistic, we cannot end the war in less than four years without taking everything the soldiers fought for and throwing it to waste. I do, however, want this nightmare to end.

    Obama '08

    October 10, 2007 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  8. Dan, Boulder, CO

    This Republican war on terror is really a war on human rights. They spin and lie about torture, extraordinary rendition, war crimes, and warrant-less wiretapping.
    Jimmy Carter is just stating what is already well documented. Abu Graib. Haditha. Guantanamo. Torture-by-proxy.
    This is not controversial opinion, this is documented fact.

    October 10, 2007 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  9. Thomas, Nashville TN

    It's obvious that Jimmy Carter was not a good president. However, this fact is completely, entirely, 100% irrelevant with what he is saying.

    The White House's official position is that we don't torture people. The reality is that we do indeed torture people. Jimmy Carter made a turn from a bad President to a great humanitarian. Why can't you people see he is trying to make the world a better place for ALL people? Denouncing torture in the world is not in any way, shape, or form sympathizing with our enemies.

    October 10, 2007 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  10. Bob, Oakland, CA

    Mr. Carter there is a reason why they say war is hell.

    It is also sad to say but torture is a necessary part of fighting against individuals who have no qualms with strapping bombs to themselves and killing countless innocent bystanders just so they can kill a few of their enemies. Always taking the morale high ground may win you friends but it won't always win you wars.

    October 10, 2007 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  11. Rob, San Diego CA

    RE: Ryan, Indianapolis

    Correction: BUSH is the WORST PRESIDENT in American History.

    October 10, 2007 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  12. Patrick, New York, NY

    Go Jimmy Carter!!! TRUTH TO POWER!!

    October 10, 2007 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  13. DJ, Portland, OR

    Yeah, about all that "Worst President" stuff- the economic train wreck of the mid-70s was courtesy of the Nixon/Ford administrations. As for the US Hostages in Iran in 79/80- they would have been home 3 months earlier if Bush 1 hadn't negotiated with the Iranians to keep them until after the election, in exchange for US weapons delivered via Israel. I really think Carter did as much as any honest president could, given the mess created by the criminal who preceded him, and the campaign tactics of the criminals who followed him. As for the worst president in history, I'm afraid that award goes to the guy whose name is on your back bumper.

    October 10, 2007 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  14. Tricia M Charlottetown PEI

    The audacity of commenters on this Blog to trash Past Preident Jimmy Carter, winner of a Nobel Peace Prize and in the same breath, praise President George W. Bush !!!!

    A President who initiated a War based on a mere unsubstantiated premise. Who forced not only America but every member of the United Nations to support his mis-guided mission. A President whose actions has led to the deaths of millions of Iraqui citizens, American and Nato Military members. And who many feel is now energetically seeking another reason to attack Iran!
    A President who has put America in the greatest economic slump of all time! A President who has taken America's Worldly image to an all time low.

    You Bush supporters sure have a strange way of evaluating what makes a Great President!

    Only in America!

    October 10, 2007 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  15. r sisk, nevada

    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.

    Ryan. I have never heard class and George W. Bush in the same sentence. That's a good one. LOL.

    I consider a Nobel Peace Prize winner the ultimate class act. You are part of a dangerous minority with your obvious affection towards this current President. You may want to read a bit about Fascism.

    Perhaps you could enlighten us with why you think so highly about George W. Can you name ONE good thing he's done for our country? Do you feel like we're headed in the right direction? Are you part of the 5% that benefits from huge tax relief and benefits? If so, that would explain a lot.

    October 10, 2007 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  16. Cindy, Kissimmee, Florida

    Go Carter! Tell it like it is.

    Torture is unpatriotic for ANY reason!

    October 10, 2007 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  17. B-man

    To all the right-wing wing-nuts who are making themselves look stupid on this post: Deal with the issue!

    The US tortures people.

    You can be proud of the USA for doing it if you want, but don't put your head in the sand and pretend that we're not doing it. We are torturing people. Jimmy Carter knows it, Jimmy Carter says it. Republican idiots attack Jimmy Carter for saying it.

    Remember also: whatever we do to our enemies, our enemies will do to us, and we won't have a moral ground to stand on if we object when our soldiers are being tortured.

    October 10, 2007 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  18. Robert in Virginia Beach VA

    Jimmy who...? We really don't care what Jimmy Carter thinks or does... he's proven over and over that he's out of touch with America... and that's why he was the modern era's worst President.

    October 10, 2007 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  19. Larry, Columbus, Ohio

    Here's a scenario for you:

    We have in our custody someone who DOES in fact have knowledge of an atomic device that we believe is set to go off in a major American city within 48 hours. Millions of people will likely die (including potentially you). We don't know the city but we do know that it's planted. He won't tell us. What do you do?

    While you might think this is unrealistic, I challenge you for a response in any case...because it COULD happen. Are you saying in that case you still would object to the techniques mentioned? I'm genuinely curious (and of course hope it never gets to that) but I still challenge you for an answer!

    October 10, 2007 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  20. Mac, Severn, Md

    Jimmy Carter is absolutely irrelevant. He never had a clue about how to conduct foreign affairs, and still doesn't. He was a doormat for the rest of the world.

    October 10, 2007 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  21. Dennis Watts, Anaheim, CA.

    President Carter is the only living President who can voice disgust with the current administration. Ford is in no condition, Bush, Sr. certainly isn't & Clinton isn't going to step on his wife's political toes. None of what Carter said is 'news'! Also, Carter's presidency is not what is at issue. I also wish the democrats would be more vocal about their opposition to the Iraq situation.

    October 10, 2007 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  22. Lynn, Hilo, Hawaii

    re: Bob in Seattle
    The CIA made sure that the hostages were kept until after Carter left office. Read Woodward's book Behind the Veil

    October 10, 2007 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  23. Atticus, Pittsburgh, PA

    Wow. Some fairly bad historians here. Carter tried mightily to get the hostages released; he even sent the SEALS in for a daring prison break. Bad weather caused a collision, American fatalities, and the mission was aborted inside Iran, but the point is, he tried. Only Nixon and Carter have had the cajones to try an in-country commando raid to rescue American hostages and both failed, tragically. But they tried, to their credit.

    Iran released the hostages one minute after Reagan took the oath of office. There was no fear of Reagan, only a childish desire to humiliate Carter. The unanswered question is whether Reagon negotiated with Iran before the oath of office for the timing of their release. It is curious that Iran is the country to which Reagan illegally sold missiles to get money for the Contras. It was the Iran-Contra scandal, after all. P.S. Reagan was no John Wayne either. He put 300 Marines in harm's way in Beirut, with orders to not load their weapons, so the truck bomber had no problem driving his truck bomb past the sentry into the barracks. After 100+ Marines died, unarmed and unable to protect themselves, Reagan "cut and ran". Hmmm. He doesn't sound so impressive now.

    Point is, the middle east is a difficult quagmire for any American President, Carter, Bush, Reagan, Clinton. Anyone. Any party. Any political philosophy.

    Carter has been a much better ex-President. He deserves to be listened to, not insulted by those too ignorant of history to know of what they speak.

    October 10, 2007 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  24. Ben, Joplin, MO.

    Bill of Stanford,
    You are the most brilliant of men!
    No words in ever written have ever summed up the meaning and being of a RePigliscum!

    "The reason why you(Republicans) are angry is because of your own self contempt. Feast on it, suck it all in.


    That's why the live their lives in closets and bathroom stalls.

    October 10, 2007 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  25. Anna Bradley, Rochester, NEW York

    Great, the guy who declared "Turn on your headlights for William Calley Day" as Governor of Georgia is getting all, like,
    judgmental about George Bush.

    I can't believe anybody cares what this guy says, does, or thinks.

    I can't even believe I voted for him, not once, but twice.

    What the hell was I thinking???

    Oh yeah, he was the lesser of two evils
    back in the day...

    That excuses me, but what excuses him?

    October 10, 2007 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12