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. S. Wright

    "Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force." – Jimmy Carter, President of the United States, January 23, 1980

    Directed at the Soviet, to be sure, but then again, Carter was snuggling up to them as he had snuggled up to Arafat.

    Too bad Jimmy Carter didn't consider the revolution sponsored by Khomeini as being an "outside force" as the Ayatollah led this event not from a Muslim country, but from France.

    A man without a country...hmmmm, sounds familiar doesn't it?

    Carter, as a President, was a disaster. He brought stagflation to this country; made the energy crisis worse with wage and price controls; and, was hated so much by his own party that Ted Kennedy ran against him in the 1980 Democrat primary.

    Imagine that: you have to be a real loser to have Ted Kennedy think you suck.

    October 10, 2007 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  2. Rock, Orlando, FL

    If there is a Hell then George W. Bush is DOOMED!

    October 10, 2007 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  3. richard T

    I fuly agree with President Carter and his moral conviction and his clear analysis. The comments from the Bushies are amusing and pathetic at the same time. No one seems to deny that Bush condones torture. They attack Carter and with flawed historical perspective, they attempt to discount his presidency.

    October 10, 2007 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  4. Ben St. Louis MO

    Carter or not, this is an interesting topic. What is officially torture? Sitting them in a cold room for an extended period of time, simulated drowning, sitting them in front of HSN for 24 hours straight? It's not something that is easily defined, therefore it can be denied or substantiated depending on what you use to interrogate a person. Personally, if the interrogator was playing with their gum with their fingers or had bad breath, that is torture to me...

    All kidding aside, when it comes to imminent threats to this nation or those that protect it, I support using more aggressive techniques. Now define that... again it's really a tough definition to come to, but you have to do something. I think you have to pick somewhere between 2 extremes, Carter, who did nothing, or someone like Saddam who did everything. It's choosing the lesser of two evils, which is going to be a very unpopular choice.

    October 10, 2007 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |


    October 10, 2007 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  6. James- Kansas City, MO

    Bob From Seattle- if there is a Republican president you are more likely to be taken hostage- due to the increased terrorism around the world caused by- dare I say it – another Republican goof. I dont know if you recall how this all took place, but Carter tried to rescue the hostages-not give the bad guys guns, birthday cakes and other non-sense, like that gunslingin' tough guy Ronnie Baby. If it would not have been for the sand storm, things would have turned out differently. But, it is better to change the facts, change history, and believe that the nuclear engineer, etc Carter just couldn't stand up to the brilliance of the, well, actor. Oh yeah, I forgot, Ronnie won the cold war too. Way to go! Keep loving Ronnie, though, kiss his picture before you go to bed. Out

    October 10, 2007 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  7. Zion

    It saddens me that al queda has succeeded in their mission. A divided US, a military quagmire in the wrong region, a fading constitution, and most importantly a prevailing climate of fear. We have traded our humanity for "security". Torture is used by cowards, and we know this admin. is rife with them. The GOP trades on your fear, you dolts. Wake up. Who is this America? We do not belong to AIPAC and the PNAC.

    October 10, 2007 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  8. Sam, Philadelphia, PA

    Two things: First, Carter is saying what we all already know. I doubt there is anyone, Dem or Republican, who genuinely - and that's the key: GENUINELY - believes that the Bush Administration, and GWB personally, are against torture. So anyone who is taking issue with this comment by Carter is just out to shoot the messenger, plain and simple.

    Second, to those who posted about what a bad president Carter was: You have got to be joking! GWB is out to crush nearly every record Carter ever held in the "bad president" scorecard, and will certainly establish many, many new low points all his own, like most unethical, most dishonest (yes, way more so than Clinton), most fiscally irresponsible, most destructive to our military, most beholden to foreign interests (Bush bows lower to the Saudis than any Dem ever has before the UN), most catastrophic foreign policy, most contemptuous and alienting toward our allies - the list goes on and on and on. One more important one: I don't think any president has ever generated such a long and distinguished line of "insider" converts, anxious to tell the world that it's worse than we can even imagine. By the time 27 yrs go by after GWB leaves office and the rest of this administration's dirty laundry comes out, I can't imagine he'll be taken seriously enough to be invited on serious, mainstream talk shows like this.

    October 10, 2007 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  9. Joe

    To: Thomas, St. Petersburg, FL : October 10, 2007 2:01 pm

    Wow, impressive! You only have 5 or 6 points against Carter. You really want to know who the WORSE President of ALL TIME is? Check the list there: http://www.netrootsmass.net/Hugh/Bush_list.html

    the list is up to 256 Bush scandals. Nobody can be worse than Bush.

    October 10, 2007 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  10. D. Endo, Honolulu HI

    G.W. Bush is nothing short of an arrogant war criminal! He and his cronies, Cheney, Rummie, Gonzo and Condi should all be on trial as they are equally guilty of the lies, high crimes and misdemeanors!

    October 10, 2007 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  11. Greg Grice, St Petersburg, Florida

    Bottom Line – zero terrorist attacks since 9/11. If it comes down to a choice between having a President that will do whatever it takes to keep us safe versus trying to get the rest of the world to think we're nice, the American people will vote overwhelmingly for security. All you need to know about Carter's lack of intellegence is that he thinks that Hugo Chavez is a fairly elected great statesman. Any day now we can expect to see him in Iran berating the US for not being as progressive and humanitarian as that Iranian Hitler. This man has nothing on Neville Chamberlain when it comes to discerning good versus evil.

    October 10, 2007 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  12. wash, DC

    Who to believe? The answer is pretty clear, bush is a liar, cheat and incompetent, Carter is an honorable man.

    I believe Carter!!!

    October 10, 2007 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  13. Red-guy-in-a-blue-state, Seattle, WA

    RE: Laurinda,NY

    Ryan in Indianapolis is right. You shouldn't defend Jimmy Carter without having some knowledge of his presidency. In a nutshell, Jimmy Carter oversaw one of the worst economies in recent history (mortgage rates were in the teens)and one of the biggest foreign policy disasters (Iranian Hostage Crisis). He was so bad, that while still president and seeking re-election, he was actually challenged for the Democratic nomination by members of his own party.

    You are right on one point. His brother was a drunk.

    October 10, 2007 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  14. Benny, Washington, DC

    Allow me to put a liberal spin on Jimmy Carter's judgement call that head slapoping and frigid temperatures contitute 'torture'.

    "Think about the children. If torturing a suspect prevents the death of one child, then it was worth it."

    Let's try another angle, Our 'torture' vs. 'global torture'. Us: Head slapping. Them: gouging out an eye. Us: Cold Temperatures. Them: Sodomizing and Raping. Us: Waterboarding. Them: Cutting off fingers. Us: Sleep Deprivation. Them: Breaking limbs. Us: Killing time with long interrogations. Them: Killing family members before the victims eyes.

    Oh. We are such a bad country. Gitmo detainees get better treatment (health and food) than does the average homeless in this country. Yeah – we're the worst torturers in the world.

    Jimmy Carter is a fool and a useful tool of our enemies. Being president doesn't make you smart (and I've gathered that thought by reading all of the anti-Bush rants here) – but it does make you influential – even if you are a fool. We need to understand that differnce when Carter opens his trap.

    October 10, 2007 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  15. Michael, Chicago IL

    "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."

    Posted By Thomas, St. Petersburg, FL : October 10, 2007 2:01 pm

    Thomas, your whole post completely sidesteps the issue. Carter is saying that Bush has violated fundamental American and human rights principles by authorizing torture and holding prisoners without charge.

    In making these criticisms, Carter is absolutely correct. But the criticisms you make of _Carter_ do not in any way defend _Bush _ or excuse the anti-American, anti-Christian character of Bush's actions.

    October 10, 2007 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  16. Mark, Georgetown, Texas

    Carter is absolutely right. Bush is not only the worst president in U.S. history but he has become obscene and has shamed this nation by making it a torture state.
    He should be impeached for that alone.

    The Republican Party has supported Bush, his lies, his tortures and his slaughter of American soldiers and Iraqi citizens. We MUST vote them out.

    October 10, 2007 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  17. james, seymour,tn

    attacking carter just proves your inability to focus on the issue. Bush and his cronies use TORTURE! america and everything positive about it has been ruined by a president with no morals or ethics. shameful. and sure, i could attack you carter-haters for being idiots, but that's not the issue here.

    October 10, 2007 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  18. Jim shires, Portland, OR

    Well, of course, President Carter didn't really do a great job of President. That's my opinion. However,That being said, he was a much greater Presiden then Bush is today. Not only that, he is also a great American, which Bush is not. And I'm no longer a Republican because of just that.

    October 10, 2007 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |

    Jimmy Carter is a brilliant humanitarian. He has more world knowledge in his little toe than Chimpy Bush will EVER aquire. He is a real American patriot. Those who disagree with his views have the right to but they do not have th right to trash this man. He's always been truthful, honest and noble in his hope for this country. Try even thinking that about George W. Bush and your head will EXPLODE! The man and his buddies are a bunch of THUGS AND LIARS who should be dragged from the Whitehouse in chains.

    October 10, 2007 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  20. Tony Hammock, Atlanta, GA

    Thank you for speaking the truth, President Carter.

    The Bush administration is, without a doubt, the worst one the U.S. has ever had to endure.

    Our unelected leader, Mr. Bush, behaves as if he were an emperor, unaccountable to anyone. His administration has violated numerous international laws and most of the U.S. Bill of Rights. Indeed, even eight hundred years of habeas corpus rights are trashed during his time in office.

    Our nation's largest budget surplus in history has been plundered; we now have the nation's largest debt ever, with Bush at the helm.

    And he apparently misled the American people into an unnecessary, illegal and immoral war, which has killed over a million Iraqis (mostly women and children) and almost 4000 Americans to date (with no end in sight).

    Many of the cherished ideals that America once stood for (equality, charity, democracy, truth, justice, etc.) have been tossed aside like some quaint, old-fashioned, irrelevant notions.

    Mr. Carter had his share of problems to deal with during his presidency, of course, as do all presidents. But at least he can say he dealt with them with intelligence and integrity.

    And at least he didn't trash our American ideals (the Constitution, etc.) and our world standing as a leader in democracy while doing so.

    We can't defeat terrorism by becoming terrorists ourselves. But sadly, under Bush's revised definitions and rules (or lack thereof), that is exactly what we have become.

    October 10, 2007 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |

    President Carter is not anti-semetic. He has been steeped in the Israel/Palestine conflict for years. He has a better grasp of whats really going on than most candidates (Rep and Dem) running. It's time the United States stopped drinking the "I'm such a victim" Israeli koo-aid and started dealing with our own problems. Israle and Palestine must come to grips with the reality of sharing (equally) a piece of real estate and stop making the world miserable because of ancient text. It's beyond ridiculous!

    Posted By TJFRMLA : October 10, 2007 7:12 pm

    October 10, 2007 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  22. Stephen Seagram, Los Angeles, CA

    I had to double check the date on comments here that claim Jimmy Carter was the worst president in history.

    Yep, they said "October 10 2007"! Where have they been? No president has ever sent *everything*, comprehensively, into a tailspin since the previous presidency faster than G.W. Bush. In fact, no president has ever come close to such stunning reversal. I supposed it helped that Republicans have been in control of all 3 branches of government through this period.

    Carter is objective, moral, honest, and intelligent–and passionate about it all. A combination Republicans cannot stand.

    Anyone can make things appear like they're going great on a credit card like Reagan did. Tax cuts for the rich and record deficits have been his legacy ever since.

    October 10, 2007 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  23. Pam Los Angeles, CA

    IMPEACH BUSH/CHENEY before they completely destroy us.

    October 10, 2007 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  24. Drew, Oakland, CA

    The saddest part of this discussion is the fact that detractors of Mr. Carter's statements can only seem to respond through defamation and/or fabrication.
    One comparison that keeps coming up is bringing up the 444 Days in Tehran where hundreds of students and embassy staffers were held hostage, and his (controversially) 'inept' handling of the situation. To contrast: Bush II has laid waste to two countries (Afghanistan and Iraq) creating massive rates of civilian deaths and a global humanitarian crisis, held our armed forces hostage by sending them into a fabricated conflict with no clear goals and no definition of "victory", and held the citizens at home in our own Great Nation hostage since 2003 because anyone voicing concerns about the war plans was automatically a traitor and "un-American".
    Carter was not one of the best presidents. That's nothing new. But while he had his serious fumbles in foreign policy, at least he didn't dismantle the Constitution and the system of governmental self-regulation known as 'checks and balances', choose to manufacture two major wars (one on fabricated pretenses), disenfranchise citizens of color, widen the vast gap between the earnings of the super-rich and the rest of us wage-earners, AND approve of torture. And that's just for starters!
    Regarding the question of whether "enemy combatants" can be tortured... There are two legitimate channels for dealing with physical threats to our country. Military, and law enforcement. Both approaches require commitment to human rights, especially Habeus Corpus. So – if a captured fighter is not "worthy" of being designated as a prisoner of war, they should be treated within the framework of the police and criminal justice system. There is no exemption from upholding moral standards.
    In my mind, those suggesting that torture is fine-and-dandy, an-eye-for an-eye and all that, are as unAmerican as they usually claim others to be. It is these torture-apologists, the New American Fascists, who are subverting the American Way of Justice For All and the Rule Of Law.

    October 10, 2007 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  25. Steve Modesto California

    Say what you want about Carter and his presidency, but if we had listened to him and put on a sweater, turned down our thermostats, started conserving energy, and moved forward with his alternative energy initiatives (undone by Reagan), maybe we wouldn't be in this mess in the Middle East and be 30 years further in weaning ourselves off of oil. Just a thought.

    October 10, 2007 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
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