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. Evelyn Los Angeles, CA

    So Jimmy Carter was a bad president because 53 Americans were held hostage for 18 months and then returned home alive? How does that compare to this current president, on whose watch 3,000 Americans were killed in our largest city and our capital, and an entire city was destroyed? Hmmmm....

    October 10, 2007 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  2. Brix, Boston MA

    Carter speaks the simple truth.

    The only part that's sad is that these truths have to be said.

    October 10, 2007 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  3. SeriousBlack, Denver, CO

    Hey Bob in Seattle, WA - What does your ENTIRE post have to do with the topic at hand? Answer: NOTHING.

    October 10, 2007 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  4. DAB, Seattle, WA

    The truly chilling thing is the number of people who are responding that they support torture and who give justifications for why they think it is okay to torture. It makes me fear that our country is becoming fascist.

    Torture is not acceptable under any circumstances. Aside from the fact that torturing people is immoral and illegal, it has been shown that people who are tortured do not necessarily provide truthful information. If they don't actually know anything, then they will say or agree to anything in order to stop the torture, resulting in wasted time and lost resources following dead-end leads.

    Additionally, people who support torture seem to forget that government agencies in this country had sufficient information about the terrorists that planned 9/11 to have made arrests. That information was gathered using conventional investigation techniques–no torture was used. Europe has also had success uncovering terrorists using conventional techniques.

    October 10, 2007 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  5. Patrick

    Listen to all these right-wingers attack Jimmy Carter, just because he has the nerve to tell the truth. Bush is the first U.S president to trash the Geneva Conventions and authorize the torture of prisoners, and he doesn't even have the guts to take responsibility for what he is doing.

    October 10, 2007 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  6. Raven

    Bob in Seattle:
    The Iran hostage story you describe is the Official story. The facts are that it was engineered so Carter would never see them released on his watch. It's called emasculation. You can thank the CIA for emasuclating Carter so that you version, the Official storey, can still be said to be true

    October 10, 2007 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  7. roz, oshkosh, wi

    Wow...NOW can we start impeachment proceedings???

    October 10, 2007 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  8. Karl, Chicago, IL

    Lol all these people talking about the success or failure of Carter's presidency, like that has any bearing on anything, not to mention what he inherited from Nixon and Ford. You people are about as insightful as Bush, which would explain your knee jerk reaction. In case you forgot or didn't hear it on Limbaugh, Jimmy Carter was a successful businessman and commander of a nuclear submarine. Compare that to your genius who was called by Jesus to be president and couldn't even figure out how to be a cokehead properly ie not while in the cushiest most desirable job in the military during a war, ie a jet fighter pilot stationed in your home state in the National Guard while the unaddicted, unentitled, and otherwise not cowardly are dying by the 10's of 1000's overseas. Sheesh, your time is over republitards. Many of you will have lots of time to kiss W's backside when you're hanging out in hell together.

    October 10, 2007 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  9. enough

    This makes me so very sad. My father fought on the front lines of WWII when the very survival of our nation was threatened but he and his colleagues did not stoop to torture. It breaks my heart that my country has fallen so low.Thanks to President Carter for the truth.

    October 10, 2007 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  10. Terry, El Paso, TX

    Former President Carter has the limited view of human nature that most Liberals had during the 20th century. He believes that human beings are formed in the image of God and that their true inner nature is God-like. He also believes that people only choose to be evil or destructive because their innate God-like nature has been deformed or suppressed by an unfortunate childhood, political oppression, racism, or brutal treatment. He also believes, like a good Liberal, that inside every man and woman is the God-given yearning to be a good human being. Give your enemy understanding, compassion, and support and he will transform himself – gradually – into a decent person.

    What a fool Carter is! His own inner goodness and his deep faith doesn't allow him to realize that much of the human race is mean spirited, selfish, self-centered, and cruel by nature.

    For example, Liberals like Carter never learned that, if you give a poor boy a government grant so he can afford to go to college and then make something of himself, that boy will vote against similar benefits for others as an adult.

    But Carter is too old to learn anything new now. He will probably go on helping the poor, the unfortunate, the young, the female, and the aged until the idiot dies and goes to Heaven. Even there he will probably try to persuade God to let the rest of us into Heaven with him.

    October 10, 2007 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  11. Jason, San Diego, CA

    Bob wrote: "Oh my GOSH……If you just listened to his speeches you would think this Lil man was a member of Al Queda or some terrorist organization. I mean what is he trying to prove. Jimmy Carter knows he is the WORST PRESIDENT in America History and will not give it up. I mean this is the same guy that got pushed around by IRAN making Gas go up to astronomical prices, interest rates for homes were at 19%,the economy was horrible….etc I could go on…..This TRATIOR is out of his mind but more than that he is just giving propaganda to our enemy. Jimmy please either go away or join the forces you really want to…Al Queda"

    Gas prices certainly haven't gone up under 6 years of Bush! We all know that Jimmy Carter secretly controlled OPEC.

    I suppose the Federal Reserve (an independent, private, quasi-government institution) wasn't in charge of interest rates during the Carter administration. It was Carter's fault!

    And Reagan certainly was a true patriot, not a "traitor" like Carter. While Carter was mounting a bold rescue effort to try to rescue our hostages, Reagan and GHW Bush were secretly negotiating (illegal) arms deals with the Iranians . . . on the condition that they not release the hostages until Reagan's inauguration.

    Then they funded and trained Al Qaeda in Afganistan for 8 years.

    Jimmy Carter, worst president in revisionist history. If you believe that, you have been either high or stupid for the last 6 years.

    October 10, 2007 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  12. Susan, NC via LA

    Actually, neither Carter nor Bush43 could be considered the worst American president. That honor would go to James Buchanan, who did nothing about mounting tensions between the North and South and left it to his successor, Abraham Lincoln.

    October 10, 2007 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  13. Dankhank OKC

    Jimmy Carter has a conscience ...
    Dubya has none ...
    Clinton ignored the Islamic menace ... or
    Clinton wagged the dog ... which is it?
    Clinton tried to get Osama ...
    Dubya forgot Osama and hit Iraq ...
    Osama still in AFG/PAK ... now Bush wants to attack Iran ...
    I'm a retired army Officer and am ashamed of what Bush, et al has done to this country.

    October 10, 2007 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  14. Andy, Kennett Square

    Based on the majority of comments, I can only conclude that much of the public really (1) doesn't understand what it is to be an American citizen (i.e. have the right to air legitimate complaints about the power structure)
    (2) condones torture
    (3) doesn't deserve the freedoms inherent in #1

    Actually, I suspect this is a skewed representation: probably, some FOX hate purveyors (O'Really? Shammity?) have issued their legions marching orders to discredit progressive intellectuals (same thing happens to Noam Chomsky, Bill Moyers, Al Gore, etc. any time they opine publicly). Go back to watching Fox "News", please.

    October 10, 2007 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  15. Rocco,Wellington,Fl

    When the truth sinks in about the terrible things the Bush Adminisration
    has done in the name of the war on terror it makes you sick.

    October 10, 2007 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  16. Wayne Doering, Clarendon, TX

    President Carter is 100% correct in stating that the Bush administration bypasses the Laws of the land to create Laws to suit their needs and to hell with anyone that disagrees.
    "W" Bush is the biggest LIAR and the most CORRUPT President this great country has ever had in the White House period.
    So, take that you RADICAL RIGHT WING WAR MONGERS.......

    October 10, 2007 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  17. Doug Wood, North Haven, CT

    Jimmy Carter speaks the truth that is obvious to any thinking person. The ad hominem attacks of the right wing posted in previous comments only serve to validate his analysis. Bringing up the inflation and gas shortages of the 70's is a diversion from actually speaking to the points that Carter makes: the Bush administration has undermined human rights and the Geneva convention that has served us well for over a century and protected the veterans of our previous wars. Talk about supporting our troops! Bush has done just the opposite in the court of world opinion.

    October 10, 2007 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  18. Anne

    There's a huge difference between torture as the prefered method of interrogation of administration-deemed "enemy combatants" and interrogation techniques as employed by seasoned intelligence officials who know how to a.) do it effectively and to our benefit and b.) do it within the parameters of international law. What we have at the sadly diminished "helm" of US leadership is the sad, caved-in, pathetic little voice of a foolish bully from Texas who is too ignorant to do anything but follow his own little inner voice, to our national demise, morally, internationally, and economically. God Bless America and God help us all.

    October 10, 2007 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  19. Doug Wood, North Haven, CT

    Jimmy Carter speaks the truth that is obvious to any thinking person. The ad hominem attacks of the right wing posted in previous comments only serve to validate his analysis. Bringing up the inflation and gas shortages of the 70's is a diversion from actually speaking to the points that Carter makes: the Bush administration has undermined human rights and the Geneva convention that has protected the veterans of our previous wars for over a century. Talk about supporting our troops! Bush has done just the opposite in the court of world opinion.

    October 10, 2007 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  20. erika morgan black dimond wa

    Imagine you are a US captive now caged in Gitmo. you are sleep deprived, have been naked in a freezer for 20 hours, they strap you onto an board tying your hands down. You know nothing, you were in the wrong place and got swept up into US hands, but no one believes you do not know where the arms are stockpiled; they promise you a warm dinner if you just tell them where the depot is but hold you underwater until you can't help beginning to let some water into your lungs; do you hold out or do you just make up a likely place so they stop the torture? You tell the story, you get your dinner and the fools race off to investigate your false info. This is the only result of harsh interrogation, take a lesson from my mother, she asked her 2yearold was the icing sweet? And immediately got a full confession.

    October 10, 2007 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  21. Victor, Atlanta, Georgia

    President Carter has done a great service by adding his voice to all those who are appalled to see an American president reduced to repeated denials of what has become undeniable–that the United States has, and continues, to engage in torture. Shame.

    October 10, 2007 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  22. H. Willard, Keystone Heights, Fla.

    I wasted my vote when I voted for Jimmy Carter as president. He is and idiot; he did not know what he was doing or talking about when he was president, and he does not know what he is doing or talking about even today.

    October 10, 2007 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  23. John, nc

    Jimmy who?

    October 10, 2007 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  24. S. Smith, San Diego, CA

    Frank Boca Raton, FL : October 10, 2007 4:12 pm:
    You are a typical liberal. You tell the Republicans to stop "labeling" people who disagree with them, yet you do the same thing. Sounds like "do as I say, not as I do" to me. Typical. And unless any of you have seen an interrogation, may I suggest you not judge. Don't be fooled by terrorists who are released that claim torture. Try reading the Al Qaida handbook posted all over the internet. That's exactly what they are supposed to do.

    October 10, 2007 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  25. Debi, Philadelphia, Pa

    I believe that Jimmy is right, that we are torturing prisoners. But, he should realize that many in the world think that he is "In the Know" and therefore it is a fact. I think this hurts the American Image even further then Bush has already hurt us. Jimmy needs to keep his gut feelings and opinions out of the media. I realize that he is a gentle soul and things like this make him sick at the core of his being. He has the connections to tell George directly what he thinks, not use the WorldWide Media. And, just for the record, for what they (the terrorists) have done already and what I believe they are capable of, a little head slapping and sleepless nights don't bother me one little bit. For what they do to our citizens I think they are getting off easy. If we went with the "Eye for an Eye" thing, maybe they would think twice.

    October 10, 2007 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
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