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. Kevin Schererville, IN

    Someone has to say what all of us know.....Bush tortures. period. He flouts law and tradition whenever it's inconvenient. He's so short-sighted and incompetent. Everyone else in the world knows what he's doing, providing a great recruitment tool for terrorists. Bush is without a doubt the WORST PRESIDENT EVER!!!!

    October 10, 2007 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  2. Daisy Zimmerly

    The Bush Koolaid drinkers that are posting their vitriol here against Jimmy Carter are a nice sample of the 29% dead enders. Totally brainless sheep. All of you together would not even equal Carter's little finger. Everyone else now knows your so-called Conservative world views are total bunk. Your days are numbered right wingers. Just a little more than a year till the GOP will be history. Get your things in order.

    October 10, 2007 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  3. Susan, Los Angeles, CA

    "It took the specter Ronald Reagan to free American hostages in days."

    Reagan made a deal with the Iranians to keep the hostages until after his inauguration. He sold Americans out for his political purposes. Just as he sold all of us out on with his trickle-down, deregulation hi-jinks that left the middle class shafted and the rich ever richer. Reagan, not Carter, is my vote for the worst modern American President – until this one.

    October 10, 2007 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  4. Jeffrey Gougeon, Quebec, Canada

    This seems very typical of the republican style of attack. 'It must not be true that George Bush tortures because Jimmy Carter was one of the worst presidents ever', or 'Global warming does not exist because Al Gore is a democrat' How do these responses make any sense, if Superman said that America tortures than it's true?

    October 10, 2007 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  5. DJ Monet, Washington, DC

    What's a real bummer for me is reading all of these comments from my fellow Americans that are basically supporting torture and the Bush adminstration. It's you people that have degraged Democracy and destroyed true Freedom. The Taliban would be proud!

    October 10, 2007 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  6. Eieio, St. Louis, MO

    Job Opening: President of United States. Must be able to lie without moving lips and pray at the same time. Must have your own Condie look-a-like to look for WMD (can't find em anywhere). Also, no Dick Cheney halloween masks permitted at job interview (scares the little ones)! No knowledge or lack thereof a plus. Those with history of torture will be preferred. Ignore little kids without health insurance in the lobby. Bring your NRA card for free parking. Job posting limited to the remaining life of the country.

    October 10, 2007 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  7. Sam, Boston, MA

    All those bashing Jimmy Carter use the same tired Republican tactics: When you cannot refute the facts, you attack the messenger.
    To all those right wing nuts, think (if you are capable) about (1) If it's ok to torture to get info, why not admit it? Why the charade that Bush plays? (2) In little over a year, who will be the worst ex-president? hint: it starts with B...

    October 10, 2007 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  8. Sam, Philadelphia, PA

    Um, what happened to my 6:56pm post? It was up, now it's gone. Nothing offensive or inappropriate in it. I'm guessing that my only sin (and many others', too, I'm sure) was being too "liberal" (or, as most people around the world would see it: too rational). I'm guessing my post and many, many others were pulled to make room for what I assume to be the fewer in number conservative posts. I can't get one mildly worded liberal post up, but irrational hate-spewers like Riggs, Ryan Indiannapolis and RightyTighty can post multiple times? The fix is in.

    Why? Because, as usual, CNN is mistaking quantitative "balance" with objectivity. I would bet the pro-Carter/anti-Bush comments probably outnumber the senseless Carter bashers by about 5-to-1, but CNN is so obsessed with trying to prove that it's not "liberal," its editors feel compelled to manufacture the appearance of an even 50-50 debate. It's bad enough that this distortion prevents the network from doing any in-depth reporting on the Bush Administration (can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear - there would be no way of shirking the "liberal" label if they were tell it like it is with this president); I didn't realize they go so far as to censor their blogs, too, to further their self-serving commercial agenda. If I'm right about this, it's just another example of how spineless "news" outlets like CNN have made meaningful public debate virtually impossible anymore in this country. Everyone is led to believe that there is no such thing as right and wrong - just differences of opinion, and we're all perfectly and equally entitled to be portrayed as half-right. It's ironic: no one benefits more from "political correctness run amok" in this country today than the right wing, because it's politically incorrect to say, show or do anything that would leave a viewer or reader with the impression that there really is a right and a worng on a given issue. God forbid CNN lets its blog reflect an overwhelming support for one ideological position over another, regardless of such trivialities as facts, reason or (as I suspect is the case here) the true proportion of readers' views on the subject.

    If I'm wrong about why my pro-Carter/anti-Bush(anti-torture) post came down, I'd like to know the real reason. It contained no profanity or even harsh, crass, personal insults (all of which are rampant here, especially among the repetitive conservative post-ers).

    Can't wait to have this post come down too (Actually, I doubt this one will even get posted in the first place).

    October 10, 2007 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  9. Tom, Austin TX

    Jimmy has been my hero for 30 years. Honest, decent and upright. Just the sort of person republican weasels love to attack. The more morally repugnant their failed position gets the more they work to blame others. Thanks for always speaking up for what's right Jimmy!

    October 10, 2007 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  10. Sam, Philadelphia, PA

    Thank you, CNN! At least for now, my 6:56 post is back up! Maybe there's hope yet.

    October 10, 2007 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  11. Tony, Enterprise, Alabama

    Former President Carter is under-appreciated for his years as President.

    However, his contributions to the common good since he left office, and his genuine humanitarianism is beyond question. He is a true elder statesman and should be applauded for his recent remarks concerning the conduct of this adminstration. The ongoing torture being conducted with the consent and support of President Bush and Vice-President Cheney is criminal and deplorable.

    I only disagree with Presidnet Carter on one point; he says that he isn't sure President Bush and the Vice-President should be prosecuted. I am sure they should be tried and convicted.

    They have damaged this country and the Contitution so much the Republic may never recover.

    October 10, 2007 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  12. spinstopper

    "I don't think it. I know it, certainly."

    Same Dan Rather moment.., different elitist. Any documents on that Jimmy?

    October 10, 2007 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  13. KD, Dallas, TX

    I would have to agree that Carter may not have been the best president, however, he is a very good humanitarian and an all around good person. His legacy will always be remembered as one who stands for peace.

    I have to agree that Bush is the worst thing that ever happened to our country. It will take many, many years to get back what we once had, if we ever can get it back. I am completely opposed to how Bush has run this country; from imprisoning people without allowing them the benefit of knowing their accusation or not allowing them any kind of attorney privilege, to his complete ignorance of the Geneva Convention. I find that very appalling; psychologists all agree that inhumane punishment does not get results. People will tell you anything you want to hear when fearing for their life. Bush lied to get us into war, his manipulation of the truth, his stomping all over our constitutional rights in the name of fear, his illegal war in Iraq and now preparing us for war in Iran. Will Bush ever quit taking our country down?

    All of us have the right to freedom of speech and should question our leaders when they appear to be doing things wrong. Where does it say that we cannot question? Do you realize that Hitler's soldiers feared so much for their lives that they never questioned either? Is that really what we want? Or do we want the ability to know or try to know what is going on in our government? Bush has created a very secretive government, much has been classified, so much executive privilege. He is a very scary person and I have such a strong feeling that we will go to war in Iran before the next election; which will complete his neocon ideology. Our country is just not the same as what I remember it to be while growing up. We have allowed the terrorists and Bush to shape us into something that many do not respect worldwide.

    Jimmy Carter, I will always respect your thoughts. I share many of them. It's too bad some on here cannot see what damage this administration has done.

    October 10, 2007 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  14. John Smith

    Don't get too excited over the memory of Ronald Reagan "freeing" the hostages in Iran. The fact of the matter is, and few know this, that Regan paid ransom money in gold bullion to Iran. Yes, pure gold bars, transshipped through Lakenheath Air Base, England, to Iran, a few days after he took office. A good friend of mine was the security guard on duty at Lakenheath at the time and all there knew of its purpose. Didn’t anyone wonder at the time why (and how) we got the hostages back so quickly and easily?

    October 10, 2007 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  15. Paul, Seattle, WA

    an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind -Ghandi

    October 10, 2007 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  16. brian,atlanta,ga

    I guess we can count old Jimmy in the 20% of Democrats who think the world would be better off if America loses the Iraq war. Jimmy should just go away.

    October 10, 2007 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  17. Matt, Glendale, CA

    God bless you Jimmy Carter – seriously. This is courageous to stand up and call foul where foul runs up & down our criminal corrupt administration. Yes we – the people – deserve better than the jerks up-top.

    My big question to the democrats in congrress: What is it gonna take for you to do your job? If carter from outside the administration has to call out what has been more obvious than daylight, what the heck are you empty suits doing for the salaries you're earning????

    Hearings. Yup. subpoena the big and small of the cowboys running amock with our constitution. Let's fix this darn foreign policy failing to live up to our constitution once and for all.


    October 10, 2007 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  18. Kane Fernau Nashville Tn.

    It's torture watching our people wage war against our country, our lifestyle, our president, our pocketbook,our freedom, You can't eat this, you can't smoke that,you can't say that. I want freedom from idiots trying to run our lives and sell us out to our enemies

    October 10, 2007 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  19. kay, NYC

    How about we STOP focusing on how good/bad Jimmy Carter was a president and focus on what he said in the interview? How about we start focusing on how horrible of a president George W. Bush in the history of the US? How about we focus on the state of the country under George W. Bush and his administration's leadership? Let's not kid ourselves folks. We are too far up the creek to keep playing into these bipartisan polictics. Let's start admitting what's wrong and instead of placing blame, start taking some action. This country can not thrive on the type of leadership we've seen since 2000 (republican or not)!! I am frankly sick of people trying to defend the actions of this current administration. It's hard to believe that people can be so naive as to actually believe that there was no torture or that we are fighting the good fight in Iraq.

    October 10, 2007 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  20. Joe, Medford, OR

    I wish someone would torture Jimmy Carter and make him go away. What an a-hole….
    Posted By Bob, Des Moines, Iowa : October 10, 2007 2:35 pm

    And Jimmy Carter would do all he could to spare you from the same fate. Not that I would want him to, a-hole.

    October 10, 2007 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  21. alley

    It seems to me that not one person in this room remembers how it was the Republicans that made a deal with Iran to hold our people captive until after the election. They either seem to believe amyth and choose to forget about Iran-contra, Ollie North,Regan(The one who coined"I can't Remember")
    Oh those crazy toe tapping Republican.

    October 10, 2007 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  22. Dave R. Los Angeles, CA

    Everyone seems to forget that the hostages in Iran were not freed because the Reagan political campaign BRIBED THE IRANIAN GOVERNMENT WITH ARMS BOUGHT WITH DRUG MONEY. My God people, did the Iran-Contra hearings mean nothing to you? Have you forgotten the recession of 1982-84? Do you not understand that the "Reagan Recovery" was PURCHASED by the largest increase of government debt in history (to that date, Bush II has made it even worse?)

    James Carter was the one of the only Presidents to actually behave according to his Christian beliefs. For that the "Christian Right" will never forgive him.

    October 10, 2007 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  23. Irene, Clearwater, FL

    Remember when being from the USA meant you were one of the 'good guys'?

    I do.


    October 10, 2007 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  24. MIke, NY, NY

    It's amazing how these right wing nitwits continue to buy into the myth of "Bush is protecting us from terrorists", or should I say "terrists". They are truly hopeless when their need for a daddy figure "who will take them by the hand and lead them to safety" is so desperate that they put their faith in a couple of draft dodging sociopaths like Bush and Cheney.
    Wake up! They torture people not because they are terrorists. They torture them because they like to. In fact if they had evidence they were terrorists they wouldn't be so afraid to actually bring charges against them. Hello! Earth to the wingnutosphere.

    October 10, 2007 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  25. numi

    Very nearly the first action of The Criminal Bush was to block the release of his pappie's presidential papers which must be absolutely dripping with evil.

    Like father, like son. I despise these festering meatsacks.

    October 10, 2007 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
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