News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Sen. McCain is right: U.S. shouldn't engage in torture

U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speaks with moral authority when he says there ought to be a law against the use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" against anyone in the custody of our government.

The Senate is on his side. Twice, senators have endorsed his proposal — first by a 90-9 vote last month and again on a voice vote Friday.

But the Bush administration is fighting it. The White House has threatened to veto a military spending bill if it includes the ban, The Washington Post reported. And The Associated Press said that Vice President Dick Cheney went behind closed doors last week with Republican senators, urging them to allow CIA exemptions to the ban. AP said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, supported the vice president.

If any member of the Senate is an expert on this topic, it is Mr. McCain. He has been a victim: As a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, he was tortured. Mr. McCain says he will not give up. If necessary, he says, he and co-sponsors will seek to add the ban to every important piece of legislation until they prevail.

The White House first tried to kill the anti-torture provision, then began lobbying for an exemption. Mr. Cheney reportedly told senators in the private meeting that this nation doesn't use torture, but the president needs the right to declare an exemption if it's necessary to prevent a terrorist attack.

Frankly, the Bush administration has limited credibility on this issue because of documented prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and allegations of prisoner mistreatment elsewhere, including Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.

If the United States tortures prisoners, it's an invitation to our enemies to torture Americans. Beyond that, we're the people who are supposed to be what President Reagan called a "shining city on a hill" to the rest of the world. Indecent treatment of a human being is beneath us.

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