90 – 9

I’m wiped out but still exhilarated by what just happened in the Senate. The McCain amendment barring cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of military detainees by any American personnel anywhere in the world just passed by 90 votes to 9. I’m somewhat shocked by the margin of victory – but shocked in the best way imaginable. Marty Lederman celebrates here. I am completely convinced that the courage of Ian Fishback contributed to this – as did your support and the support of every patriot eager to restore honor and integrity to the armed services. I write this with tears in my eyes. Dick Cheney and George W. Bush got a mere nine votes to continue their policy of condoning or ignoring abuse and torture – an extraordinary rebuke to their immoral, feckless and inhumane management of the war. Their threatened veto has been blown out of the water in the Senate. We still have the House vote, of course, and the committee process. This is by no means over yet, and we can expect Cheney and Rumsfeld to fight hard to keep their policies in place. But the margin of victory in the Senate is a huge success for John McCain, John Warner, Lindsey Graham, Carl Levin and all those who knew what was at stake here. Captain Fishback’s courage and integrity have helped bring an end to the disgrace and confusion which has so tarred what was and is a noble cause in Iraq and Afghanistan. One man can make a difference. Now, to the House … Email your congressmen and women and tell them how strongly you support this new law – giving clarity to the troops on detention policies for the first time, and potentially restoring, after three terrible years, the honor of the United States.

McCAIN’S STATEMENT: If only this man were president today:

Mr. President, war is an awful business. I know that. I donx92t think Ix92m naxefve about how severe are the wages of war, and how terrible are the things that must be done to wage it successfully. It is a grim, dark business, and no matter how noble the cause for which it is fought, no matter how valiant the service, many veterans spend much of their subsequent lives trying to forget not only what was done to them and their comrades, but some of what had to be done by their hand to prevail.

I donx92t mourn the loss of any terroristx92s life nor do I care if in the course of serving their ignoble cause they suffer great harm. They have pledged their lives to the intentional destruction of innocent lives, and they have earned their terrible punishment in this life and the next.

What I do regret, what I do mourn, and what I do care very much about is what we lose, what we — the American serviceman and woman and the great nation they defend at the risk of their lives x96 what we lose when by official policy or by official negligence x96 we allow, confuse or encourage our soldiers to forget that best sense of ourselves, our greatest strength x96 that we are different and better than our enemies; that we fight for an idea x96 not a tribe, not a land, not a king, not a twisted interpretation of an ancient religion x96 but for an idea that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights.

I have been asked before where did the brave men I was privileged to serve with in Vietnam draw the strength to resist to the best of their ability the cruelties inflicted on them by our enemies. Well, we drew strength from our faith in each other, from our faith in God, and from our faith in our country. Our enemies didnx92t adhere to the Geneva Convention. Many of my comrades were subjected to very cruel, very inhumane and degrading treatment, a few of them even unto death. But everyone of us knew, every single one of us knew and took great strength from the belief that we were different from our enemies, that we were better than them, that we, if the roles were reversed, would not disgrace ourselves by committing or countenancing such mistreatment of them. That faith was indispensable not only to our survival, but to our attempts to return home with honor. Many of the men I served with would have preferred death to such dishonor.

The enemies we fight today hold such liberal notions in contempt, as they hold the international conventions that enshrine them such as the Geneva Conventions and the treaty on torture in contempt. I know that. But wex92re better than them, and we are the stronger for our faith. And we will prevail. I submit to my colleagues that it is indispensable to our success in this war that our servicemen and women know that in the discharge of their dangerous responsibilities to their country they are never expected to forget that they are Americans, the valiant defenders of a sacred idea of how nations should govern their own affairs and their relations with others x96 even our enemies.

Those who return to us and those who give their lives for us are entitled to that honor. And those of us who have given them this onerous duty are obliged by our history, and by the sacrifices x96 the many terrible sacrifices — that have been made in our defense x96 we are obliged to make clear to them that they need not risk their or their countryx92s honor to prevail; that they are always, always x96 through the violence, chaos and heartache of war, through deprivation and cruelty and loss x96 they are always, always Americans, and different, better, and stronger than those who would destroy us.

God bless them as he has blessed us with their service.

What more is there to say? I always believed McCain was a giant of a man. We are all in his debt today.

COLIN POWELL’S LETTER: Here’s the text of the letter Colin Powell wrote in support of the amendment:

Oct 5, 2005

Dear Senator McCain,

I have read your proposed amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill concerning the use of the Army Field Manual as the definitive guidance for the conduct of our troops with respect to detainees. I have also studied your impressive statement introducing the amendment.

I fully support this amendment. Further, I join General Shalikashvili and the long list of other senior officers who have written you a letter in support of the Amendment.

Our troops need to hear from the Congress, which has an obligation to speak to such matters under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. I also believe the world will note that America is making a clear statement with respect to the expected future behavior of our soldiers. Such a reaction will help deal with the terrible public diplomacy crisis created by Abu Ghraib.


General Colin L. Powell, USA (Retired)

Powell, to his eternal credit, tried to stop this cancer at the very beginning. We have now made a huge leap toward stopping it for good. Thank you too for your hundreds of emails to Fishback which helped steel his nerves. Once again, the blogosphere made a difference.


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