Senate rebuffs Bush on interrogation guidelines

Despite White House opposition and threats of a Presidential veto, the Senate voted 90 to 9 to set limits on interrogating detainees in Iraq and elsewhere.

Senate GOP leaders had managed to fend off the detainee language this summer, saying Congress should not constrain the executive branch’s options. But… 89 senators sided with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a former prisoner of war in Vietnam who led the fight for the interrogation restrictions…

The Senate’s 90 to 9 vote suggested a new boldness among Republicans to challenge the White House on war policy. The amendment by McCain, one of Bush’s most significant backers at the outset of the Iraq war, would establish uniform standards for the interrogation of people detained by U.S. military personnel, prohibiting “cruel, inhuman or degrading” treatment while they are in U.S. custody.
McCain cited a letter he received from Army Capt. Ian Fishback, who has fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. “Over 17 months, he struggled to get answers from his chain of command to a basic question: What standards apply to the treatment of enemy detainees?” McCain said. “But he found no answers. . . . The Congress has a responsibility to answer this call.”

It’s encouraging that even the vast majority of Republican senators understand the harm to the national interest caused by the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, and the inadequacy of the Bush administration’s response. Perhaps they also understand that there is little to gain and much to lose among voters by supporting President Bush on this matter.

Well done to Senator McCain, and well done to Andrew Sullivan, who has kept this issue alive when other pro-war bloggers were making excuses for the administration’s shameful failure to set and enforce proper guidelines on treatment of detainees.

This is a victory for those who want to succeed in Iraq and Afghanistan.