Donald Trump, at a campaign rally in Las Vegas, has called with gusto for using interrogation tactics widely regarded as torture. (Photo: John Locher/AP)
Nineteen retired generals and admirals who support Hillary Clinton’s campaign have signed a blistering condemnation of Republican presidential candidates who support the use of interrogation tactics widely regarded as torture. The officers also scolded them for opposing President Obama’s proposal to close the prison for suspected terrorists at Guantánamo Bay.
“The Republican candidates have turned this into a game to see who can seem toughest,” the former officers said in a statement the Clinton campaign provided on Thursday. “Yet, how we combat our enemies and defeat ISIS is not a game, and these proposals would only make us weaker.”
On the campaign trail, Donald Trump has called with gusto for interrogating suspected terrorists with tactics widely regarded as torture, including but not limited to waterboarding. Ted Cruz says waterboarding isn’t torture and has pushed for carpet-bombing cities held by the so-called Islamic State. Marco Rubio has opposed legislation banning the use of torture. All of the Republican presidential candidates oppose Obama’s plan to close the detention facility near Cuba’s southeastern tip.
The statement by the retired brass called Guantánamo “one of the most powerful symbols for terrorist recruitment” and said torture “abandons the principles that this country was founded on, compromises our position of leadership on the world stage, and puts our troops, frontline civilians, and all Americans at risk.”
The retired officers said Clinton “has consistently been on the right side of history on these issues,” both by supporting efforts to close the prison and by asserting “that torture does not work and defies our nation’s values and interests.”
An Army captain walks outside unoccupied cells inside Camp 6 at the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay. (Photo: Ben Fox/AP)
While the group supports the former secretary of state’s presidential aspirations, other former national security officials who have not come out in favor of a candidate have expressed contempt for some of the rhetoric coming from contenders for the Republican presidential nomination.
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a Republican, has explicitly denounced carpet-bombing as a tactic and says the foreign policy discussions on the campaign trail “would embarrass a middle-schooler.” Former Central Intelligence Agency Director Michael Hayden recently said the agency won’t be waterboarding again anytime soon and invited Trump to bring his “own damn bucket” if he wants to resume the practice.
Public opinion polls have found that Americans are divided over whether torture works and whether it should be used, though roughly three out of four Republicans think waterboarding and other harsh techniques are sometimes justified.
The CIA has defended its use of interrogation tactics authorized by then-President George W. Bush after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But the FBI and Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee say they failed to yield any valuable information.
The group of retired officers who signed the statement includes former Army Maj. Gen. Tony Taguba, best known for his scathing 2004 report on abuses committed by U.S. forces at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.