‘Torture does not work’ | VailDaily.com

‘Torture does not work’

ASPEN ” Although they assiduously avoided making direct attacks on President Bush, U.S. Senators Joe Lieberman and John McCain managed to level a fair amount of criticism against the Bush Administration policies in Aspen Saturday.

Lieberman, a Democrat from Connecticut, and McCain, a Republican from Arizona, shared the stage in front of an audience of several hundred with Aspen Institute President Walter Isaacson, who led them in a conversation that touched on nearly every controversy that has engulfed the administration in the last year.

They said the Bush Administration is mistaken to ignore climate change, withdraw troops from Iraq and continue to dodge responsibility for the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.

“I don’t care what you say ” torture does not work,” said McCain, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Much of that imprisonment was spent in solitary confinement, a standard form of torture.

Lieberman and McCain have worked closely together on a number of bipartisan alternatives to administration policies.

“I have great admiration for his relentless desire to get things done,” Lieberman said of McCain. “To do that in the Senate, where you need 60 votes, you need to work across party lines.”

McCain and Lieberman, whose climate change legislation that has yet to make it’s way to Bush’s desk, say support is growing for laws that would reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and other activities known to be detrimental to the earth’s atmosphere.

Ten years ago, they agreed, a significant majority of senators didn’t believe human activity had anything to do with rising temperatures around the world. That’s changed in the years since President Bush withdrew the United States from the Kyoto Treaty on climate change.

“It’s here and it’s real,” McCain said. “It’s worse than we thought it would be, and if we don’t do something about it we’ll leave a huge problem for the next generation.”

But the fact that action today on climate change won’t realize benefits for a full generation makes it a difficult sell to the American people and their representatives in Congress.

The Democrat and the Republican both shook their heads in disbelief when Isaacson brought up the latest proposal by President Bush’s defense department to begin large-scale troop withdrawals by next summer.

“I find it troubling and puzzling that the administration would withdraw the troops,” Lieberman said. McCain too expressed dismay and confusion over the withdrawal plan. Both said that more troops are needed.

“We cannot afford to lose in Iraq,” McCain said. “There are people here who opposed our entry into Iraq, and I respect your opinions, but you have to agree now that we cannot afford to lose.”

Throughout the discussion, one theme was repeated: America and Americans have become the focus of ill will that ranges from frayed relationships with international organizations like the U.N. to hatred over the treatment of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.

“Everywhere I go, the treatment of prisoners is an open wound in our relations,” McCain said.

The session ended with questions from some of the most distinguished members of the audience. Washington Post assistant managing editor Bob Woodward asked the senators to give a character profile of President Bush.

McCain and Lieberman both avoided making any substantive comments by saying Bush was likable and charming; they also both professed respect for his drive to get pass certain bills.

McCain also credited the president for providing leadership after the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Vail, Colorado

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