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Motion to Go to Conference on H.R. 2863, Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2006

Location: Washington, DC

MOTION TO GO TO CONFERENCE ON H.R. 2863, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006 -- (House of Representatives - December 14, 2005)


Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Speaker, today at long last, because of Congressman John Murtha's leadership and persistence, the House finally has the chance to go on record in favor of clear procedures for dealing with prisoners and against torture.

In September, 29 retired military officers including General Joseph Hoar, General John Shalikashvili, and our former colleague Ambassador Pete Peterson, sent a letter to Senator McCain in support of the amendment that is the subject of Mr. Murtha's motion to instruct.

The officers state the case against mistreatment of prisoners succinctly: ``The abuse of prisoners hurts America's cause in the war on terror, endangers U.S. service members who might be captured by the enemy, and is anathema to the values Americans have held dear for generations.''

The Senate responded by adopting the McCain amendment by a vote of 90 to 9. I hope the House will vote in equally strong numbers.

Our troops were sent to war in Iraq without many of the essentials needed for their effectiveness and their safety, including a standard of conduct for the treatment of detainees.

We have seen, to our great shame and regret, the consequences of this lack of clarity. At Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq, at Guantanamo, and in Afghanistan, allegations and evidence of detainee abuse have damaged the standing of the United States in the world.

Congress should have made it a priority to get to the bottom of the prisoner abuse scandals so that those responsible, regardless of their place in the chain of command, were held accountable and corrective actions taken. That has not been done.

We must heed the requests for assistance from our soldiers in the field who, in the absence of clear limits on permissible treatment are left in an impossible position, are forced to assume all of the risks and shoulder all of the blame.

The United States has long been bound by international agreements prohibiting torture. That we even find it necessary to make the prohibition against torture more explicit is the result of the Bush administration's legal interpretation that these long-standing prohibitions apply only to persons on U.S. soil.

Torture should not be employed as an interrogation technique by the United States for two simple reasons: it doesn't work and it is wrong. We can not rely on information obtained through torture, and even if we could, the cost is too high.

The values that define our country--the values that our men and women in uniform are called upon to defend sometimes at the cost of their lives--are antithetical to the use of torture. The American people are much better than that. Our struggle with the forces of international terrorism is as much a battle of ideas as a battle of arms. We weaken ourselves when we compromise our ideals. Standing against torture helps define the differences between the United States and those who offer no message other than hatred and violence.

Adopting this motion to instruct is in the best traditions, and the best interests, of our country. I urge my colleagues to approve it overwhelmingly.


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