What U.S. Presidential Candidates (Democrats) Think about Human Rights
What U.S. Presidential Candidates (Democrats) Think about Human Rights

The following are quotes from interviews with U.S. Democratic Presidential candidates on their perspectives on human rights, torture, and the genocide in Darfur.

Senator Joseph Biden

  • Torture/Waterboarding: “Waterboarding is by any standard, torture. I called on my colleagues today to support legislation I introduced this summer banning waterboarding and other forms of torture. When we use torture or other cruel and inhumane treatment of detainees, we diminish our ability to argue that the same techniques should not be used against our own troops. We need to send a clear message that torture, inhumane, and degrading treatment of detainees is unacceptable and is not permitted by U.S. law. Period.” Source: Statement. October 30th, 2007. http://www.veteransforcommonsense.org/index.cfm/page/article/id/8684
  • Burma: “We are writing to urge the European Union to implement, in coordination with the United States, targeted financial sanctions, and other steps, against the military dictatorship in Burma…In our view, perhaps an initial and most promising tool we have to increase pressure is to impose targeted banking sanctions that would freeze the offshore accounts of the Burmese government, its top leaders, their families, and the business people and entities who work with them, while blocking the movement of their money through the global financial system.” Source: Letter to the European Commission. Senator Biden and Senator Lugar. October 12th, 2007. http://www.allamericanpatriots.com/
  • Darfur: Introduced a resolution on September 7th, 2006 to urge President Bush to garner international support for a no-fly zone in Darfur and appoint a Special Envoy for Sudan. Senator Biden secured unanimous Senate support to create an office of the Special Envoy for Sudan and for a resolution calling for the President to start lobbying NATO to send troops to help stop the continued violence in Darfur. Source: Press Release. September 7, 2007. http://biden.senate.gov/newsroom/details.cfm?id=262573&

Senator Hillary Clinton

  • Torture: “In the event we were ever confronted with having to interrogate a detainee with knowledge of an imminent threat to millions of Americans, then the decision to depart from international practices must be made by the president, and the president must be held accountable.” Source: The Daily News. October 16th, 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2007/11/03/us/politics/03torture.web.html
  • Darfur: Co-sponsored Darfur Accountability Act, Darfur Peace and Accountability Act, Civilian Protection, No-Fly Zone, Sudan Divestment Authorization Act, China Resolution, and Hybrid Force Resolution. “We have a moral duty and a responsibility under international law to stand up for the safety of millions of civilians in Darfur who remain vulnerable to attack. Action by the United States, in concert with, the international community, is long overdue. We need to respond quickly to the African Union’s request for UN peacekeepers in Darfur, and we need to provide those peacekeepers with a strong mandate and the resources to protect civilians. The United States should apply all points of pressure to ensure the Government of Sudan accepts a robust UN missions, ceases attacks against civilians, and neutralizes the Janjaweed.” Source: http://www.darfurscores.org/hillary-clinton
  • International Institutions: “When they do not work, their procedures serve as pretexts for endless delays, as in the case of Darfur, or descend into farce, as in the case of Sudan’s election to the UN Commission on Human Rights. But instead of disparaging these institutions for their failures, we should bring them in line with the power realities of the twenty-first century and the basic values embodied in such documents as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” Clinton, Hillary Rodham. “Security and Opportunity for the 21st Century.” Foreign Affairs. November/December 2007. http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20071101faessay86601-p70/hillary-rodham-clinton/security-and-opportunity-for-the-twenty-first-century.html
  • Human Rights: “The world we want is also a world where human rights are respected. By surrendering our values in the name of our safety, the Bush administration has left Americans wondering whether its rhetoric about freedom around the world still applies back home. We have undercut international support for fighting terrorism by suggesting that the job cannot be done without humiliation, infringements on basic rights to privacy and free speech, and even torture. We must once again make human rights a centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy and a core element of our conception of democracy.” “Security and Opportunity for the 21st Century.” Foreign Affairs. November/December 2007. http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20071101faessay86601-p70/hillary-rodham-clinton/security-and-opportunity-for-the-twenty-first-century.html
  • Women: “Human rights will never truly be realized as long as a majority of the world’s population is still treated as second-class citizens… Yet progress in key areas has lagged, as evidenced by the continuing spread of trafficking in women, the ongoing use of rape as an instrument of war, the political marginalization of women, and persistent gender gaps in employment and economic opportunity. U.S. leadership, including a commitment to incorporate the promotion of women’s rights in our bilateral relationships and international aid programs, is essential not just to improving the lives of women but to strengthening the families, communities, and societies in which they live.” “Security and Opportunity for the 21st Century.” Foreign Affairs. November/December 2007. http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20071101faessay86601-p70/hillary-rodham-clinton/security-and-opportunity-for-the-twenty-first-century.html
  • Human Rights More Important than National Security: “The first obligation of the president of the United States is to protect and defend the United States of America. That doesn’t mean that it is to the exclusion of other interests..” Source: Democratic Debate in Las Vegas. November 15th 2007. http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0711/15/se.02.html

Senator Chris Dodd

  • Waterboarding as Torture: “Absolutely, according to both US law and international conventions.” Source: “The Questions I Wish I Were Asked.” The Huffington Post. November 1, 2007. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-dodd
  • Darfur: Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) urged the President to recognize the urgency of the situation in Darfur and rethink Administration resistance to the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act. The bipartisan bill, authored by Dodd, was overwhelmingly approved by the Banking Committee on October 17th by a vote of 21-0. November 1st 2007. http://dodd.senate.gov/index.php?q=taxonomy/term/287
  • Darfur: Divestment is but one part of a much broader strategy on Sudan, which must include using every tool at our disposal – diplomatic, economic, and financial; individually and collectively through the UN, the AU, and others – to bring an end to the violence in Darfur. That means tough, robust diplomacy which includes targeted sanctions beyond those already in place. Divestment can be a critical tool to bring to bear economic pressure from millions of investors in a campaign to make clear to the Sudanese regime that American citizens will not tolerate its behavior, and will actively withdraw their hard-earned savings from enterprises that do business with that government.” Remarks at the Committee Hearing “Combating Genocide in Darfur” . October 3rd 2007. http://dodd.senate.gov/index.php?q=node/4084
  • Pakistan: “As the imposed state of emergency drags on in Pakistan with no sign from General Pervez Musharraf of when it will end, Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) today sent a letter to John Negroponte, Deputy Secretary of State, regarding his upcoming trip to Pakistan. Dodd, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, recommended that Secretary Negroponte press Musharraf to end Pakistan’s state of emergency, lift the restrictions on Pakistani media and release detained members of political opposition. Dodd also expressed his view that General Musharraf must resign his post as head of Pakistan’s Armed Forces and allow free and fair elections.” November 15th, 2007. http://dodd.senate.gov/index.php?q=taxonomy/term/287
  • Human Rights More Important than National Security: “Obviously, national security, keeping the country safe. When you take the oath of office on January 20, you promise to do two things, and that is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and protect our country against enemies both foreign and domestic. The security of the country is number one, obviously.” Source: Democratic Debate in Las Vegas. November 15th 2007. http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0711/15/se.02.html

Senator John Edwards

  • Torture: “I reject the Bush administration’s twisted logic justifying torture. I will release the legal opinions justifying it, and end the abuse of classification and legal privilege to hide un-American legal judgments.” Source: October 5th, campaign statement. http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2007/11/03/us/politics/03torture.web.html
  • Waterboarding: “Waterboarding was used in the Spanish Inquisition and considered a war crime I World War II.” Source: October 30th, campaign statement. http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2007/11/03/us/politics/03torture.web.html
  • Darfur: “I believe President Bush should convene an emergency meeting of NATO’s leadership to provide assistance to a UN deployment of 3,000 troops, backed by logistical, operational, and financial support. NATO must establish a no-fly zone over the region to cut off supplies to the brutal Janjaweed militias and end the Sudanese government’s bombing of civilians in Darfur. NATO member states should also impose a new round of multilateral sanctions on the Sudanese government and freeze the foreign assets of individuals complicit in the genocide. The United States must make a decisive new commitment to employ the extraordinary assets of the U.S. military — our airlift capabilities, logistical support, and intelligence systems — to assist UN and African Union peacekeeping efforts in Darfur. And we must continue to pressure other countries with influence in the region, such as China, to meet their own responsibilities to help end this conflict.” Source: Edwards, John. “A Return to Moral Leadership.” Foreign Affairs. September/October 2007. http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20070901faessay86502-p20/

Mike Gravel

  • Torture: “Under the U.S. Constitution, all enemy combatants fall under the jurisdiction of the Congress. It is abhorrent that the United States government today continues to torture human beings in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and other secret C.I.A. prisons…The Constitution is very clear that prisoners of war are the responsibility of the Congress. The Bush administration has unlawfully taken that power without Constitutional justification. The Congress has been derelict in its duty to see that enemy combatants are treated humanely within the guidelines of the Geneva Conventions, and has been equally neglectful in its response to the President’s unlawful use of torture…The practice of torture is immoral. It is un-American and it is ineffective. Information acquired as a result of torture techniques in unreliable. It endangers our soldiers in combat by encouraging reciprocity. It inflicts irreversible damage to our nation’s image and undermines our credibility among the international community.” Source: Press Statement. March 2nd, 2007. http://2008gravel.blogspot.com/2007/03/gravel-calls-for-end-to-torture.html
  • Darfur: “First off, Senator Gravel would immediately call for China and Russia to stop supplying the Sudanese government of Omar al Bashir with weapons, a clear violation of the UN security council’s arms embargo. In order to even begin to stop the genocide perpetrated by the janjawid militias, the flow of weapons into Darfur must cease.” Source: http://www.gravel2008.us/?q=node/1306

Representative Dennis Kucinich

  • Darfur: Co-sponsored: NATO-Bridging Force, Darfur Accountability and Divestment Act and also voted for Darfur Peace & Accountability Act, Presidential Special Envoy, and the China Resolution and voted against the Funding Amendment for Protection, Funding Amendment for Humanitarian Aid. Source: http://www.darfurscores.org
  • Darfur: “It’s time for the United States to stop looking at Africa as a place where our corporations can exploit the people and — (cheers, applause) — I mean, because let’s face it, let’s — let’s face it, if Darfur had a large supply of oil, this administration would be occupying it right now…we need to stop giving Sudan a pass. They’re looking the other way.” Source: 3rd Democratic debate. June 28, 2007. http://www.speculativebubble.com/politics/dennis-kucinich.php
  • Torture: “How can a President say: “We do not torture” but reserve the right to do so? This type of deception and brutality is losing us essential and necessary friends all over the world. We are also losing our souls in exchange for an imaginary, short-term gain. In fact, some of the “intelligence” obtained by torture that there were WMDs in Iraq demonstrates that people who are being tormented will say anything to make the pain go away. We know of at least 28 prisoners that were killed during interrogation during our recent wars. One was a high-ranking Iraqi officer who, apparently, was not providing enough “actionable intelligence” on WMDs. While God may forgive us for our actions, others nations are not as generous.
  • The reality is that the United States has employed torture and has transported people to certain torture — and perhaps death. Torture is not an American value, and the President’s signing statement reserving the right to torture is a clear violation of international and U.S. law that makes all of us — and especially our soldiers — less safe. The dismissal of the Geneva Convention as “quaint” and the legal gymnastics performed by this administration to justify brutalizing another human should shock all of us.
  • The failure of Congress to confront the President over the lawless signing statement is another disturbing chapter in its failure to exercise oversight of an “out of control” administration.
  • For the head of the C.I.A. to testify in front of Congress that “water boarding” is a “professional interrogation technique” is horrifying. In essence, the American people are being told that Thomas de Torquemada and the rest of the Spanish Inquisitors were not torturers when they used the “aselli,” the water torment; they were merely professional and forceful questioners. Let us be candid, water boarding is a war crime. And following the administration’s legal analysis, the Spanish inquisitors were not guilty of torture because their goal was not to inflict pain, it was merely to save souls. The fact that people would suffer pain was just an unfortunate by-product of saving souls.
  • Nothing is more misleading — or immoral — than the use of the “ticking time bomb” scenario. Even if such a scenario existed — which has yet to be documented — does it justify wholesale torture and the brutalization of people we suspect could or might do something in the future? As we have learned, framing all threats as “imminent” is a convenient way to anaesthetize people’s consciences to agree that the ends do justify the means.
  • The America that people around the world have come to love and admire is being destroyed by degrees by messianic militarists who believe that torture and force are the tools God has given them to use. Clearly, if they simply employ them to merely save lives, why not employ them to save immortal souls?
  • Torture degrades us as a people. History has shown that when torture is employed, interrogators become lazy and brutal, and many, many innocent people die or are destroyed for life. Our humanity is the first death in the process.
  • My reasons for opposing torture are not just the clear moral prohibition, but a more practical reason: What would you do if your child was tortured — especially if they were innocent, as so many tortured people are?
  • Torture breeds torture and brutality. Torture is a slope no American should step onto.
    Source: Dennis Kucinich for Congress. Torture. April 2006.

Senator Barack Obama

  • Torture: “I have been consistent in my strong beliefs that no administration should allow the use of torture, including so-called ‘enhanced-interrogation techniques’ like waterboarding, head-slapping, and extreme temperatures. “ Source: October 29th, campaign statement. http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2007/11/03/us/politics/03torture.web.html
  • Darfur: Cosponsored: Darfur Accountability Act, Darfur Peace and Accountability Act, Civilian Protection, No-Fly Zone, Sudan Divestment Authorization Act, China Resolution, and voted for the Hybrid Force Resolution. http://www.darfurscores.org/barack-obama
  • Darfur: “Conspicuously absent from this package of sanctions is maximal punitive action against the Sudanese oil industry, which the Administration once touted as a critical element of its so-called ‘Plan B.’ Targeted pressure by the international community against the Sudanese oil economy is a much-needed step to stop the killing and displacement of innocent civilians in Darfur…Also needed is the deployment of a strong international force, led by the UN, with an enforcement mandate to protect civilians. The U.S. should work with our allies and partners to compel the Sudanese government to accept such a force and establish a no-fly zone over Darfur.” Source: Barack Obama Campaign. May 29th, 2007. http://www.allamericanpatriots.com
  • Zimbabwe: Obama introduced legislation on condemning the Zimbabwe government. “The Senate condemns the horrific violations of human rights perpetrated by the Mugabe regime. For years, the Mugabe government has violently suppressed legitimate opposition parties and ignored the welfare of its own citizens. The United States must continue to pressure the Mugabe regime to allow Zimbabweans to pursue their hopes for legitimate political change and work with the international community to help all Zimbabweans forge a better future for their nation.” Source: Press Release. June 27th, 2007. http://obama.senate.gov/press/070627-senate_passes_o/
  • Human Rights More Important Than National Security: “The concepts are not contradictory. They are complementary. And I think Pakistan is a great example.” Source: Democratic Debate in Las Vegas. November 15th 2007. http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0711/15/se.02.html

Governor Bill Richardson

  • Darfur: Visited Sudan in January 2007 to meet with Sudan’s President to discuss Darfur. On the trip, he said that he was able to get the Sudanese government and three rebel groups to agree to a 30-day cease-fire, though one reneged the following day.
  • Darfur: “The A.U. is there, but I believe trained peacekeepers by the United Nations will ease the crisis substantially. So that should be a major effort of the international community, the United States, the U.N. and anybody else… China must play a more important role. China and Sudan have strong economic ties, and I was pleased that China made that statement that they were pushing for peace in Darfur. But it has to be significant movement” Source: MSNBC. February 8th, 2007. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17048861/
  • Torture: “Torture is wrong. Torture is un-American. This is a black and white issue. There is no gray — torture of any kind is a crime. And I will stand up and say so unequivocally: when I’m president, I will ensure that any form of torture, including waterboarding, will never be used. Furthermore, I will direct the Department of Justice to vigorously investigate and prosecute ANY individual responsible for the use of torture No one is above the law. No one. “ Source: “A Devastating Failure.” The Huffington Post. November 9, 2007. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gov-bill-richardson/
  • Pakistan: “If I’m president, it’s the other way around — democracy and human rights. What I would do is, yes, I would condition the assistance to Musharraf. We give him $10 billion. Sixty percent of that is to his military. I would say, President Musharraf, unless you restore the constitution; unless you have elections in January; unless you end the state of emergency; unless you allow Benazir Bhutto to run as a candidate; unless you put the supreme court back — and something else we forgot.”
  • Human rights more important than American national security: Yes…Our strength as a nation is our values: equality, freedom, democracy…human rights. “Source: Democratic Debate in Las Vegas. November 15th 2007. http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0711/15/se.02.html

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