McCain slams GOP candidates for ‘loose talk’ on torture

February 8, 2016

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) speaks during a campaign event for U.S. Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham (not seen) in New York July 20, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

“Loose talk” about waterboarding by Republican candidates in the 2016 presidential campaign drew a sharp rebuke from Senator John McCain, a prisoner of war in Vietnam and the party’s 2008 White House nominee.

Real estate tycoon Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz backed the use of waterboarding, a harsh and contentious interrogation tactic, during Saturday night’s Republican debate in New Hampshire.

Senator Marco Rubio did not rule it out, saying different tactics need to be used to get information in terrorism cases.

Waterboarding is the practice of pouring water over someone’s face to mimic drowning as an interrogation tactic. Critics say it amounts to torture, and Democratic President Barack Obama banned use of the method days after taking office in 2009.

“Given the loose talk on the campaign trail about reviving waterboarding and other inhumane interrogation techniques, it is important to remember the facts,” McCain said in a statement.

“That these forms of torture not only failed their purpose to secure actionable intelligence to prevent further attacks on the U.S. and our allies, but compromised our values, stained our national honor, and did little practical good.”

McCain, who was held prisoner in North Vietnam for more than five years, said there was broad bipartisan agreement on banning torture and cited the National Defense Authorization Act for 2016, which limits U.S. government interrogation techniques.

“Sacrificing our respect for human dignity will make it harder, not easier, to prevail in this war,” he wrote.

Trump, who has raised eyebrows throughout the 2016 Republican campaign with his statements on immigrants, women and Muslims, was first among his rivals to embrace torture.

“I would bring back waterboarding, and I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” Trump said during the debate.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump talks to the media in the “spin room” after the Republican U.S. presidential candidates debate sponsored by ABC News at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire February 6, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

No comments so far

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see