From Alex Wall and Katie Mulhall
A bipartisan coalition of religious and military leaders and former Bush administration officials is calling on President Bush to issue an executive order banning the use of torture.
On a conference call today, the architects of the Statement of Principles said there were neither moral nor national security justifications for torture. The group includes six former Secretaries of State and Defense and former members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Former U.S. Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora argued that the use of torture in interrogations has made the U.S. less safe and has made our allies reluctant to cooperate with us in the war on terror, and also stressed that torture runs "directly contrary to everything our national values" stand for. Kern added that torture is ineffective, and he "could find no evidence that torture produces any results that are credible."
Evangelicals for Human Rights President Dr. David Gushee said the statement marked a "decisive rejection of torture" from "what might be called the moral center of America." He acknowledged that "fear, anger and grief sent us off course after 9/11," but stressed that "we must recover our moral bearings as a nation."
Center for Victims of Torture Executive Director Doug Johnson said that if the president issued an executive order reversing his policy, it "would represent a sign to the American people that things are changing." The group will first seek support for the declaration from leaders around the country and from the public, and said they will only present it to the president once they feel they have the necessary momentum.
They emphasized that the statement was directed at Bush, not the presidential candidates, and that IRS law prevented their organizations from soliciting Obama and McCain's signatures. However Johnson noted that it would be legal for the campaigns to approach them offering their support, and that "it would be far better for the country if both candidates endorsed it."
He added that the media were under no such restrictions about questioning the candidates, and encouraged reporters "to ask the candidates whether they would sign it."
NBC's Jim Miklaszewski adds that signatories to the torture ban include; former Secretaries of State George Shultz, Madeleine Albright, Warren Christpher, and former Secretaries of Defense William Perry, William Cohen and Harold Brown.
The group, while bipartisan, is represented by Fenton Communications, a liberal-based public relations firm which also represents the anti-war group, MoveOn.org, and recently produced the anti-war political spot in which a young mother holding an infant son tells John McCain you can't have him for the Iraq war.
The groups involved will not push their torture ban directly with either John McCain or Barack Obama because that could be considered electioneering and violate their non-profit status with the IRS.
The group will launch a website later today, but failed to provide the address.