Michael believes the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques harmed U.S. standing in the world and that future administrations should never return to that dark period in our history. The United States must continue to honor the principles of the Geneva Conventions, prioritize the protection of civilian lives when using force in conflicts, and support adherence to laws of war.
America must be a moral leader in the world. Unfortunately, the Trump Administration has acted to obscure the effects of our national security operations, including ending an annual public report on civilians killed in U.S. drone strikes. We must do more to avoid these tragedies, and when they do occur, we must be more transparent, not less. We can start by creating simpler and more effective reporting mechanisms for civilian populations where our forces operate.
Compliance starts at the top. It must be clear in words and actions from the President on down that we expect everyone who serves under the American flag to adhere to international humanitarian law and applicable human rights obligations. America led the way in creating those obligations, after all. Ensuring compliance with them reflects the American value of humanity even in the darkest times of conflict. Compliance with international law is also clearly in our national security interest, ensuring our actions are legitimate, that our words are credible, and that we can expect others to adhere to the same standards. On what basis can we expect others to treat our soldiers humanely if we violate the laws of war? On what basis can we expect the support of a civilian population if we kill their doctors, their teachers, their children? Like so many others who have served, I see adherence to our legal obligations not as a hindrance but as essential to success.
Compliance also means paying attention to allegations of wrongdoing. It means investigating and holding those who violate our obligations accountable – regardless of rank. The Uniform Military Code of Justice is the lynchpin of this system. We need to support it and protect it from the kind of political interference that we have recently seen from President Trump in his consideration of preemptively pardoning alleged perpetrators of war crimes.
I support closing Guantanamo Bay which would be a critical first step. Our national security policies must uphold our commitment to human rights. We must ensure we are setting an example for the world in how to advance legitimate security needs while respecting human rights.
I oppose the United States’ continued involvement in endless wars – in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria – without Congressional oversight or the need for over 22,000 American troops to address our national security goals. We must bring our troops home, rather than continue to prosecute wars long after achieving our limited goals. Additionally, I have long supported the transfer of prisoners from Guantanamo to the United States. In New York, the federal district courts have successfully prosecuted terrorist suspects without public security incident – I believe the U.S. judicial system is capable of trying suspects held in Guantanamo in fair, transparent and secure trials. And finally I am concerned by the civilian casualties that groups like Amnesty International have found to be associated with U.S. military and intelligence strikes, including by drones. I have called upon the Department of Defense to review its operations and determine whether unmanned aircraft are responsible for an inordinate number of civilian casualties, and change our policies.
President Trump’s callous disregard for our obligations under international law to protect civilians in conflict areas constitutes a failure of his duties as commander-in-chief. The latest example is his recent, wrong-headed consideration of presidential pardons for individuals convicted of war crimes against Iraqi civilians, which does a disservice to the vast majority of our armed forces personnel who perform their duties with honor and in accordance with the law, and who deserve our respect. The president of the United States bears a responsibility to set the expectation for our country and our armed forces that the Law of Armed Conflict is to be strictly observed, and that the U.S. must do everything possible to safeguard noncombatants even in the most complex conflict areas. As president, I will set exactly that expectation, and my Secretary of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and combatant commanders will all clearly understand that expectation. And I will achieve the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, a goal that I supported in Congress.
Bernie has said for years that the prison at Guantanamo Bay must be shut down as soon as possible. We must ensure that torture is never again part of America’s interrogation practices and that all detainees are treated under the rules of the Geneva Conventions. When Bernie is President, he will move to restore our country’s reputation around the world by closing the prison swiftly and ensuring that all detainees are treated humanely and in accordance with international human rights standards.
We cannot use national security as a justification for policies that violate international law; that goes for everything from how we treat detainees to our judicial practices to how we fight on the battlefield.
We must close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. We must provide humane treatment and fair trials in civilian courts to all suspected terrorists, including those who have been held at Guantanamo Bay. We must curtail and carefully control use of drone strikes, which have increased under the Trump Administration. We cannot permit surveillance or targeting of people based on their faith. And we must take a strong, unequivocal stand against use of torture or “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
We can ensure our national security without sinking to the tactics and values of those who threaten it.
President Trump has a robust record of success and we allow that record to speak for itself www.promiseskept.com.
Our foreign policy must take an honest look at the full costs and risks of our military actions – and be conducted in a way that is consistent with our values and with international law. The human costs of our wars in the Middle East have been staggering: hundreds of thousands of civilians killed and many millions more injured or displaced.
Seriously addressing the issue of civilian casualties is essential to upholding our values at home and advancing our interests overseas. That’s why I have led the fight in Congress to ensure that U.S. forces make every effort to recognize and avoid harm to civilians in their operations. I introduced the Preventing Civilian Casualties in Military Operations Act, which requires the Defense Department to submit a comprehensive annual report detailing civilian casualties caused by U.S. military operations, and I successfully got this provision included in the FY 2018 NDAA. I also successfully fought to appoint a senior civilian at the Pentagon responsible for civilian casualty policies, and to demand access and consultation with NGOs and aid groups who operate on the ground in conflict areas. I led the fight to demand additional transparency about U.S. Central Command’s support for Saudi-led operations in Yemen, and obtained General Votel’s acknowledgment that CENTCOM had the ability to track whether those operations resulted in civilian casualties. And I called for investigations into the airstrike on a Doctors Without Borders facility in Yemen and reports that U.S. service members were hired for targeted killing operations.
First, we need to reimplement the rule that requires the disclosure of civilian casualties from US airstrikes outside of warzones. In fact, the US should be much more open with disclosing these casualties, unless they pose a direct national security risk.
Second, we need to refrain from designating Areas of Active Hostilities in order to minimize areas where more lethal force is authorized.
Under my presidency, torture would absolutely not be allowed, and I would instruct leaders within the military to prosecute anyone who engaged in or authorized such actions. I certainly wouldn’t pardon members of the military who committed war crimes or murder.