Senator John McCain authored the bill and had this to say:
Mr. President, war is an awful business. I know that. I don’t think I’m naïve about how severe are the wages of war, and how terrible are the things that must be done to wage it successfully. It is a grim, dark business, and no matter how noble the cause for which it is fought, no matter how valiant the service, many veterans spend much of their subsequent lives trying to forget not only what was done to them and their comrades, but some of what had to be done by their hand to prevail.
I don’t mourn the loss of any terrorist’s life nor do I care if in the course of serving their ignoble cause they suffer great harm. They have pledged their lives to the intentional destruction of innocent lives, and they have earned their terrible punishment in this life and the next.
What I do regret, what I do mourn, and what I do care very much about is what we lose, what we -- the American serviceman and woman and the great nation they defend at the risk of their lives – what we lose when by official policy or by official negligence – we allow, confuse or encourage our soldiers to forget that best sense of ourselves, our greatest strength – that we are different and better than our enemies; that we fight for an idea – not a tribe, not a land, not a king, not a twisted interpretation of an ancient religion – but for an idea that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights.
I have been asked before where did the brave men I was privileged to serve with in Vietnam draw the strength to resist to the best of their ability the cruelties inflicted on them by our enemies. Well, we drew strength from our faith in each other, from our faith in God, and from our faith in our country. Our enemies didn’t adhere to the Geneva Convention. Many of my comrades were subjected to very cruel, very inhumane and degrading treatment, a few of them even unto death. But everyone of us knew, every single one of us knew and took great strength from the belief that we were different from our enemies, that we were better than them, that we, if the roles were reversed, would not disgrace ourselves by committing or countenancing such mistreatment of them. That faith was indispensable not only to our survival, but to our attempts to return home with honor. Many of the men I served with would have preferred death to such dishonor.
The enemies we fight today hold such liberal notions in contempt, as they hold the international conventions that enshrine them such as the Geneva Conventions and the treaty on torture in contempt. I know that. But we’re better than them, and we are the stronger for our faith. And we will prevail. I submit to my colleagues that it is indispensable to our success in this war that our servicemen and women know that in the discharge of their dangerous responsibilities to their country they are never expected to forget that they are Americans, the valiant defenders of a sacred idea of how nations should govern their own affairs and their relations with others – even our enemies.
Those who return to us and those who give their lives for us are entitled to that honor. And those of us who have given them this onerous duty are obliged by our history, and by the sacrifices – the many terrible sacrifices -- that have been made in our defense – we are obliged to make clear to them that they need not risk their or their country’s honor to prevail; that they are always, always – through the violence, chaos and heartache of war, through deprivation and cruelty and loss – they are always, always Americans, and different, better, and stronger than those who would destroy us.
God bless them as he has blessed us with their service.
John McCain, I have to say, is one of the handful of Republican politicians I respect, even when I disagree with him.
General Colin Powell also wrote in support of this bill:
Oct 5, 2005
Dear Senator McCain,
I have read your proposed amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill concerning the use of the Army Field Manual as the definitive guidance for the conduct of our troops with respect to detainees. I have also studied your impressive statement introducing the amendment.
I fully support this amendment. Further, I join General Shalikashvili and the long list of other senior officers who have written you a letter in support of the Amendment.
Our troops need to hear from the Congress, which has an obligation to speak to such matters under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. I also believe the world will note that America is making a clear statement with respect to the expected future behavior of our soldiers. Such a reaction will help deal with the terrible public diplomacy crisis created by Abu Ghraib.
General Colin L. Powell, USA (Retired)
By amendment he is referring to an amendment to an existing bill, not a constitutional amendment, a much longer process. Here is the proposed text:
MCCAIN AMENDMENT SA 1977
TEXT OF AMENDMENT
SA 1977. Mr. MCCAIN (for himself, Mr. GRAHAM, Mr. HAGEL, Mr. SMITH, and Ms. COLLINS) submitted an amendment intended to be proposed by him to the bill H.R. 2863, making appropriations for the Department of Defense for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2006, and for other purposes; which was ordered to lie on the table; as follows:
At the appropriate place, insert the following:
SEC. __. UNIFORM STANDARDS FOR THE INTERROGATION OF PERSONS UNDER THE DETENTION OF THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE.
(a) IN GENERAL.—No person in the custody or under the effective control of the Department of Defense or under detention in a Department of Defense facility shall be subject to any treatment or technique of interrogation not authorized by and listed in the United States Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation.
(b) APPLICABILITY.—Subsection (a) shall not apply to with respect to any person in the custody or under the effective control of the Department of Defense pursuant to a criminal law or immigration law of the United States.
(c) CONSTRUCTION.—Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect the rights under the United States Constitution of any person in the custody or under the physical jurisdiction of the United States.
SEC. __. PROHIBITION ON CRUEL, INHUMAN, OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT OF PERSONS UNDER CUSTODY OR CONTROL OF THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT.
(a) In General.—No individual in the custody or under the physical control of the United States Government, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.
(b) Construction.—Nothing in this section shall be construed to impose any geographical limitation on the applicability of the prohibition against cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment under this section.
(c) Limitation on Supersedure.—The provisions of this section shall not be superseded, except by a provision of law enacted after the date of the enactment of this Act which specifically repeals, modifies, or supersedes the provisions of this section.
(d) Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Defined.—In this section, the term "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment" means the cruel, unusual, and inhumane treatment or punishment prohibited by the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, as defined in the United States Reservations, Declarations and Understandings to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment done at New York, December 10, 1984.
Finally, the story of Ian Fishback, who decided to stand up for those who could not protect themselves from our abuses.
Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for following up on this amendment and these statements.
On Bill Maher's show Mr. Sullivan suggested that Bush might veto this bill. I suggest weighing in on the White house comment line in favor--perhaps Bush still cares about his popularity numbers. The number is 202-456-1111, and the fax number is 202-456-2461. The TTY/TDD comment number is: 202-456-6213. It can't hurt to contact your representatives as well.