Approximately three weeks ago, I contacted the campaigns of the three declared candidates for the Democratic nomination to unseat Conrad Burns with some specific questions about their positions on the issues. The Morrison campaign did not respond, despite a couple of reminders. I hope that they will consider answering the domestic questions. Today, we present two responses from each of the candidates who answered, Jon Tester and Paul Richards, with more to follow tomorrow.
Question 1. Do you categorically oppose the use of torture by the American military and intelligence officers?
Tester: Torture is immoral, inhumane, and illegal. I’ve always believed in leading by example—we must ensure that the example we set for the world meets the highest moral, ethical and legal standards.
I was dismayed by the President’s willingness to ignore Senator McCain’s bipartisan amendment barring torture of detainees. Another example of executive power gone too far, torture sets a bad example and puts our own troops in danger as a result. Furthermore, torture is ineffective—it produces faulty intelligence that may undermine our domestic security.
In the U.S. Senate, I will oppose torture and make sure America sets the best example as a leader in global affairs.
Richards: Yes. I also categorically oppose the use of torture by private contractors with whom the military contracts to conduct torture. I also categorically oppose the “rendering” of political prisoners to other countries where they will be tortured by foreign military and intelligence officers.
Question 2. Has the United States done enough to help alleviate African poverty?
Richards: Instead of sticking our heads in the sand, such as those in the Bush administration, we have to restore sane fully-funded family planning programs. This will help both the food and the HIV/AIDS crises. We also have to help Africa achieve sustainable resource extraction. We can help bring the best of appropriate technology to Africa, for example farmers harvesting wind power and communities generating their own electricity.
Regarding food, Africa has to achieve sustainability. Instead of promoting corporate monoculture crops for export, Africa needs to get back to growing its own food. This includes providing a more profitable farm income; reducing dependence on non-renewable resources, such as fuel and synthetic fertilizer and pesticides; and promoting stable, prosperous farm families and communities. There are thousands of ways to farm sustainably. Many involve integrated pest management, rotational grazing, soil conservation, water quality/wetlands stewardship, cover crops, crop and landscape diversity, nutrient management, agro-forestry, agri-tourism, and alternative marketing. Organic agriculture is particularly promising.
Tester: With more than half of African nations in dire need of food assistance, poverty in Africa is a critical issue in international affairs. As a farmer, I understand the importance of a stable, sustainable food supply to a nation’s social and economic stability. We must work together with our allies to find solutions to the systemic food supply problem in Africa. Workable solutions are out there, from emergency food assistance to sharing technology and best practices for farming.
Similarly, debt relief represents a positive step toward economic justice and political stability in Africa. The United States and our allies should continue exploring how to best assist African nations and build enduring institutions through debt restructuring and relief.
I’d like to thank the two campaigns for their willingness to help make this race about issues that matter. Check back tomorrow for answers to questions about the Iraq War and CAFTA.