Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, parting company with President Bush, came out against harsh interrogations of terror suspects even as the president lobbied personally for it on Capitol Hill Thursday.
"I will resist any bill that does not enable this program to go forward with legal clarity," Bush told reporters back at the White House after his meeting with lawmakers."
White House spokesman Tony Snow, asked if Powell was confused about the White House's goals, said "Yes." Later, Snow said he probably shouldn't have used the word "confused."
"I know that Colin Powell wants to beat the terrorists too," he said.
The latest sign of GOP division over White House security policy came Thursday in a letter that Powell sent to Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record), R-Ariz., one of three rebellious senators taking on the White House. Powell said Congress must not pass Bush's proposal to redefine U.S. compliance with the Geneva Conventions, a treaty that sets international standards for the treatment of prisoners of war.
The campaign-season development accompanied Bush's visit to Capitol Hill, where he conferred behind closed doors with House Republicans. His plan would narrow the U.S. legal interpretation of the Geneva Conventions treaty in a bid to allow tougher interrogations and shield U.S. personnel from being prosecuted for war crimes.
"The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism," said Powell, who served under Bush and is a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "To redefine Common Article 3 would add to those doubts. Furthermore, it would put our own troops at risk."