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Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump reacts to a question during the Republican Presidential Debate in Detroit, Michigan, March 3, 2016. Geoff Robins—AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump Backs Off Promises to Break International Law

Mar 04, 2016

GOP frontrunner Donald Trump revised his stance on torture and killing of families of terrorists Friday, saying that if he becomes Commander in Chief, he wouldn't order the military to break international law.

In a statement to the Wall Street Journal, Trump backed off his promises to torture suspected terrorists and kill terrorists’ families, both of which are prohibited by Geneva Convention, saying instead that he would “use every legal power that I have to stop these terrorist enemies."

"I do, however, understand that the United States is bound by laws and treaties and I will not order our military or other officials to violate those laws and will seek their advice on such matters," he said. "I will not order a military officer to disobey the law. It is clear that as president I will be bound by laws just like all Americans and I will meet those responsibilities.”

The statement comes just hours after Trump defended torture in the Republican Debate Thursday night, promising to "go stronger" on efforts to curb terrorism. "Can you imagine these people, these animals, over in the Middle East that chop off heads, sitting around talking and seeing that we’re having a hard problem with waterboarding?" he said Thursday night. "We should go for waterboarding and we should go tougher than waterboarding."

When asked what he would do if the military refused to carry out his orders to torture or kill civilians, Trump said "They won’t refuse. They’re not going to refuse, believe me.”

Last week retired General Michael Hayden, former head of the NSA and CIA, said the military would likely refuse orders from the President that violate international law. “You are required not to follow an unlawful order,” Gen Hayden told Bill Maher, noting that some of Trump's ideas are "in violation of all the international laws of armed conflict.”

Military officers are not required to follow orders they deem immoral or unlawful, and the military code of ethics encourages officers to disregard such orders.

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