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Gonzales Hearings Begin Thursday

Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales is promising to honor the government's non-torture policies and international treaties if he is confirmed by the Senate.

"I pledge that, if I am confirmed as Attorney General, I will abide by those commitments," he says in a draft of the opening statement he will deliver to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday,

A copy of that statement was obtained by CBS News.

Read the complete statement by Attorney General Nominee Alberto Gonzales.

Gonzales, who had a hand in much of the White House's post-9/11 terrorism policies as President Bush's top lawyer, faces condemnation from Democrats at the hearing over his January 2002 memo arguing that the war on terrorism "renders obsolete" the Geneva Convention's strict prohibitions against torture.

A month later, Mr. Bush signed an order declaring he has the authority to circumvent the Geneva accords and reserving the right to do so "in this or future conflicts." The order also says the Geneva treaty's treatment of prisoners of war do not apply to al-Qaeda or "unlawful combatants" from the Taliban.

Gonzales' critics say that decision and Gonzales' memo justifying it led to the torture scandal at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and prisoner abuses in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Mr. Bush already has made clear that the government will defend Americans from terrorists "in a manner consistent with our nation's values and applicable law, including our treaty obligations," Gonzales says in his opening statement. "I pledge that, if I am confirmed as attorney general, I will abide by those commitments."

On Tuesday, a dozen retired generals and admirals expressed "deep concern" about Gonzales' nomination.

The high-ranking officers include retired Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They made their views known in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, urging members to question Gonzales aggressively about whether he now believes that torture may be used in some instances and whether anti-torture laws and treaties like the Geneva Conventions apply to anyone captured by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The full extent of Mr. Gonzales' role in endorsing the use of torture remains unclear," retired Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Hoar said at a news conference organized by the group Human Rights First.

Retired Army Brig. Gen. James Cullen, who was a chief judge of the Army Court of Criminal Appeals, said he opposes Gonzales' nomination because "I think he's had such an appalling departure from good judgment."

Separately, a group of more than 225 religious leaders said they had "grave concern" over Gonzales' nomination and called on the attorney general candidate "To denounce the use of torture under any circumstances."

Still, the issue probably won't be enough to stop Republicans from confirming Gonzales as the first Hispanic attorney general.

Republicans hold 55 seats in the new Senate, while Democrats control 44 seats and there is a Democratic-leaning independent. The Democrats have not yet decided whether to try to block Gonzales' confirmation.

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