By Tom Parker, Policy Director for Terrorism, Counterterrorism and Human Rights at Amnesty International USA
Former President George Bush has spent the past week touring media outlets to promote the publication of his new memoir "Decision Points" in which he proudly admits that he authorized the CIA to subject terrorist suspects to "simulated drowning" in an attempt to get them to talk.
Speaking to the British newspaper The Times, Bush claimed that water-boarding had saved British lives by preventing attacks on a skyscraper in the East End of London and on Heathrow airport. His claims received an immediate rebuttal from a series of British politicians from across the political spectrum in the UK.
The former Director of Public Prosecutions during the period in question, Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, told the Daily Telegraph: "I've never seen anything to substantiate these claims. It's an easy claim to make, it's much more difficult to prove. These claims are to be treated with a great deal of skepticism."
Lord Goldsmith, the former Attorney General added: "I know President Bush has made these claims. I don't know what evidence there is for it. I didn't hear that at the time."
The former Chairman of the House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee, Dr. Kim Howells, said that he doubted that "what we regard as torture actually produced information instrumental in preventing those plots coming to fruition." Dr. Howells added in an interview with BBC: "It is his claim and no doubt he will go on making it... he needs to try to justify what he did to the world. We think water-boarding is torture."
David Davis, former Shadow Home Secretary and a former Special Forces soldier, also observed on the same BBC program:
[President Bush] talks about being mortified about what he termed being false intelligence that led to the war in the Iraq. Do you know where that false intelligence came from -- a large part of it -- it came from the torture of a Mr. Al-Libi... That's the problem with torture. People under torture tell you what you want to hear. If you want to hear that Saddam is supporting Al Qaeda, which plainly he wasn't, that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction, which plainly he didn't; then you'll get that information by torture. You'll get the wrong information.
Prime Minster David Cameron reiterated his belief that the manner in which the United States had treated War on Terror detainees had made the West less, not more, safe.
Of course the reality is that the former President is trying to defend the indefensible but it is important to note just how thin his arguments actually are. When host Matt Lauer asked Bush on Monday's Today Show, "if it is legal... would it be ok for a foreign country to water-board an American citizen?" he dodged the question. His response? "All I ask is that people read the book."
You won't find any answers there either, believe me, I've looked. Save your money. You'd think after almost a decade Bush would have some semblance of an answer to such a pertinent question.
In his 2009 Senate confirmation hearing Attorney General Eric Holder stated unambiguously that "water-boarding is torture" and that "no president is above the law." Holder also pledged under his stewardship the Department of Justice would serve justice and not "the fleeting interests of any political party."
By his own admission, President Bush directed subordinates to water-board prisoners in American custody. Water-boarding is torture. He was not then, and is not now, above the law. After such a blatant admission of criminal activity, the Department of Justice has an obligation to open an investigation.
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