By Claudie Qumsieh
Former US President George W. Bush has admitted authorising the illegal practice of waterboarding during the interrogation of terror suspects. Bush claims the technique “helped break up plots” on both US and British soil, including Heathrow airport and Canary Wharf in London. Bush made the admission in his memoirs “Decision Points” which is released today.
Waterboarding is a controversial interrogation technique which simulates drowning. Amnesty International have said waterboarding is “absolutely prohibited under international law”. Amnesty’s UK Director Kate Allen said Bush’s comments were “self-serving and misguided” and pointed out that information gathered through those illegal means is “notoriously unreliable and inadmissible”. Downing Street today reiterated that waterboarding is illegal torture. President Obama banned the practice soon after his inauguration. Bush denies it is torture saying it is just one “advanced interrogation technique”
In an interview with The Times, which is serializing his memoir, Bush was asked if the technique was used with the man behind the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Bush said: “Damn right [...] We capture the guy, the chief operating officer of al-Qaida, who kills 3,000 people. We felt he had the information about another attack”
Human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC said that Bush could face prosecution for his admissions, saying he “has confessed to ordering waterboarding, which in the view of almost all experts clearly passes the severe pain threshold in the definition of torture in international law.”
Bush is unapologetic “I knew an interrogation programme this sensitive and controversial would one day become public. When it did, we would open ourselves up to criticism that America had compromised our moral values. I would have preferred that we get the information another way. But the choice between security and values was real” Seemingly impervious to criticism, Bush told The Times “It doesn’t matter how people perceive me in England. It just doesn’t matter any more. And frankly, at times, it didn’t matter then”
Pulitzer Prize winning Politifact (St. Petersburg Times) researched claims that the U.S executed Japanese Prisoners of War for waterboarding and found that “After World War II, an international coalition convened to prosecute Japanese soldiers charged with torture. At the top of the list of techniques was water-based interrogation, known variously then as ‘water cure,’ ‘water torture’ and ‘waterboarding,’ according to the charging documents. It simulates drowning [...] A number of the Japanese soldiers convicted by American judges were hanged, while others received lengthy prison sentences or time in labor camps.”
Bush relinquished responsibility in an interview with NBC’s Today programme saying “The lawyer said it was legal. He said it did not fall within the anti-torture act. I’m not a lawyer. But you gotta trust the judgment of people around you, and I do.”