Former President George W. Bush is causing a stir in Britain with his new memoir. The book, ï¿½Decision Pointsï¿½ is out today. In an interview with a British newspaper Bush defended the use of water-boarding as a legal interrogation technique that saved lives both in the US and the UK. But his remarks are not getting much support across the Atlantic. Laura Lynch reports.
George Bush came roaring back into British consciousness today with just a few simple phrases.
For a start, he told both NBC and the Times of London newspaper the same thing ï¿½ waterboarding ï¿½ which simulates drowning- isn't torture, it isn't illegal and this is why.
ï¿½BECAUSE THE LAWYERS SAID IT WAS LEGAL. SAID IT DID NOT FALL WITH IN THE ANTI TORTURE ACT,ï¿½ Bush said. ï¿½I'M NOT A LAWYER BUT YOU GOTTA TRUST THE JUDGMENT OF PEOPLE AROUND YOU AND I DO. I WILL TELL YOU THIS, USING THOSE TECHNIQUES SAVED LIVES. MY JOB WAS TO PROTECT AMERICA. AND I DID.ï¿½
And when Bush was asked whether he personally ordered the use of waterboarding against ACCUSED 9/11 PLANNER Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the former president was succinct. Damn right, he said.
Bush ï¿½ ever the divisive figure here ï¿½ stirred up debate on radio call-in shows today.
One man said, ï¿½EVERYTIME I WATCH THE PICTURES OF THE PLANES CRASHING INTO THE WORLD TRADE CENTRE MY BLOOD RUNS COLD. I DON'T CARE IF SOMEBODY SITS DOWN WITH A PAIR OF PLIERS AND A BLUNT PAIR OF SCISSORS TO GAIN THE INFORMATION THAT'D EVER STOP THAT HAPPENING AGAIN.ï¿½
But another a listener chimed in, ï¿½YOU KNOW I THINK GEORGE BUSH SHOULD BE TAKEN TO THE HAGUE OR TRIED AGAINST THE GENEVA CONVENTION OR WHATEVER IT MIGHT BE BECAUSE HE'S COMMITTED CRIME.ï¿½
Bush repeated assertions that the use of waterboarding foiled attacks on Heathrow Airport and the Canary Wharf business district in London.
But Kim Howells, a minister in the Foreign Office under former prime minister Tony Blair, casts doubt on that claim.
He said, ï¿½WHERE I DOUBT WHAT PRESIDENT BUSH HAS SAID IS THAT THIS, WHAT WE REGARD AS TROTURE ACTUALLY PRODUCED INFORMATION WHICH WAS INSTRUMENTAL IN PREVENTING THOSE PLOTS COMING TO FRUITION AND MURDERING PEOPLE IF YOU LIKE.ï¿½
The British government does classify waterboarding as torture. David Davis, a Conservative Member of Parliament, said Bush's words made him angry.
ï¿½HE TALKS ABOUT BEING MORTIFIED ABOUT WHAT HE TERMS ï¿½FALSE INTELLIGENCE' THAT LED TO THE WAR IN IRAQ. YOU KNOW WHERE THAT FALSE INTELLIGENCE CAME FROM ï¿½ A LARGE PART OF IT? IT CAME FROM THE TORTURE OF MR. AL LIBI AND THEN THE ILLEGAL RENDITION THEREAFTER. AND THAT'S THE PROBLEM WITH TORTURE. PEOPLE UNDER TORTURE TELL YOU WHAT YOU WANT TO HEAR.ï¿½
Bush's frank admission that he directly authorised waterboarding is prompting some human rights activists to suggest the former president could be arrested if he travels to countries that have ratified the UN convention against torture.
Tom Porteous, the UK Director of Human Rights Watch, said if a case can be built against the former president, it's in the interests of global justice for him to stand trial.
ï¿½IT IS TORTURE, THERE'S NO TWO WAYS ABOUT IT,ï¿½ said Porteous. ï¿½INSTEAD OF TRYING TO JUSTIFY IT, GEORGE BUSH SHOULD BE REPUDIATING IT. AND HE SHOULD UNDERSTAND THAT THE USE OF TORTURE AND THE AUTHORISATION OF TORTURE BY THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT HAS DONE HUGE DAMAGE TO AMERICA'S REPUTATION AROUND THE WORLD.
If Bush's robust defence RE-KINDLED SOME anger some here, some of his other remarks may make things worse.
In the newspaper interview, the former president said he didn't really care too much about British public opinion both during the Iraq war and now.
ï¿½It doesn't matter how people perceive me in England, ï¿½ he said. ï¿½ It just doesn't matter any more. And frankly, at times, it didn't matter then.ï¿½