With the focus so firmly on the race to become the Democratic and Republican nomination for the Presidential elections, the man still in charge has managed to slink into the shadows in recent months.

But in a wide-ranging interview with the BBC to mark the end of his time in the White House, George Bush has worked hard to justify the decisions made during his presidency.

Despite the reported openness of the interview, the US President was very much on the defensive as he stood by decisions on a range of subjects, from the removal of Saddam Hussein to the stance he adopted on Darfur.

The President was also quick to justify the on-going war on terror, particularly the detention of alleged suspects at Guantanamo Bay.

He also returned to a depressingly familiar tactic – using emotive language and feeding on fear to argue that detention of suspects without trial and interrogation techniques like waterboarding have helped save lives.

Mr Bush preyed on the confusion and fears of people in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and continued to do throughout his presidency.

He has based so much of his most contentious domestic and foreign policy on the argument that such measures are essential in order to fight the terrorists and prevent a repeat of the attacks and bombings. Moreover, if you disagree you are an apologist for terrorism and un-American.

So it was almost inevitable that during his BBC interview he would claim that waterboarding – which he denied was a form of torture, despite one of his own officials recently acknowledging as much – and detention was justified as information obtained from alleged terrorists helped save lives. Resorting to that tried, trusted and loathsome tactic he claimed the families of the victims of July 7 bombings in London knew what he meant: “I suspect the families of those victims understand the nature of killers.”

Mr Bush also renewed his threat to veto a congressional bill that would ban waterboarding during interrogation: “We’ll make sure professionals have the tools necessary to do their job within the law.”

The next 12 months is likely to see plenty written about the Bush presidential legacy. State-backed torture will be close to the top of the list of his achievements.

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7 responses »

  1. jonolan says:

    All reports and evidence available confirm that Pres. Bush is right. The interrogation techniques used at Gitmo worked well enough to provide us with the information needed to stop multiple terrorist attacks.

    That being said, it is also possible that this information could have been gotten without some of more aggressive techniques. It is also fairly certain that Gitmo is being run poorly. My experience and study tells me that if you haven’t gotten the data in 90 days, you’re not going to ever. There’s no valid excuse for the multi-year trial-less incarcerations.

  2. Sandman says:

    It is also well documented that although torture produces answers, it is extremely bad at producing truth. It’s a known fact that if you beat a man long enough, he’ll sell out his own grandmother just to get you to stop. However, it doesn’t mean he’s told you the truth.

    There is no justification for using torture, unless you’re just looking for propaganda. In which case you’ve ceded the moral high ground to the terrorists in the first place.

  3. jonolan says:

    Sandman,

    Your response kind of goes back to my comment on the stupidity of longterm usage on a subject. Torture can be – has been – quite effective at gaining data from subjects. Unfortunately it seems to be only the data that is gathered early on that has any sort of validity. Your “beat a man long enough” is accurate in that point.

    There’s plenty of justification for using torture during interrogation. The real question is whether those justifications are based on priorities that the American citizenry agree with. So far that does not seem to be the case.

  4. Sandman says:

    I still disagree. If we are going to hold ourselves up to the world as the “good guys”, then our conduct vis-a-vis prisoners of war and interrogation absolutely must be above reproach. And that includes the methods and means we use to extract information from suspects.

    If we stoop to the level of, say, North Korea, a state well known for using brutal interrogation techniques on its own people, then what moral ground do we have to stand on when the same methods are used against our own soldiers and citizens by other states? We have none, for we have already taken the low road.

    Being the world’s superpower doesn’t mean we do what we want, when we want to, to whomever we want. It means we will be held to higher standards than the “other guys.”

  5. Paul Groves says:

    In the context of the US embarking on this fight against global terror in the name of democracy and basic freedoms, then the use of torture and questionable procedures such as prolonged detention without trial is at the very least hypocritical (but more likely something far more sinister).

    I agree that if you beat someone for long enough they will tell you whatever you to hear.

    Equally, I’m uneasy about the alliances that have been forged in the name of fighting terrorism and extremism and the fact that a blind eye is turned for the sake of keeping a dubious ally sweet – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7244051.stm being a perfect case in point.

    (Thanks to jonolan and Sandman for the comments)

  6. jonolan says:

    Sandman,

    Actually you DON’T disagree at all. You’ve made a statement of the value judgment that torture is intrinsically bad enough to outweigh any tactical benefit it might give.

    I.e. when considering “The real question is whether those justifications are based on priorities that the American citizenry agree with,” you’re answer is an emphatic NO!

    That seems to be the commonly held opinion by “The People”. That being the case, the practice should be ended – IMHO.

  7. Sandman says:

    jonolan,

    You make a good point. However, the point I’m trying to make is that torture should be outlawed not as a matter of public opinion, but of moral principle. After all, public opinion can easily swing the other way, given the right circumstances and creative phrasing of the question. However, were such an event to occur that would result in the public suddenly favoring that which is morally repugnant, the morality of torture would not change – just the public perception of it.

    Torture is inherently immoral, whether the majority approve of it or not.

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