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George W. Bush, Torture President

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Last week we learned from an interview with former Argentine president Néstor Kirchner that former president George W. Bush touted war as a cure to a nation’s economic ills. Bush has not contested that account. Moreover, yesterday he clarified his role in the torture of prisoners at CIA black sites. For two years, Republicans have argued against any inquiry into the torture practices of the Bush-Cheney administration, but apparently all it takes to get Bush to discuss the issue is a fat speaking fee. In a keynote address before the Economic Club of Grand Rapids, he spoke glibly about waterboarding:

Sure, we waterboarded Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, former President George W. Bush reportedly said on Tuesday. And he would “do it again to save lives.”

A group of thirteen retired admirals and generals meeting in Philadelphia to discuss national security issues, speaking through former CENTCOM commander General Joseph Hoar, responded:

Waterboarding is torture. John McCain has said it’s torture. We have prosecuted foreign and American military personnel for waterboarding. We even prosecuted a sheriff in Texas for waterboarding. Waterboarding is torture and torture is a crime. It cannot be demonstrated that any use of it by U.S. personnel in recent years has saved a single American life. To the contrary, the misguided belief that torture saves lives has cost America dearly. It is shocking that former President George W. Bush said he would use waterboarding ‘again to save lives.’ When he authorized it the first time he sent America down the wrong road, battering our alliances, damaging counterinsurgency efforts, and increasing threats to our soldiers.

Bush’s statement amounts to an admission of his role in a serious crime. He can speak and act without concern because the Obama White House has announced its intention not to enforce American domestic law, under which this conduct was a felony, and not to comply with the unequivocal treaty commitments of the Convention Against Torture, under which the United States is unconditionally obligated to undertake a criminal investigation. In this way, the sins of one regime have been assumed by its successor.

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