London’s Tory mayor, Boris Johnson, has some strong words of caution for former president George W. Bush: if you come to Europe to promote your book, pack heavily and be prepared for a long stay. In fact, you may “never see Texas again.” As he sees it, Bush’s book and statements he has made in efforts to market it constitute admissions of serious crimes.
Initial reports about Bush’s autobiography did not go over well in Europe, and Britain’s new Conservative government was particularly eager to push back against suggestions that their conservatism had any resemblance to the Bush variety. Bush insisted this his decision to use waterboarding and other torture techniques kept Britain safe. But British Conservatives are having none of it:
In the case of the three men waterboarded on Bush’s orders, British ministers are not aware of any valuable information they gave about plots against Heathrow, Canary Wharf or anywhere else. All the policy has achieved is to degrade America in the eyes of the world, and to allow America’s enemies to utter great whoops of vindication. It is not good enough for Dubya now to claim that what he did was OK, because “the lawyers said it was legal”.
As Johnson sees it, the torture debate is ultimately about America’s claim to leadership in the world and the Bush team’s sullying of the nation’s reputation:
How could America complain to the Burmese generals about the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, when a president authorised torture? How can we talk about human rights in Beijing, when our number one ally and friend seems to be defending this kind of behaviour? I can’t think of any other American president, in my lifetime, who would have spoken in this way. Mr Bush should have remembered the words of the great Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, who said in 1863 that “military necessity does not admit of cruelty”. Damn right.