Waterboarding is wrong and George Bush knows it

Once again, George Bush is thumbing his nose at the international system he repudiated as president. We learn in today’s New York Times and Washington Post that in his new book, Decision Points, he personally approved the waterboarding of Sept. 11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

“Had I not authorized waterboarding on senior al Qaeda leaders, I would have had to accept a greater risk that the country would be attacked,” he writes.

The
Post quotes “someone close to Bush who has read the book” who says that Bush replied, “Damn right,” when asked by a CIA operative about waterboarding Mohammed to find out more information about other possible plots. Bush also says that he would do it again if he had the opportunity.

If Bush is prepared to publicly confess his endorsement of waterboarding, he must be sure that he will not face prosecution. However, there is no doubt — is there? — that simulated drowning while victims are strapped to a board is torture, which is prohibited by international law.

Bush continues to say that he rejects torture. Yet he must know that waterboarding is wrong. All you need to do is read Barton Gellman’s book
Angler, on former Vice President Dick Cheney, for a list of possible suspects who could be hauled before the courts. Cheney himself is a self-confessed “big supporter of waterboarding.”

Since 2003, the administration has no longer engaged in waterboarding, which according to Attorney General Eric Holder is an act of torture. (What is more, there are plenty of accounts from interrogators who say that it is not even an effective way of coercing suspects to talk).

Bush’s admission should revive this issue for debate as it shines the spotlight on the U.S. record of double standards regarding international law.

Waterboarding is wrong, wrong, wrong. It’s torture, and George Bush knows it.