President Bush defends waterboarding in memoir

An example of waterboarding.

An example of waterboarding. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/Karl Gunnarsson/Wikipedia)

In former President George W. Bush’s new memoir “Decision Points,” he defends waterboarding. The controversial interrogation technique was used by U.S. authorities to obtain information from radical Islamist prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. As Bush reiterated during an interview with Matt Lauer, he approved waterboarding because his lawyers told him it was legal.

Waterboarding as a preventative measure

Waterboarding became a hot topic nationally after 9-11. The U.S. intelligence community believed the threat of a repeat terrorist attack was high. Intelligence agents assured President Bush that information on future attacks existed. Permission to waterboard was requested, the president consulted with his attorneys and got the green light.

‘Why is waterboarding legal?’

Lauer took the first step in asking the big waterboarding question when he asked Bush why he thought it was legal. The former president responded as follows:

“Because the lawyer said it was legal. He said it did not fall within the Anti-Torture Act. I’m not a lawyer, but you gotta trust the judgment of people around you. And I do.”

But the natural extension of that line of inquiry, writes NPR – the climactic question that America still wants answered – went unasked by Lauer. While waterboarding may have been legal, was it a “moral” choice? President Bush has spoken openly of being a “born-again” Christian, and many media sources are curious to hear whether the choice to utilize waterboarding – which is considered torture by many nations – gels with his religious faith.

‘Decision points’ to murky waters

Dealing with terrorism and national security requires swift, decisive decisions. Most people may never fully understand what it’s like to have to make such decisions, yet such is part of the burden of being a world leader. Waterboarding may be legal, but its morality remains an issue for many. By point of historical comparison, slavery was once legal in America, but critics existed from the beginning. Abortion is legal, but many people question its morality.

Waterboarding faces similar questions – and now, the statute of limitations has expired on the ability to prosecute over the CIA’s destruction of Abu Ghraib interrogation recordings. Thus, no prosecutions can occur for obstruction of justice. Prosecutions over waterboarding may never occur, even though President Obama has banned the practice and stated that it can no longer be ordered by a president.


A moment from the Bush-Lauer waterboarding interview

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