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Thursday 11 November 2010

The Faultlessly Burning Bush

He was right. Damn right. Waterboarding, Guantánamo Bay, invading Iraq, planning to invade Iran, and even to invade Syria. In his presidential memoirs, Decision Points (give someone their due, that’s not a bad line), George W Bush lays it all out, together with his admiration for Tone.

However, he does at least admit that actions in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina were the worst point in his presidency. Damn right they were: the images of people, generally African American and poor, being left to fend for themselves in the wake of a major environmental disaster, even brought forth condemnation from Shepard Smith, and he reports for Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse).

Even Dubya’s support for waterboarding has not found universal approval. He approved it, he said, because the lawyers said it was legal. Those who recall the UK Attorney General’s volte face on the legality of the Iraq war may be permitted a wry smile. Unfortunately for those who believe that torture, conveniently declared legal, has any place in intelligence gathering, the UK disagrees.

Both sides of the Commons have critics: Kim Howells, formerly head of the parliamentary intelligence and security committee, has doubted that waterboarding stopped any attack on the UK. And Tory David Davis has been dismissive of the idea, quoting a former deputy head of MI6 who noted that in World War 2, the Allies did not torture, while the Gestapo had no such qualms. The result was that the latter got plenty of information, but much of it was wrong. They were on the losing side.

And both Bush and Blair still have problems admitting that they should shoulder any blame for the Iraq adventure: that the failure to find all those WMDs was the fault of intelligence, rather than the excessively colourful “interpretation” of it. The tens of thousands of dead Iraqis due directly to the invasion and subsequent dismantling of the Iraqi security apparatus do not appear to get a mention.

We should not be surprised. For every person who looks at the evidence of the Iraq adventure and sees a shameful failure, there is another who is ready to cheer on the torturers. Dubya still has his admirers both in the US and the UK: there are none so blind that will not see.

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