I guess if you really don't care about perceptions, it makes it that much easier to be open about your war criminal past. While everyone focuses on Kanye West and replacing Cheney sections of Bush's new memoir, the media studiously ignores the unapologetic admission by him that he ordered the waterboarding of detainees. But Andy Worthington, who has been documenting the atrocities of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, didn't ignore it:
On Guantánamo, the only comments in the book that have so far emerged are insultingly flippant, which is disgraceful from the man who shredded the Geneva Conventions and authorized an unprecedented program of arbitrary detention, coercive interrogation and torture. In addition, Bush’s baleful legacy lives on in the cases of the 174 men still held, in the recent show trial of Omar Khadr, and in the complacency regarding the basis for detaining prisoners of the “War on Terror” — the Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed by Congress the week after the 9/11 attacks — on which Barack Obama continues to rely, despite its formidable shortcomings.
As Michiko Kakutani explained in a review of the book for the New York Times:
He tries to play down the problems of Guantánamo Bay, writing that detainees were given “a personal copy of the Koran” and access to a library among whose popular offerings was “an Arabic translation of Harry Potter.”
On torture, however, Bush remains as casual about authorizing waterboarding (a form of controlled drowning used on at least three “high-value detainees” held in secret CIA prisons), as he did in June this year, when he told the Economic Club of Grand Rapids, Michigan, “Yeah, we waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. I’d do it again to save lives.”
In his book, he writes that his response, when asked if he would approve the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was, “Damn right!” He added, “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.”
Worthington's own voluminous archives say differently.
Bizarrely, Bush also attempts to explain how Abu Zubaydah began cooperating, in a troubling passage in which he seems to be trying to make out that waterboarding was some sort of specific test for Muslims. He writes, “His understanding of Islam was that he had to resist interrogation only up to a certain point. Waterboarding was the technique that allowed him to reach that threshold, fulfill his religious duty, and then cooperate.” He adds that Abu Zubaydah then explained, “You must do this for all the brothers.”
Writing of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times, according to the OLC memos, Bush describes him as “difficult to break,” as Reuters put it, “but when he did, he gave us a lot.” As Reuters explained, “He disclosed plans to attack American targets with anthrax and ‘directed us to three people involved in the al-Qaeda biological weapons program,’ among other breakthroughs.”
Again, this is a claim that is not backed up with any evidence. As David Rose explained in an article for Vanity Fair in December 2008, “according to a former senior CIA official, who read all the interrogation reports on KSM, ‘90 percent of it was total f*cking bullsh*t.’ A former Pentagon analyst adds: ‘KSM produced no actionable intelligence. He was trying to tell us how stupid we were.’”
And Bush is counting on his readers to continue to be that stupid.