Back in 2003, Mayor of London Ken Livingstone had declared George W. Bush ‘the greatest threat to life on earth,’ and said he was unwelcome in the great city. Now his Tory successor Boris Johnson has recorded his own displeasure at Bush’s prospective visit with equal eloquence. Here is the mayor in his own words:
It is not yet clear whether George W Bush is planning to cross the Atlantic to flog us his memoirs, but if I were his PR people I would urge caution. As book tours go, this one would be an absolute corker. It is not just that every European capital would be brought to a standstill, as book-signings turned into anti-war riots. The real trouble — from the Bush point of view — is that he might never see Texas again.
One moment he might be holding forth to a great perspiring tent at Hay-on-Wye. The next moment, click, some embarrassed member of the Welsh constabulary could walk on stage, place some handcuffs on the former leader of the Free World, and take him away to be charged. Of course, we are told this scenario is unlikely. Dubya is the former leader of a friendly power, with whom this country is determined to have good relations. But that is what torture-authorising Augusto Pinochet thought. And unlike Pinochet, Mr Bush is making no bones about what he has done.
Unless the 43rd president of the United States has been grievously misrepresented, he has admitted to authorising and sponsoring the use of torture. Asked whether he approved of “waterboarding” in three specific cases, he told his interviewer that “damn right” he did, and that this practice had saved lives in America and Britain. It is hard to overstate the enormity of this admission.
by Andy Worthington
With just days to go before George W. Bush’s memoir, Decision Points, hits bookstores (on November 9), and with reports on the book’s contents doing the rounds after review copies were made available to the New York Times and Reuters, it will be interesting to see how many media outlets allow the former President the opportunity to try to salvage his reputation, how many are distracted by his spat with Kanye West or his claim that he thought about replacing Dick Cheney as Vice President in 2004, and how many decide that, on balance, it would be more honest to remind readers and viewers of the former President’s many crimes — including the illegal invasion of Iraq, and the authorization of the use of torture on “high-value detainees” seized in the “War on Terror.”
As I fall firmly into the latter camp, this article focuses on what little has so far emerged regarding the President’s views on Guantánamo, and, in particular, on his confession that he authorized the waterboarding of “high-value detainee” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, which is rather more important than trading blows with a rapper about whether or not his response to the Katrina disaster was racist, as it is a crime under domestic and international law.
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.”