Waterboarding prevented deaths - Bush

2010-11-09 16:01

London - Former US president George W Bush defended his decision to allow "waterboarding" of terrorist suspects, claiming it prevented deadly attacks in Britain, in an interview published on Tuesday.

Promoting his memoirs in The Times newspaper, Bush claimed information obtained using the interrogation technique - which simulates drowning - helped prevent planned attacks on London's Heathrow Airport and Canary Wharf.

"Three people were waterboarded and I believe that decision saved lives," the former leader told the paper.

"Their interrogations helped break up plots to attack American diplomatic facilities abroad, Heathrow Airport and Canary Wharf in London, and multiple targets in the United States," Bush wrote in his book, Decision Points.

The ex-commander in chief also said it was "damn right" that he had authorised use of the controversial method on al-Qaeda's 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Britain regards waterboarding as torture and last month the country's Secret Intelligence Service chief, John Sawers, described the use of torture as "illegal and abhorrent".

Britain was a close ally of the US when Bush decided to invade Iraq in 2003, a relationship which provoked much anger amongst the UK public.

"It doesn't matter how people perceive me in England," Bush responded. "It just doesn't matter any more. And frankly, at times, it didn't matter then."

Bush revealed that former British prime minister Tony Blair was prepared to sacrifice his own job and his entire government in order to assist the United States in their invasion.

With a possible parliamentary vote of no confidence looming on the eve of war, Bush had advised the British leader to reconsider his support.

"Rather than lose the government, I would much rather have Tony and his wisdom and his strategic thinking as the prime minister of a strong and important ally," Bush reasoned.

Blair replied: "I'm in. If it costs the government, fine."