A message from former President George W. Bush –
George W Bush memoirs: Decision Points in pictures
“Decision Points” covers 14 separate decisions Bush made while in the White House, offering analysis about how he reached them in an effort to shed further light on his presidency. The book begins with the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, which drastically reshaped his foreign and military policy, and ends with the economic meltdown during his waning days in the White House.
Asked if he authorised the use of waterboarding on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, he said: “Damn right! We capture the guy, the chief operating officer of al-Qaeda, who kills 3,000 people. We felt he had the information about another attack. He says: “I’ll talk to you when I get my lawyer.” I say: “What options are available and legal?”.”
Interestingly, he said that before the waterboarding of three terror suspects, officials gave him a list of legal “enhanced interrogation” techniques, two of which he rejected as going “too far”.
Mr Bush insisted that “waterboarding” of terrorist suspects by the CIA saved British lives by stopping Islamist attacks on Heathrow, Canary Wharf, US government buildings abroad and many targets within the US.
In the book, Mr Bush writes of his errors in the Iraq campaign and the failure to find weapons of mass destruction, which international intelligence reports strongly suggested Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had obtained. Asked if he considered apologising for the mistakes, the former president said he has not. “Apologising would basically say the decision was a wrong decision,” Mr Bush said
Mr Bush insists “the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power, as are 25 million people who now have a chance to live in freedom” in Iraq.
He writes: “What would life be like if Saddam Hussein were (still) in power? It’s likely you would be seeing a nuclear arms race.”
Mr Bush said he regretted flying a banner bearing the words “Mission Accomplished” on the USS Abraham Lincoln in 2003 before the troop numbers were lowered in Iraq and the insurgency again destabilised the country: “It looked like I was doing the victory dance I had warned against. It was a big mistake.”
Mr Bush said that he wished he could have brought bin Laden to justice and the fact that the al-Qa’eda leader continues to evade capture was “among my greatest regrets”.
Mr Bush’s biggest regrets centre on Osama bin Laden and Iraq, particularly “false intelligence” on WMD. “No one was more shocked or angry than I was when we didn’t find the weapons,” he said. “I had a sickening feeling every time I thought about it. I still do.”
On Afghanistan, Mr Bush writes: “Our government was not prepared for nation building. Over time, we adapted our strategy and our capabilities. Still, the poverty in Afghanistan is so deep, and the infrastructure so lacking, that it will take many years to complete the work.”
Mr Bush praised the “wisdom” and “strategic thinking” of Mr Blair in his book, confirming that the former prime minister was his strongest foreign ally. Mr Bush writes in his memoir that following the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, Mr Blair told him “he would stand with America ‘100 per cent’ in fighting terror”.
George W Bush has disclosed that he and his wife bonded with the Blairs over the film ‘Meet the Parents’. When the group, including Mr Bush’s wife Laura, decided to watch a film, they decided to watch the 2001 comedy starring Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro. “When they agreed on Meet the Parents… Laura and I knew the Bushes and the Blairs would get along”, he wrote.
Mr Bush confesses that he did not respond as effectively as he could have during the Hurricane Katrina crisis, which some critics viewed as the low point of his presidency.
He called his New Orleans flyover a “huge mistake,” and acknowledged he should have stopped in Louisiana to tell local officials and victims of the disaster “I hear you.” He said the photographs now seared in public memory showing the president looking out the window of Air Force One on a flight back to Washington made him seem “detached and uncaring.” “This was a problem of perception, not reality,” Bush said in his book. “My heart broke at the sight of helpless people trapped on their rooftops waiting to be rescued.”
On Iran, Mr Bush writes: “A government not of the people is never capable of being held to account for human rights violations. Iran will be better served if there is an Iranian-style democracy. They play like they’ve got elections but they’ve got a handful of clerics who decide who runs it.”
Mr Bush shows evidence that contradicts the stereotype of a hick cowboy: he won a competition with his adviser Karl Rove to get through the most history books in a year (110 to 95); read 14 biographies of Abraham Lincoln while in office; and ignored television entirely to spend more time reading. He said: “I found it fascinating to be reading history and making history.”