I'm proud we 'tortured' terrorists, says Bush's chief of staff
Published 13/03/2010 | 05:00
The man known for much of his career as "Bush's brain" has caused a storm of protest by saying that he is proud of waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation techniques" used on prisoners by the US as they "broke the will of these terrorists and gave us valuable information".
In a new memoir of his years as President Bush's chief political strategist, Karl Rove says that he was not told at the time of Mr Bush's decision to authorise waterboarding -- which feels to its victims like drowning -- but he defends the move, claims that senior Democrats "were complicit in its use", and denies that it amounts to torture.
The book, 'Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight', contains no apology for his role in committing America to war in Iraq on the basis of weapons of mass destruction that were never found.
Mr Rove admits only one significant mistake as an adviser: failing to insist that Mr Bush should respond more forcefully to accusations that he lied about pre-war intelligence on Iraq.
"The charge that Bush lied was itself a lie," he writes. "We felt it was beneath the dignity of the President. If you wrestle with pigs . . . you get muddy."
Pressed on his personal view of waterboarding, Mr Rove told the BBC: "I'm proud that we kept the world safer than it was by the use of these techniques. They're appropriate, they're in conformity with our international requirements and with US law."
"This is a desperate attempt by Mr Rove to protect his legacy," Stacey Sullivan, of Human Rights Watch said. With the possible exception of the decision to invade Iraq, nothing did more damage to America's global standing in the Bush years than the decision -- as summarised by Vice-President Dick Cheney soon after the 9/11 attacks -- to "work the dark side, if you will".
It was the first public hint of the programme of CIA rendition flights and coercive interrogations that led eventually to terrifying first-person accounts of waterboarding, including that of the British columnist Christopher Hitchens.
It felt, he wrote, "as if a huge, wet paw had been suddenly and annihilatingly clamped over my face".
Only three al-Qa'ida detainees were waterboarded before Mr Obama outlawed the practice last year, Mr Rove writes. (© The Times, London)