"Yeah, we waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed," the former president told a business audience in Grand Rapids, Michigan. "I'd do it again to save lives." ... Bush also defended the decision to go to war with Iraq in 2003. He said ousting Saddam Hussein "was the right thing to do and the world is a better place without him".
I was glad to see Bush speak out on these issues and defend them. As I've written many times, intelligence was critical in the aftermath of 9/11. Refusing to take necessary actions to extract information from the attack mastermind would have been incredibly irresponsible -- putting the welfare of a foreign terrorist enemy above protecting the U.S. For all his other mistakes, Bush did the right thing in ordering the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and he would have been justified in ordering more extreme measures should they have been necessary. I hope if we ever face a similar situation, another president will have the same resolve to put the welfare & safety of the U.S. above the non-existent rights of a foreign terrorist leader.
The decision to attack Iraq is less clear-cut in my opinion, but it was still a reasonable and defensible action given the circumstances at the time and our mistaken intelligence regarding Iraq's supposed possession of weapons of mass destruction. Much of the criticism of Bush's decision rests on convenient hindsight.
There is another thing that Bush said that I want to comment on, since I'm sure it will be picked up and exaggerated, especially by my fellow atheists who are on the left.
Bush also talked about the role of religion in his life. "I prayed a lot. I really did. I prayed before every major speech. I prayed before debates. It was a very important experience."Much has been made of Bush's religiosity, and similar comments have been seized upon to portray him almost as someone who thought he was being given personal revelations from God -- a religious crazy who acted because he believed he was on some sort of divine mission. I think that interpretation is ridiculous, and demonstrates a lack of understanding regarding the language used by many religious people. Since prayer doesn't actually do anything, and there aren't any answers from God, when most people pray for guidance they still have to think for themselves, weigh their options, and come to a decision, just as someone who doesn't pray. And when they say things such as, I prayed about it and God led me in the right direction, or I believe it's God's will that I do this, they aren't claiming that God spoke into their ears. They are giving their own considered decision a religious veneer. There are of course people who are genuinely irrational, and who really do believe that God speaks directly to them in a real way, and tells them what do to. I've seen no convincing evidence that Bush is such an individual.