An Open Letter to President Bush Regarding Torture

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By Rev. Richard Cizik – Huffington Post, Opinion

November 18, 2010


Dear Mr. President:


Congratulations on the release of your new memoir, Decision Points, which helps me, as one of your supporters in two elections, to process your presidency. I would like to ask you a question if I may.


You write in your memoir that when the CIA asked for permission to torture Khalid Sheikh Mohammed by waterboarding him, you replied “damn right.” You also admitted authorizing waterboarding for other “senior al Qaeda leaders.”


You and the Vice President openly acknowledge that you approved waterboarding. This admission poses a profound question: Should we as a nation hold you personally accountable for violations of U.S. law and our most fundamental moral standards?


Let me say upfront that I don’t know whether you actually believe that you broke any laws. You may think that you carefully charted a course on torture that maneuvered through the prohibitions and allowed you to avoid illegality. In order to believe this, however, you must also believe that waterboarding isn’t torture, since you and the Vice President have both acknowledged your approval and support of this particular torture technique.


You are wrong. Waterboarding is unquestionably torture. You cannot sugar coat it or simplify it by calling it a mere dunk in the water. It was administered to produce severe mental and physical anguish, and it was done so to scare the victim into a desperate condition where he would reveal critical information. It is torture under the definition in the U.N. Convention Against Torture; it was torture under the terms by which we prosecuted our own soldiers in the war in Vietnam and Japanese soldiers after World War II, and it is torture under any application of common sense.


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