George Bush admits US waterboarded 9/11 mastermind

Former US president says Khalid Sheik Mohammed was waterboarded by US and he would do it again 'to save lives'

George Bush admitted yesterday that Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was waterboarded by the US, and said he would do it again "to save lives".

"Yeah, we water-boarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed," the former president told a business audience in Grand Rapids, Michigan. "I'd do it again to save lives."

Waterboarding is a simulated drowning technique that the Obama administration has said is torture. Mohammed was captured in Pakistan in 2003 and is the most senior al-Qaida operative in US custody.

In his speech, 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".

But he said he was not tempted to criticise Barack Obama. "You are not going to see me in the public square criticising the president."

In February he said he was "trying to regain a sense of anonymity. I didn't like it when a certain former president made my life miserable." This was said to be a reference to Jimmy Carter, president from 1976 to 1980.

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."

And he talked about the morning of 9/11, describing how he had learned that first one, then two planes had hit the World Trade Center in New York. The third plane, which hit the Pentagon near Washington DC, was "a declaration of war on our country", he said.

Bush's memoir Decision Points will be published in November.

America the Beautiful

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