Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush told an audience in Iowa that he would not rule out resuming the use of torture by the US government under some circumstances. He said he believed it was effective in producing critical intelligence.
Bush was speaking before an audience of 250 Republican supporters at St. Ambrose University when asked if he would keep in place or repeal President Barack Obama’s executive order banning torture.
“I don’t want to make a definitive, blanket kind of statement,” Bush told the audience, according to the Associated Press. “When you are president your words matter.”
Bush said he believed torture is inappropriate and that he was glad his brother, former President George W. Bush, largely ended the CIA’s use of torture before leaving office. He did not address the fact that the use of torture also began under George W. Bush’s presidency.
Bush added that he believed the techniques were effective in producing intelligence, but that “now we’re in a different environment.”
It was under the Obama administration that an executive order was issued banning torture by the CIA. A Senate Intelligence Committee probe into torture under George W. Bush’s administration resulted in a heavily redacted report, released in December 2014, which contained shocking findings. It disclosed that the CIA had lied and covered up the brutality of the techniques used, and that the torture had failed to produce life-saving intelligence.
The techniques used to coerce suspected Al-Qaeda detainees included waterboarding, sometimes as often as two to four times a day, being confined in a coffin-sized box for hours, rectal feeding, standing restrained for days, slapping, nudity, sleep deprivation and humiliation.
The practice of torturing prisoners of war is banned under the Geneva Convention, to which the US is a signatory.
The event on Thursday was Jeb Bush’s first appearance in Iowa. He is often called upon to answer for some of his brother’s unpopular decisions.
He said that “taking out Saddam Hussein turned out to be a pretty good deal,” referring to the dictator’s execution, according to Bloomberg.
He also criticized President Obama and his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, for what’s happened in the region since his brother left office.
“We declared success and then chaos occurred afterwards,” he said. “There has to be a plan for the long haul.”
Bush didn’t clarify what he meant by success. The invasion cost US taxpayers $1 trillion and Iraq continues to be impoverished and dysfunctional. As a result of the war, an estimated 500,000 Iraqis lost their lives, nearly 5,000 American military personnel were killed, and over 32,000 service men and women were left wounded, 30 percent of whom are mentally ill, and 20 percent of whom have brain or spinal injuries, according to Iraq war statistics.
In reiterating his own plan to root out the Islamic State terror group, which has since seized large chunks of Iraq, Bush called for engaging US allies and working to strengthen a coalition of moderates in Syria. However, his criticisms of Obama again brought to mind the objections leveled against his brother’s war.
“We can’t unilaterally go into countries,” he said, according to Politico.