Obama and Churchill friends again after 100 days
Winston Churchill was right to denounce torture, says President as he completes his first 100 days
On his first day at the White House, President Barack Obama asked for a bust of Winston Churchill to be returned to the British embassy and replaced with one of Abraham Lincoln. British feathers were ruffled at the apparent snub to the great war leader.
But at his press conference on Wednesday to mark his first 100 days in office, British journalists beamed as Obama invoked Churchill in his position on the use of torture on detainees in the Bush administration's 'war on terror'.
"I believe waterboarding was torture," said the President, "and, whatever legal rationals were used, it was a mistake."
The new president has been criticised by former vice-president Dick Cheney for making public four secret memos from the Bush era which detailed interrogation techniques - including waterboarding - approved by the CIA.
Cheney insists that if these classified documents are to be made public, then so too must further documents which show - to Cheney's mind, anyway - that valuable intelligence was gained through waterboarding.
Obama, with Churchill's help, rejected Cheney's argument. He told the assembled journalists: "I was struck by an article that I was reading the other day talking about the fact that the British, during World War Two, when London was being bombed to smithereens, had 200 or so detainees. And Churchill said 'we don't torture', when all of the British people were being subjected to unimaginable risk and threat.
"And the reason was that Churchill understood you start taking shortcuts, and over time, that corrodes what's best in a people. It corrodes the character of a country."
Obama said he had read the classified documents mentioned by Cheney. But they did not prove that the information gained could not have been obtained in another way. Nor did they prove that the United States was safer as the result of employing torture techniques. Indeed, torture had provided al-Qaeda with a recruiting tool, he said. ·
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