Bush, Olmert wanted to bomb Syria
Former U.S. President George W. Bush is seen on the cover of his memoir titled "Decision Points" in this handout released to Reuters April 26, 2010.

It was said, by the writer Irving Kristol I believe, that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality. I can't help but think that I received such a mugging yesterday from George W. Bush.

In his new biography, "Decision Points", the former president claims that water-boarding and "enhanced interrogation techniques" used on terrorists helped to break up plots aimed at targets in America as well as at Heathrow Airport and Canary Wharf here in London.

Here's where the mugging (and my declaration of interest) comes in. I happen to be writing this very article, as I often do, from high up in Canary Wharf and so I have to say that the news that an attack on the building was seemingly averted comes to me as a great relief.

Up until this point I have taken, pretty much without question, the view that water-boarding and "enhanced interrogation techniques" are torture, a blight on our reputation and should be ceased immediately.

George W. Bush claims, in a rather self-deceiving way, that such methods do not constitute torture and are in any case legal. The first of these claims is absurd.

Water-boarding has been practised by U.S. forces for a while and before the age of terrorism was performed by U.S. servicemen on their own special forces as a way of training them and toughening them up should they ever fall into the hands of an evil regime that uses such techniques on its prisoners!

As for "enhanced interrogation techniques", it should be obvious to all that this is a merely euphemism for something that is probably more enjoyable than the rack and the iron maiden but would still be called torture if it were being done by anyone but the West or their proxies. The fact that George W. Bush says this is not torture merely proves the old truth that you can always find a lawyer who will tell you what you want to hear.

What we are talking about is horrible. But we already knew that. What Bush has done is through a spanner into the liberal works however by claiming that such techniques may have saved lives, perhaps even thousands of lives, perhaps even my life.

This is where things get tricky.

Mr Bush claims that only 30-40 people were ever subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques" and of these only three were water-boarded. One of the three was that charming fellow Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, organiser of the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001.

If true this would suggest that the Bush administration was not torturing random suspects for the fun of it, like some latter day Vlad the Impaler, but that they were targeting their attentions on those who most likely knew something of use to the security services.

This would, in all likelihood, seem to reduce the chances of people who know nothing being tortured and out of desperation and despair saying anything, thus giving the security services nothing of use and bringing shame on the West at the same time.

So we have to acknowledge that the people being tortured are, it would seem, not poor Afghan grannies and other unfortunates in the wrong place at the wrong time, but fanatical murderers or would be murderers who one could argue are not deserving of much sympathy or mercy. The people having to endure this stuff would do far worse to us if given the chance.

If torturing one or a few of these will save the lives of American and British citizens as they do their shopping, go to work and otherwise continue to exist peacefully perhaps it is justified after all?

Well maybe.

All Bush says as that the information gained from such techniques helped to break up plots. That still leaves a lot of questions unanswered before I'm willing to feel relaxed about torturing prisoners.

How advanced where these plots? How credible were they? Would they have been detected anyway?

These are but a few important questions where as far as I can see the answers remain a mystery. After all what is a "plot"? Is it a detailed plan that will be executed using ingenious Blue Peter style bombs? Or is it simply "Wouldn't it be great if....?"

Once you've got your plot how likely is it to actually be successful, we have seen in recent years the failure of apparently undetected plots, the shoe bomber and the pants bomber being just two examples.

Was torture really essential in foiling these plots? Or was it simply one of many ways that that plots, which would probably have failed anyway, were detected before the security services would have discovered it using the many other means at their disposal?

George Bush has raised some interesting facts on this subject in his latest memoir, but still I'm yet to be convinced that torture, or if you really prefer "enhanced interrogation techniques", are really the necessary evil that he seems to be arguing.