LAUER: He was waterboarded. By the way, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, according to most reports, 183 times. This guy was waterboarded more than 80 times. And you explain that his understanding of Islam was that he had to resist interrogation up to a certain point and waterboarding was the technique that allowed him to reach that threshold and fulfill his religious duty and then cooperate. And you have a quote from him. "You must do this for all the brothers." End quote.What do you think really happened? Was Abu Zabeta's quote fabricated? Was it real, but some kind of sarcastic taunt? Perhaps it was his way to justify himself, after he'd caved to pressure, by saying that under his principles, he'd done his duty. Bush seems to interpret it to mean that the detainees would appreciate being waterboarded until they broke so they could fulfill their duty.
BUSH: Yeah. Isn't that interesting?
LAUER: Abu Zabeta really went to someone and said, "You should waterboard all the brothers?"
BUSH: He didn't say that. He said, "You should give brothers the chance to be able to fulfill their duty." I don't recall him saying you should water-- I think it's-- I think it's an assumption in your case.
LAUER: Yeah, I-- when "You must do this for--"
LAUER: …"All the brothers." So to let them get to that threshold?
BUSH: Yeah, that's what-- that's how I interpreted.
That got me thinking about John McCain. This is from his 2008 speech accepting the GOP nomination:
A lot of prisoners had it worse than I did. I'd been mistreated before, but not as badly as others. I always liked to strut a little after I'd been roughed up to show the other guys I was tough enough to take it. But after I turned down their offer, they worked me over harder than they ever had before. For a long time. And they broke me.No one would wish to be tortured/subjected to enhanced interrogation, but, after the fact, human beings find ways to process the experience. It's generally known — isn't it? — that at some point everyone breaks, and the standard answer to the shame of breaking is that you held out as long as you could. Both Abu Zabeta and John McCain understood their experience that way. I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else's. How much of the rest of McCain's thoughts were mirrored in the mind of Abu Zabeta?
When they brought me back to my cell, I was hurt and ashamed, and I didn't know how I could face my fellow prisoners. The good man in the cell next door, my friend Bob Craner, saved me. Through taps on a wall he told me I had fought as hard as I could. No man can always stand alone. And then he told me to get back up and fight again for our country and for the men I had the honor to serve with. Because every day they fought for me.
I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else's. I loved it not just for the many comforts of life here. I loved it for its decency; for its faith in the wisdom, justice and goodness of its people. I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again. I wasn't my own man anymore. I was my country's.