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Samantha L. Quigley, Samantha L. Quigley, American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 2009 –
President George Bush said today that, as he prepares to swap a presidency defined by the Sept. 11, attacks for the quiet life in Texas, he’ll miss heading up the military.
“I’m going to miss being commander in chief of the military,” he told Brit Hume in a Fox News Sunday interview. “I’ve got such great respect for the men and women who wear the uniform. I’ve been through a lot with them.
“I’ve called upon them to do hard tasks. I’ve met with the families of the fallen [and] I’ve been to Walter Reed [Army Medical Center in Washington] to see the wounded,” he said.
“I have been incredibly inspired by their courage, their bravery, their sacrifice.”
The “hard tasks” he asked of the military often made him the target of criticism.
“During the darkest days of Iraq, people came to me and said, ‘you’re creating incredible political difficulties for us,’” he said. “I said, ‘Oh really? What do you suggest I do?’”
The answer was one Bush said he didn’t agree with: withdraw from Iraq.
“I had faith that freedom exists in people’s souls and therefore, if given a chance … an Iraqi style democracy could survive and work,” Bush said. “I didn’t compromise that principle for the sake of trying to bail out my political party.”
Bush took blows over interrogation techniques, as well. Some went so far as to call it torture.
“I firmly reject the word ‘torture,’” Bush said. “The techniques were necessary and are necessary to be used on a rare occasion to get information necessary to protect the American people.”
He said he felt sure the information gained through these techniques from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind the Sept. 11, attacks, helped save lives on American soil.
The administration also sought legal counsel before authorizing any interrogation techniques to question Mohammed and other suspects, he said.
As the president prepares to pass the presidential baton, he is most concerned that, at some point, the country will become complacent regarding the threat of terrorism. He said he is confident President-elect Barack Obama understands the gravity of the situation he’s inheriting, but fears some don’t grasp the fact that the war on terror is unlike any other in which America has participated.
“I’m concerned that America, at some point and time, lets down her guard,” Bush said. “If we ever do that, the country will become extremely vulnerable.”
As he leaves office, Bush said he plans to follow other former presidents’ example and put pen to paper.
“I plan on writing a book,” he said. “I’m toying with the idea of maybe describing the toughest decisions I had to make as president and the context in which I made them.”