GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., June 3 (UPI) -- Former U.S. President George W. Bush says he would waterboard alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed again if the coercive technique saved lives.
"Yeah, we waterboarded Khalid Sheik Mohammed," Bush said in an appearance before the Economic Club of Grand Rapids, Mich., Wednesday night.
"I'd do it again to save lives," The Grand Rapids Press quoted him as saying.
The centuries-old practice to coerce prisoners during interrogations by using water to cut off oxygen and create the feeling and fear of drowning was approved under the Bush administration for use by the CIA on "high value" terrorism suspects.
It was barred by U.S. President Barack Obama on his second day in office.
The technique is regarded as torture by many critics and human rights advocates.
Mohammed, awaiting federal trial on his role in the New York and Washington terrorist attacks, was allegedly waterboarded 183 times while in captivity in March 2003.
In a question-and-answer session, Bush said "getting rid of (Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do and the world is a better place without him."
He sidestepped the issue of the failure to find weapons of mass destruction, the threat of which Bush used to generate public support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
He also talked about the importance of prayer during his eight years in the White House.
"I prayed a lot," he said. "I really did. I prayed before every major speech. I prayed before debates. It was a very important experience."
He also said he would not criticize Obama.
"You are not going to see me in the public square criticizing the president," Bush said.