Both President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are leaving office with a spate of nostalgic interviews but no mea culpas.



As they leave, they are passing on to President-elect Barack Obama two wars involving thousands of American troops and a tanking economy, with no remorse, no regrets.

Both President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are leaving office with a spate of nostalgic interviews but no mea culpas.

As they leave, they are passing on to President-elect Barack Obama two wars involving thousands of American troops and a tanking economy, with no remorse, no regrets.

Both men admit to signing off on tactics against captives that most of the world considers torture and a violation of national and international law. The result has been the tarnishing of the U.S.'s ethical reputation.

In an interview with The Washington Times, Cheney -- citing the need for "good intelligence" in wartime -- said about 33 suspects were subjected to "enhanced interrogation."

He added that the administration put "only three" suspects through waterboarding, a condemned technique simulating drowning.

Acknowledging that he signed off on it, Cheney said, "I don't believe it was torture."    

"I was in the loop," Cheney said. "I thought it was the absolutely right thing to do."

Both Bush and Cheney have often bragged that there have been no terrorist attacks on the U.S. in the aftermath of the 9/11 disaster because of their tight security measures.

But they fail to note that they were asleep at the switch in August 2001 -- a month before 9/11 -- when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice -- then the national-security adviser -- ignored an intelligence alert that Osama bin Laden was "determined to strike in U.S."

Bush is certain that his decision to invade Iraq will be vindicated in the future and he will be hailed as a victor.

"I was a wartime president,'' he told C-SPAN's Steve Scully in an interview.

In yet another interview, with ABC-TV's Martha Raddatz, the president was reminded that he has claimed that al-Qaida terrorists were defeated in Iraq.

Told there were none in Iraq before the invasion, Bush said: "Yeah, that's right. So what?"

Speaking of Iraq, the president also told C-SPAN:

"There have been some critical moments where I guess I could have taken the popular way out and retreated ... but instead (I) went with 30,000 more troops because I felt strongly that defeat in Iraq would be terrible for the security of the country, it would be terrible for the morale of the military and would be really hard for me, the commander in chief, to face a mother who lost a son in combat."

In all that soul-searching, I wonder if it occurred to the president that the families of the fallen -- Americans and Iraqis -- would be happier to have their loved ones alive than a claim of victory in a war based on falsehoods.

To this day, the Pentagon has not made public the number of Iraqis killed or displaced by the war. No matter how they rationalize their roles, neither Bush nor Cheney can justify his actions against Iraq, a nation that had nothing to do with 9/11.

On other matters:

Bush said he does not tune in to many cable and radio talk shows, but he does read a lot that is written about him, "and a lot of times I don't like what's written."

"But I have no complaints," he said, adding that he is "a little disappointed" at some of the harsh rhetoric, like "Bush is a liar."

In a contemplative mood, Bush said that "self-pity is a horrible trait," and he doesn't "believe it to be a burden to be president."

At the suggestion of Obama, Bush plans to host a luncheon gathering Jan. 7 with the three living past presidents -- Jimmy Carter, the elder Bush and Bill Clinton.

They will do Obama a favor if they tell him where they went wrong. But that's not likely.

Helen Thomas can be reached at 202-263-6400 or at the e-mail address helent(at)hearstdc.com.