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Bush ‘sickened’ to hear of false Iraq intelligence

George W Bush was “sickened” to learn that the war in Iraq was built around false intelligence, according to extracts of his memoirs released late last night.

The former US president describes the horror that struck him when he realised that the military had been deployed on false pretences.

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“The reality was that I had sent American troops into combat based in large part on intelligence that proved false,” he writes.

“No-one was more shocked or angry than I was when we didn’t find the weapons. I had a sickening feeling every time I thought about it. I still do.”

However, Mr Bush insists that the military action to remove Saddam Hussein is still “eternally right”.

In excerpts of his memoirs, published in the US today, he also defends “waterboarding” and claims that the controversial interrogation technique saved British lives.

Mr Bush has confirmed that he authorised waterboarding on terror suspect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the senior al Qaeda figure said to be behind the 9/11 attacks, and two other individuals.

In the new book, Decision Points, he writes: “Their interrogations helped break up plots to attack American diplomatic facilities abroad, Heathrow airport and Canary Wharf in London, and multiple targets in the United States.”

The British government has banned the use of waterboarding, which simulates drowning and is classed in the UK as torture.

Sir John Sawyers, the head of MI6, used his first major public speech last month to describe it as “illegal and abhorrent”, stressing that the UK has “nothing whatsoever” to do with the practice.

In the passages released last night, the former US president also discusses advanced planning for a campaign to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.

“I directed the Pentagon to study what would be necessary for a strike,” he writes. “This would be to stop the bomb clock, at least temporarily.”

Mr Bush also says he considered mounting a bombing campaign or covert raid on a secret Syrian nuclear facility at the request of then-Israeli leader Ehud Olmert. “We studied the idea seriously, but the CIA and the military concluded it would be too risky to slip a team into and out of Syria.” he writes.

However, Israel then went ahead with the plan itself, attacking the facility in 2007.

The former American leader also addresses his close relationship with Tony Blair, referred to in the book by his first name, in contrast with other world statesmen, who go by their surnames.

Speaking in an interview published last night, Mr Bush was dismissive of British public opinion in the run up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. “It doesn’t matter how people perceive me in England. It just doesn’t matter any more. And frankly, at times, it didn’t matter then,” he said.

Mr Blair, then Prime Minister, was apparently offered the chance to opt out of sending British troops to Iraq when it became apparent that he faced a possible vote of no confidence in Westminster.

Mr Bush said his opinion had been that “rather than lose the government, I would much rather have Tony and his wisdom and his strategic thinking as the prime minister of a strong and important ally”. However, Mr Blair reportedly told him: “I’m in. If it costs the government, fine.”

As the book’s release approached, current US President Barack Obama appeared alongside his Indian counterpart pledging to work more closely with the country to combat global terrorism.

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