SALT LAKE CITY -- President George W. Bush's visit to Utah for a book-signing was marked by a rally featuring Salt Lake City's former mayor denouncing interrogation practices in the U.S.-led war on terror.
Rocky Anderson called practices of the former administration "the cold crimes of our nation's history."
"I want young people to understand it hasn't always been this way," Anderson told about 50 placard-waving protesters in downtown Salt Lake City. "Until 10 years ago, our nation's leaders consistently and absolutely prohibited torture."
Anderson, a Democrat and human rights activist, criticized President Barack Obama for refusing to open an inquiry into the use of waterboarding, a simulated drowning technique used on terror suspects.
U.S. servicemen have been prosecuted for engaging in torture for more than a century, Anderson said.
"Yet the president of the United States can order torture and come here and sign books at Costco bragging about saying 'damn right' when he was asked, "Should we go forward with torture?"' he said.
Bush's communications director, David Sherzer, told The Associated Press the former president wouldn't respond to Anderson's denunciations. Sherzer also refused comment. Officials at the Costco store in the Salt Lake City suburb of Sandy said Bush was taking no questions.
More than 1,000 people were lined up waiting for an autographed copy of the former president's memoir, "Decision Points." Crown Publishers said 775,000 copies sold in the first week of the book's release.
Retired Brig. Gen. David R. Irvine offered more measured criticism amid some of the fiery rhetoric of the Salt Lake City rally, which was held about 15 miles away from Bush's stop at Costco.
Irvine, who taught interrogation methods in the Army and Marines, said waterboarding was illegal under U.S. and international law and is also ineffective. He said Obama's refusal to open an inquiry into practices of the former administration only held torture "in reserve" for the next president.
"We are all waterboarders now," he said.
Bush didn't disappoint his fans at the book-signing.
"I asked, 'Could I get a hug?' Matt Bell, an international relations student at Brigham Young University , told the Deseret News of Salt Lake City. "He said, 'You sure can' and he got up and gave me a hug,"
"I told him I kept him in my prayers and he was very grateful," Bell said.
Bell shouted "Go Rangers" as he left a secured area where the book signing took place, according to the newspaper. Bush once owned the Texas team that recently lost the World Series.
"Go Rangers. So close,' Bush responded.