Rarely in the history of the United States has the nation been so ill-served as during the presidency of George W. Bush.
When Bush took office in 2001, the federal budget ran a surplus, the national debt stood at a generational low of 56 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), and unemployment clocked in at 4 percent— which most economists consider the practical equivalent of full employment. The government’s tax revenue amounted to $ 2.1 trillion annually, of which $ 1 trillion came from personal income taxes and another $ 200 billion from corporate taxes. Military spending totaled $ 350 billion, or 3 percent of GDP—a low not seen since the late 1940s— and not one American had been killed in combat in almost a decade. Each dollar bought 1.06 euros, or 117 yen. Gasoline cost $ 1.50 per gallon. Twelve years after the Berlin Wall came down, the United States stood at the pinnacle of authority: the world’s only superpower, endowed with democratic legitimacy, the credible champion of the rule.
Unprepared for the complexities of governing, with little executive experience and a glaring deficit in his attention span, untutored, untraveled, and unversed in the ways of the world.
The critical turning point came on September 12, 2001. Al Qaeda’s attacks on the United States on 9/ 11 violated the universal norms of civilized society, and the immediate global outpouring of empathy for the U.S. was unparalleled. Accordingly, September 12 was a defining moment in American history: the United States was not only an economic powerhouse and a military superpower but also enjoyed unprecedented moral authority.
Bush could have capitalized on that support but instead he squandered it. He strutted around like a cowboy and then picked a fight with Iraq.
By conflating the events of 9/ 11 and Saddam Hussein, Bush precipitated the deterioration of America’s position abroad, led the United States into a $ 3 trillion war in Iraq that cost more than four thousand American lives and an unwinnable conflict in Afghanistan, promulgated an egregious doctrine of preventive war, alienated America’s allies, weakened its alliances, and inspired young Muslims throughout the world to join the jihad.
George W. Bush had lived in his father’s shadow all of his life: at Andover and Yale, in the oil business, and in politics.
To crush Saddam Hussein, which George Herbert Walker Bush had declined to do, would afford him the rare opportunity to succeed where his father had failed.
George W . Bush’s legacy was a nation impoverished by debt, besieged by doubt, struggling with the aftereffects of the worst recession since the Great Depression, and deeply engaged in military conflicts of our own choosing. His tin ear for traditional conservative values, his sanctimonious religiosity, his support for Guantánamo, CIA “renditions,” and government snooping have eroded public trust in the United States at home and abroad.
The fact is, the threat of terrorism that confronts the United States is in many respects a direct result of Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003.
Not since the days of Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover— the Republican hands-off-the-ship-of-state trinity of the 1920s— had a president been so detached from the detailed , day-to-day determination of policy alternatives. Bush saw issues in terms of black and white. There were no subtleties and no shades of gray.
The Project for the New American Century was founded in 1997. Dedicated to increasing defense spending, challenging “regimes hostile to U.S. interests and values,” and explicitly advocating regime change in Iraq. Had it not been for 9/ 11, their manifesto would have been little more than a footnote in intellectual history. But with the terrorist attack, the administration’s second echelon dusted off their agenda, Bush signed on, and the direction of the administration was defined. When George W. Bush left office in 2009, the U.S. defense budget exceeded the combined defense budgets of every major country in the world and was clearly unsustainable.
With Donald Trump obsessing over Hillary Clinton’s e-mail “scandal”, one wonders why he never mentions the Bush Administration and the April 12, 2007 revelation that the White House had “lost” 5 million e-mails related to an investigation into the partisan firing of eight U.S. attorneys. Eventually, the true number was found to be over 22 million e-mails. Occupy Democrats
George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in March 2003 was a tragic error. It was compounded by his follow-on decision to install Western-style democracy, and the ensuing military occupation that entailed. The tragic loss of life, the instability, the sectarian strife, and the rise of ISIS are all in many respects attributable to those decisions. Over four thousand American soldiers had been killed in Iraq by the time Bush left office, and over thirty thousand wounded. Iraqi deaths exceeded 100,000. Another two million Iraqis had fled to other countries. And the direct military cost to the United States approached $ 600 billion. In the immediate aftermath of 9/ 11, America’s international prestige had rarely been higher. When Bush left office in 2009, respect for the United States had rarely been lower.
Jean Edward Smith, from his book ‘Bush’
“Mr. President. In the last campaign, you were asked a question about the biggest mistake you made in your life, and you used to like to joke that it was trading Sammy Sosa. . . . After 9/ 11, what would your biggest mistake be, would you say, and what lessons have you learned from it?” – John Dickerson, Time magazine.
Far more important than the inarticulateness of the president was the flimsiness of his justification for invading Iraq.
Like Captain Queeg in his rambling courtroom testimony in The Caine Mutiny, George W. Bush was in a state of denial. His refusal to face up to the fact that an exhaustive effort by his own investigators to find an Iraqi WMD program had found none suggests a willfulness that borders on psychosis.
It also reveals that he had ordered a major and costly war for no good reason.
Jean Edward Smith, from his book ‘Bush’