THE WAR ON TERROR
George W. Bush
(Announcing Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2003)
THE WAR ON TERROR
An estimated 151,000 to 1,033,000 Iraqis died in the first three to five years of conflict.
The Official Story
GEORGE W. BUSH
(President of the United States, 2001-2009)
George Walker Bush (born July 6, 1946) is an American politician who served as the 43rd president of the United States from 2001 to 2009. A member of the Republican Party, Bush previously served as the 46th governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000. He was born into the Bush family; his father, George H. W. Bush, was the 41st president of the United States from 1989 to 1993.
Bush flew warplanes in the Texas and Alabama Air National Guard. After graduating from Yale College in 1968 and Harvard Business School in 1975, he worked in the oil industry. Bush married Laura Welch in 1977 and unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. House of Representatives shortly thereafter. He later co-owned the Texas Rangers baseball team before defeating incumbent Ann Richards in the 1994 Texas gubernatorial election. As governor, Bush successfully sponsored legislation for tort reform, increased education funding, set higher standards for schools, and reformed the criminal justice system. Bush also helped make Texas the leading producer of wind powered electricity in the U.S. Bush was elected president in 2000 when he defeated Democratic incumbent Vice President Al Gore after a narrow and contested win that involved a Supreme Court decision to stop a recount in Florida. He became the fourth person to be elected president without a popular vote victory. Upon taking office, Bush pushed through a $1.3 trillion tax cut program and the No Child Left Behind Act, a major education reform bill. He also pushed for socially conservative efforts, such as the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act and faith-based welfare initiatives.
A decisive event reshaping his administration was the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. In response Bush created the United States Department of Homeland Security and declared a global war on terrorism. He ordered an invasion of Afghanistan beginning the War in Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban, destroy the terrorist group al-Qaeda, and capture Osama bin Laden. He also signed the controversial Patriot Act in order to authorize surveillance of suspected terrorists. In 2003, Bush ordered an invasion of Iraq which began the Iraq War, arguing that the Saddam Hussein regime possessed weapons of mass destruction. Intense criticism came when no WMD stockpiles were ever found nor evidence of an operational relationship with al-Qaeda. Bush also signed into law the Medicare Modernization Act, which created Medicare Part D, and funding for the AIDS relief program, PEPFAR.
Bush was re-elected to a second term in 2004, defeating Democratic senator John Kerry. During his second term, Bush reached multiple free trade agreements and successfully appointed John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. He sought major changes to Social Security and immigration laws, but both efforts failed in Congress. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq continued, and in 2007 he launched a surge of troops in Iraq. Bush received criticism from across the political spectrum for his handling of Hurricane Katrina and for the midterm dismissal of U.S. attorneys. In the midst of Bush’s unpopularity, the Democratic Party regained control of Congress in the 2006 elections. In December 2007, the U.S. entered the Great Recession, prompting the Bush administration to obtain congressional approval for multiple economic programs intended to preserve the country’s financial system, including the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to buy toxic assets from financial institutions.
Bush was among the most popular, as well as unpopular, U.S. presidents in history; he received the highest recorded approval ratings in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, but one of the lowest such ratings during the 2008 financial crisis. Bush finished his second term in office in 2009 and returned to Texas. In 2010, he published his memoir, Decision Points. His presidential library opened in 2013. His presidency has been rated as below-average in historical rankings of U.S. presidents, although public and scholarly favorability of his presidency have improved since leaving office.
September 11 attacks
The September 11 terrorist attacks were a major turning point in Bush’s presidency. That evening, he addressed the nation from the Oval Office, promising a strong response to the attacks. He also emphasized the need for the nation to come together and comfort the families of the victims. Three days after the attacks, Bush visited Ground Zero and met with Mayor Rudy Giuliani, firefighters, police officers, and volunteers. Bush addressed the gathering via a megaphone while standing on rubble: “I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”
In a September 20 speech, Bush condemned Osama bin Laden and his organization Al-Qaeda, and issued an ultimatum to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, where bin Laden was operating, to “hand over the terrorists, or … share in their fate”.
War on Terror
After September 11, Bush announced a global War on Terror. The Afghan Taliban regime was not forthcoming with Osama bin Laden, so Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban regime. In his January 29, 2002 State of the Union Address, he asserted that an “axis of evil” consisting of North Korea, Iran, and Iraq was “arming to threaten the peace of the world” and “pose[d] a grave and growing danger”. The Bush Administration asserted both a right and the intention to wage preemptive war, or preventive war. This became the basis for the Bush Doctrine which weakened the unprecedented levels of international and domestic support for the United States which had followed the September 11 attacks.
Dissent and criticism of Bush’s leadership in the War on Terror increased as the war in Iraq continued. In 2006, a National Intelligence Estimate concluded that the Iraq War had become the “cause célèbre for jihadists.
Bush authorized the CIA to use waterboarding and several other “enhanced interrogation techniques” that several critics, including Barack Obama, would label as torture. Between 2002 and 2003, the CIA considered certain enhanced interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, to be legal based on secret Justice Department legal opinions arguing that terror detainees were not protected by the Geneva Conventions’ ban on torture, which was described as “an unconstitutional infringement of the President’s authority to conduct war”. The CIA had exercised the technique on certain key terrorist suspects under authority given to it in the Bybee Memo from the Attorney General, though that memo was later withdrawn. While not permitted by the U.S. Army Field Manuals which assert “that harsh interrogation tactics elicit unreliable information”, the Bush administration believed these enhanced interrogations “provided critical information” to preserve American lives. Critics, such as former CIA officer Bob Baer, have stated that information was suspect, “you can get anyone to confess to anything if the torture’s bad enough.”
On October 17, 2006, Bush signed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 into law. The new rule was enacted in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 548 U.S. 557 (2006), which allowed the U.S. government to prosecute unlawful enemy combatants by military commission rather than a standard trial. The law also denied the detainees access to habeas corpus and barred the torture of prisoners. The provision of the law allowed the president to determine what constitutes “torture”.
On March 8, 2008, Bush vetoed H.R. 2082, a bill that would have expanded congressional oversight over the intelligence community and banned the use of waterboarding as well as other forms of interrogation not permitted under the United States Army Field Manual on Human Intelligence Collector Operations, saying that “the bill Congress sent me would take away one of the most valuable tools in the War on Terror”. In April 2009, the ACLU sued and won release of the secret memos that had authorized the Bush administration’s interrogation tactics. One memo detailed specific interrogation tactics including a footnote that described waterboarding as torture as well as that the form of waterboarding used by the CIA was far more intense than authorized by the Justice Department.
A false flag is a covert operation designed to deceive; the deception creates the appearance of a particular party, group, or nation being responsible for some activity, disguising the actual source of responsibility.
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