COMMENTARY | George W. Bush‘s global legacy is one of widespread death and destruction, epitomized by the so-called War on Terror his administration waged in response to the horrific September 11, 2001, terror attacks on New York and Washington.
The invasions and occupations that followed resulted in the deaths of more than 15,000 innocent civilians in Afghanistan and more than 100,000 in Iraq– a nation whose fate “The Decider” allegedly decided long before 9/11. In addition to the dead and the maimed, Bush’s wars have caused a refugee crisis in which millions have been displaced.
Then there are the wartime atrocities, for which Bush ultimately bears responsibility. These include, but are by no means limited to, torture, murder, intentional false imprisonment of innocent men, women and children, and rape. Additionally, Iraq was left in utter ruins and it is very likely that toxic poisoning from U.S. weapons is behind an alarming spike in horrific birth defects among Iraqi children.
While Bush did not personally authorize most of these crimes, top officials in his administrationcertainly did and, ultimately, the president is responsible for what happens on his watch. Bush may not have ordered the torture and murder of innocent detainees at Abu Ghraib or the rape and murderof Iraqi children by American troops, but he did endorse the wars and the gloves-off approach that guided U.S. actions in them. He did authorize Guantánamo Bay, waterboarding, drones, extraordinary rendition and secret prisons operating outside the boundaries of the law. As Vice President Cheney once said, the U.S. had gone over to the “dark side.”
Sadly, not only has President Barack Obama protected Bush and his top administration officials from facing justice, the new president has continued — and expanded — some of his predecessor’s deadliest policies and actions.
The death and destruction of American policies and actions did not begin nor end with George W. Bush. But during his tumultuous tenure, they reached a level unseen since the senseless slaughter of Vietnam. This, ultimately, is the legacy of America’s 43rd president.