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US: Bush's Record: The Case For, The Case Against

WASHINGTON, DC: US President George W. Bush has known staggering highs and lows in opinion polls over eight years at the White House, amid deep divisions over his policies at home and abroad.

Here are short versions of the case against, and the case for, Bush's record on issues like the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the economy and other major questions.

ECONOMY

Against: Bush missed, or ignored, the warning signs ahead of the global economic meltdown. He encouraged deregulation, which some blame for the crisis, and oversaw a widening gap between the haves and have-nots. The giant tax cuts he pushed early in his first term helped squander the budget surplus he inherited from Bill Clinton and now hands Barack Obama a deficit that may pass a trillion dollars.

For: The administration saw the dangers early, but Congress refused to act. Bush gave up his free-market principles to launch an unprecedented US government intervention in the economy and avert what could have been a meltdown on the scale of the Great Depression of the 1930s. His tax cuts stimulated the economy and fueled 50 months of job growth, and the deficit is in large part due to expanded security spending after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

IRAQ

Against: Eager for war, Bush bucked traditional US allies like France and Germany to invade Iraq without a UN mandate and after short-circuiting UN weapons inspections that could have revealed the absence of the weapons of mass destruction at the core of his public case for war. Washington had no plan for the post-invasion, allowing the country to sink into bloody chaos that has cost more than 4,000 US lives and left countless Iraqis dead or driven from their homes.

For: The US intelligence community, not Bush, got the weapons of mass destruction wrong. Saddam Hussein was a "threat" to US interests and to Israel and was in violation of a dozen UN resolutions. After the September 11th attacks, it would have been unwise to bet that he would not develop weapons of mass destruction or give deadly arms to terrorists. The US invasion liberated 25 million people, and the January 2007 "surge" of troops stabilized Iraq.

AFGHANISTAN

Against: Bush shifted his attention too quickly to Iraq, moving resources that might have secured Afghanistan, the real "central front" in the war on terrorism. The move allowed the Taliban to regroup and led to the failure to catch Osama bin Laden or Mullah Omar.

For: The United States liberated 25 million Afghans from the Islamist militia and never stopped working to stabilize and rebuild the country. US forces stand to double between now and mid-2009.

NORTH KOREA

Against: Bush turned his back on efforts to engage North Korea, which he lumped in with Iran and Saddam Hussein's Iraq in an "axis of evil," and effectively scuttled a deal that kept the North's nuclear weapons program in check. Pyongyang now has enough plutonium for an estimated 10 nuclear bombs.

For: The North was cheating on the 1994 Agreed Framework. And Bush forged a promising six-part framework grouping China, Japan, Russia, North and South Korea, and the United States, to work on giving the North economic and diplomatic rewards for dismantling its atomic weapons programs.

MIDDLE EAST PEACE

Against: Bush mostly kept the peace process at arms length until 2007, content to support staunch US ally Israel rather than act as a peace broker with the Palestinians. He wrongly insisted Palestinian elections go forward, resulting in the victory of Hamas, which went on to seize control of Gaza.

For: Bush was the first sitting US president to call for the creation of an independent Palestinian state living at peace with Israel and has largely built a regional consensus that this is the way to a lasting peace. He has reinforced legitimate Palestinian political and security institutions.

MIDDLE EAST

Against: The war in Iraq has inflamed the region against the United States and helps terrorists recruit. Iran emerges from the Bush years more influential than ever.

For: Bush has promoted democratic reforms in Iraq and Lebanon, and oversaw Libya's decision to give up seeking nuclear weapons and seek formal ties with the United States.

IRAN

Against: Bush rejected Europe-led diplomacy for years, finally embracing it in his second term, even as the Islamic republic continued to pursue suspect nuclear activities.

For: Bush leaves Obama a solid international framework for ratcheting up pressure on Tehran.

GLOBAL WAR ON TERRORISM AND US IMAGE WORLDWIDE

Against: Guantanamo Bay, holding prisoners indefinitely without charges there and in secret prisons, interrogation practices widely seen as torture, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, and other activities have badly tarnished the US image overseas.

For: The United States does not torture. Guantanamo Bay and other controversial tactics have kept the United States safe. Washington is the most generous international aid donor and continues to be a beacon for democratic reformers worldwide.

CLIMATE CHANGE

Against: By rejecting the Kyoto Protocol and rejecting restrictive quotas on so-called "greenhouse gases," Bush has fiddled while the world threatens to burn.

For: The US Senate overwhelmingly rejected Kyoto before Bush took office. Under Bush, US air pollution dropped 12 percent. And Bush has for the first time forged an international consensus that no climate pact can work without imposing some restrictions on growing economies like India and China. (AFP)

MySinchew 2009.01.15

 

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