History’s Verdict

Historian Andrew Roberts puts the case for President Bush’s administration, especially in foreign policy, very well. He begins with an anecdote that sums up our fatuous times, as far as the President’s image is concerned:

The American lady who called to see if I would appear on her radio programme was specific. “We’re setting up a debate,” she said sweetly, “and we want to know from your perspective as a historian whether George W Bush was the worst president of the 20th century, or might he be the worst president in American history?”

The reality is of course very different. Some excerpts:

At the time of 9/11, which will forever rightly be regarded as the defining moment of the presidency, history will look in vain for anyone predicting that the Americans murdered that day would be the very last ones to die at the hands of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists in the US from that day to this.

The decisions taken by Mr Bush in the immediate aftermath of that ghastly moment will be pored over by historians for the rest of our lifetimes. One thing they will doubtless conclude is that the measures he took to lock down America’s borders, scrutinise travellers to and from the United States, eavesdrop upon terrorist suspects, work closely with international intelligence agencies and take the war to the enemy has foiled dozens, perhaps scores of would-be murderous attacks on America. There are Americans alive today who would not be if it had not been for the passing of the Patriot Act. There are 3,000 people who would have died in the August 2005 airline conspiracy if it had not been for the superb inter-agency co-operation demanded by Bush after 9/11.

The foolish left-wing calumnies that have dogged Bush for the last five years are easily dispensed with:

[T]he cold light of history will absolve Bush of the worst conspiracy-theory accusation: that he knew there were no WMDs in Iraq. History will show that, in common with the rest of his administration, the British Government, Saddam’s own generals, the French, Chinese, Israeli and Russian intelligence agencies, and of course SIS and the CIA, everyone assumed that a murderous dictator does not voluntarily destroy the WMD arsenal he has used against his own people. And if he does, he does not then expel the UN weapons inspectorate looking for proof of it, as he did in 1998 and again in 2001.

Mr Bush assumed that the Coalition forces would find mass graves, torture chambers, evidence for the gross abuse of the UN’s food-for-oil programme, but also WMDs. He was right about each but the last, and history will place him in the mainstream of Western, Eastern and Arab thinking on the matter. …

When Abu Ghraib is mentioned, history will remind us that it was the Bush Administration that imprisoned those responsible for the horrors. When water-boarding is brought up, we will see that it was only used on three suspects, one of whom was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, al-Qaeda’s chief of operational planning, who divulged vast amounts of information that saved hundreds of innocent lives.

While we are all acutely aware of the human and material costs of our effort in Iraq, Roberts adds some perspective:

Today [Iraq’s] GDP is 30 per cent higher than under Saddam, and it is free of a brutal dictator and his rapist sons.

The number of American troops killed during the eight years of the War against Terror has been fewer than those slain capturing two islands in the Second World War…. As for civilians, there have been fewer Iraqis killed since the invasion than in 20 conflicts since the Second World War.

Iraq has been a victory for the US-led coalition, a fact that the Bush-haters will have to deal with when perspective finally – perhaps years from now – lends objectivity to this fine man’s record.

President Bush did many things for which his enemies will never forgive him. The last, and perhaps most unforgivable, was winning in Iraq.

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