The War on Terror
George W. Bush (1946- ) was the 43rd president of the United States. He was president during the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 and launched America’s war in Afghanistan and Iraq in response. He was born in Connecticut into a political family—his grandfather was a United States Senator, his father was the 41st president of the United States. He attended Yale University and Harvard Business School. During the Vietnam War he served in the Texas Air National Guard.
After an unsuccessful run for Congress in 1978, Bush spent the next ten years building an oil and gas company. In 1989, he sold his company and joined a group of investors who purchased the Texas Rangers baseball team. In 1994, he was elected governor of Texas; in 1998, he was elected to a second term.
In 2000, Bush won the Republican nomination for president. In the general election, he defeated the incumbent vice-president, Democrat Al Gore, in one of the closest elections in American history. Gore actually received 540,000 more popular votes, but Bush won in the Electoral College, 271-266, after the Supreme Court awarded Florida’s disputed electoral votes to the Republican.
Bush’s presidency was dominated by the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon on 11 September 2001. Promising to retaliate against the terrorists and nations that harbored and supported them, he invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 and Iraq in March 2003. Bush’s war message concerning Iraq also included accusations that Iraq’s government was developing biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons in violation of the cease-fire negotiated at the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
While the initial phases of both wars were concluded quickly, American forces were unable to establish full control in either Afghanistan or Iraq through the end of Bush’s second term. The architect of the September 11 attacks, Osama Bin Laden, remained at large and the Taliban, the Islamic fundamentalists that harbored him in Afghanistan, although driven from power, regrouped and waged guerrilla war against American forces and the moderate government set up by the United States. In Iraq, violence between Sunni and Shiite Muslims undermined the nation-building process sponsored by the United States and forced an increase, rather than removal, of American troops during the last years of Bush’s presidency.
The growing unpopularity of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Bush’s poor handling of Hurricane Katrina, and the financial crisis of 2008 contributed to electoral success of Democrats in the 2008 elections. Bush left office in 2009 with lower approval ratings than any of his predecessors in the White House except Richard Nixon.