WASHINGTON: President George H.W. Bush passed away at the age of 94 last week. Watching the world react to the President’s passing has created a personal wave of emotions.
Politics is what you do, not who you are.
As America and the world says farewell to President Bush, I am lost in memories of 1991. And President George H.W. Bush’s actions as a global politician. The memories of being just four and standing alongside my father and other Iraqis outside the American and Iraqi embassies in Ottawa.
We were protesting the brutal crackdown of the Ba’athist regime on my family still residing in the motherland, Iraq.
President Bush’s actions toward Iraq as real today as then
Images of the torture that was occurring in Iraq are as fresh as if I saw the atrocities firsthand. With the pomp and circumstances surrounding President Bush, feelings were flowing through my body. Feelings last felt when Saddam Hussein was brought to justice by the Iraqis in 2006.
As America celebrates President Bush’s life, I have to ask:
How can a person that caused so much pain onto my countrypeople be celebrated at his death?
Living in North America there is much that I am grateful for. When my family faced death in Iraq, they were given shelter, sustenance, and a path to citizenship here. I was raised in coexistence and diversity. I am among the lucky.
Only in rare circumstances have I met North Americans that aren’t kind and caring people. The beauty of living here is that no matter what the disagreement may be, when we sit and discuss our different perspectives, common grounds are found and we leave embracing peace.
There is little doubt that President George H.W. Bush lived a life of service to the American people. He is remembered as a hero to millions of men and women who rever his sacrifice as a member of America’s Greatest Generation. He will be remembered by Americans as a man of compassionate conservatism.
But he was not infallible.
Who President Bush was from my perspective.
The President of the United States is the most powerful person in the world. When the president speaks, the whole world listens. The price that American presidents pay is costly and the decisions that they make affect the lives of millions. At many times, innocents will pay the price regardless of the Presidential decision.
I understand that history is never black and white, and historical figures can be seen differently. I understand America’s reverence for President Bush. However, I also remember one of his gravest errors.
President Bush accomplished a lot in the one term that he ruled over this nation.
During the Bush Administration, America saw immigration laws enacted that welcomed more immigrants into America and civil laws changed to level the playing field between the nation’s majority and minority. On the global stage, President Bush helped peacefully end the Cold War, reuniting Germany all while leading the world with various nuclear proliferation agreements.
Bush was most famous for his demeanor that demanded respect through his great statesman personality. His humanitarian work post-presidency.
However, what matters most to me is Bush’s dealing with Iraq after the first Gulf War. The 1991 Iraqi popular uprising was not so long ago, however, it was a decade shy of social media. Unlike today when photos and memes become viral, the world did not bear witness to the events that occurred.
Saddam Hussein and President Bush
Following his defeat in Kuwait in early 1991, Saddam Hussein came home to a nation that had enough of the twelve years of the brutal Saddam-led Ba’athist regime. On the 15th of February, 1991, President Bush addressed the Iraqis stating,
“There’s another way for the bloodshed to stop, and that is for the Iraqi military and the Iraqi people to take matters into their own hands, to force Saddam Hussein, the dictator, to step aside.”
Within a couple weeks of President Bush’s statement, the popular uprising started in Iraq. Shortly thereafter most of Iraq was liberated by the Kurdish rebels fighting in the north. And the Shi’ite rebels fighting in the south. Had the United States’ continued its support, we may have reached a free democratic Iraq.
That the following twelve years of Saddam Hussein, ruthless 1990’s U.S. sanctions, the 2003 Iraq invasion, and everything else that followed could have been avoided.
Millions of innocent lives and the suffering of many more could have been spared if the United States followed through with President Bush’s promise.
The Bush administration’s policy on Iran was shaped largely on Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, the American hostages held by Iranian allies in Lebanon and a new round of Arab-Israeli peace talks.
What did happen was President Bush exhorting the Iraqis to rebel. Bush’s administration deciding that a weak Iraq under Saddam Hussein was better for U.S. interests than a potential Shia-majority led Iraq. President Bush backed off from his promise, removing the no-fly zone above Iraq. Thus empowering Saddam Hussein to seek revenge on the Iraqis. Tens of thousands of innocent citizens died.
The trauma and death of that era follows through until today.
This is President George H.W. Bush that I know.
Most of us know what happened to the Iraqis after the 2003 invasion. However, not many of us know the suffering that the Iraqis endured prior to 2003. Upon his return to the States in 1997 from a humanitarian-aid trip to Iraq, Middle – East educator George Capaccio recalled a glimpse of what the Iraqis endured.
“I went to Iraq earlier this year as part of a peace delegation. On the plane to Amman, I heard an elderly Arab man say, “When George Bush dies, I pray he goes straight to Heaven.”
“Why?” I asked.
“So he will see face-to-face all the lovely Iraqi children he has caused to die,” the man answered.”
U.S. media reports that moments before President Bush passed away, he was surrounded by family and close friends. This is something he denied to millions of Iraqis. President Bush stated that he wants to go to heaven. Mr. Bush, I hope you make it to heaven since living in the United States sheltered you from witnessing the suffering you caused onto the millions of Iraqis.
For in heaven, they will welcome you at the pearly gates.