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The 10 things Bush should regret most

In an interview with Charlie Gibson excerpted online and set to air on ABC tonight, George W. Bush will discuss his two-term presidency as it comes to an end. Not all his days in office were happy ones, he concedes, but overall the 43rd U.S. president says that "every day has been pretty joyous." When ...

In an interview with Charlie Gibson excerpted online and set to air on ABC tonight, George W. Bush will discuss his two-term presidency as it comes to an end. Not all his days in office were happy ones, he concedes, but overall the 43rd U.S. president says that "every day has been pretty joyous."

When Gibson asked himif he felt responsible for what’s happening with the economy, Bush replied that he was "a little upset" about not pushing reform on insurers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in time because "it would have helped a lot."

His biggest regret? As he told Gibson, it "has to have been the intelligence failure in Iraq. … And, you know, that’s not a do-over, but I wish the intelligence had been different, I guess."  

And while President Bush doesn’t "spend a lot of time really worrying about short-term history," here are 10 other things he should regret:

1. September 11, 2001

While many rate the image of Bush standing on the rubble of the World Trade Center as a strong point in his presidency, he was not the first to appear in front of television cameras that day to address the nation — New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was. It’s difficult to watch the footage of Bush as he waited for seven minutes, frozen in that elementary school classroom after hearing the second tower had been hit.

2. Ignoring Al Qaeda

The 9/11 Commission determined that indeed on August 6, 2001, after months of intelligence reports warning of al Qaeda’s growing sophistication, Bush received a Presidential Daily Brief titled, "Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US."

3. Weapons of Mass Destruction

In 2004, the CIA released a report that found that there were no WMD in Iraq at the time of the U.S. invasion and that Saddam Hussein had relinquished any plans for a nuclear program after the 1991 Gulf War. More disturbing were reports that CIA Director George Tenet had delivered secret intelligence to the president in September 2002 revealing that, in fact, there were no WMD. Bush dismissed the intel and pushed ahead. 

4. Declaring Mission Accomplished in Iraq

On May 1, 2003, Bush announced victory in Iraq. "The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September 11th, 2001, and still goes on," he told those present on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific Ocean. Nearly six years later, there are still 146,000 U.S. troops stationed in Iraq.

5. Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo

Few in Iraq or elsewhere will forget the images of American soldiers abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib. And the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay has proved to be the recruiting tool of Osama bin Laden’s dreams.

6. Not Firing Donald Rumsfeld Sooner

This one is a no-brainer — since Bush’s first secretary of defense left the scene, his successor has had to clean up one mess after another.

7. Waiting Too Long on Israeli-Palestinian Peace

President Bush waited seven years to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Annapolis process he initiated — called a charade by some — was unlikely to succeed given the short time frame allotted and the degree to which the situation had deteriorated.

8. Botching Hurricane Katrina

The timeline leading up to Hurricane Katrina leaves much room to blame Bush. Afterwards, he was little better. The photograph of Bush surveying the devastation from Air Force One speaks volumes about his distant, botched handling of the disaster. The 600-plus-page report put together by a bipartisan committee, "A Failure of Initiative," determined that "earlier presidential involvement could have speeded the response."

9. Ignoring Afghanistan

However misdirected, the Bush administration put all of its eggs in the Iraq-war basket. But the worst part? Despite warnings from the military, Bush diverted key resources away from the fight against the Taliban and al Qaeda in order to invade Iraq. Iraq may be stabilizing, but we’re now paying the price for the neglect of Afghanistan.

10. Strengthening Iran

Today, David Ignatius gives the Bush administration an "F" for its handling of Iran. "The strategic balance between the two countries is the opposite of what Bush had hoped to accomplish: Iran is stronger than it was eight years ago, and the United States, fighting costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is weaker."

Rebecca Frankel was formerly the executive editor of Foreign Policy’s print magazine. She is the author of War Dogs: Tales of Canine Heroism, History, and Love, a New York Times bestselling book about canines in combat. She has appeared as a guest on Conan, BBC World News, and the Diane Rehm Show, among others. In 2016, she adopted Dyngo, a military working dog who is now happily retired from his bomb-sniffing career in the Air Force. @becksfrankel

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