Business Insider ran a surprisingly popular article last week titled "39 photos that show why everyone misses George W. Bush." "Bush appears to be having a new moment in the American imagination," Business Insider wrote. "The 43rd president has shown off his softer, folksier side since leaving office, reminding everyone why they liked him in the first place — and even miss him a little bit now.
It apparently doesn't take long for political amnesia to settle in, perhaps because much of American politics are not much more than PR games. President Donald Trump's unabashed rhetoric has dominated headlines on a daily basis for two years. This has made it easy for Americans to forget that even when things may have felt "normal," they weren't.
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Bush used the tragedy to justify almost every foreign policy decision he made. By September 18, Bush had signed the Authorization for Use of Military Force, which sailed through Congress near-unanimously. The law granted the sitting president the discretion to use "necessary and appropriate force" against whomever he or she deemed "planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."
Ultimately, the law became a focal point in American politics, and helped establish the foundation for what foreign policy has looked like over the course of the last 16 years. In 2016, former President Barack Obama dropped at least 26,171 total bombs across seven majority-Muslim countries that Congress never formally declared war on.
Bush invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, countries the U.S. is still heavily involved in right now, as global ramifications for such decisions persist. The war in Afghanistan is raging once more and the Taliban now holds or contests more territory than it had held prior to the invasion. The war has no end in sight.
The Islamic State, as it's currently known, would not have risen to power the way it had if Iraq were never invaded by the US. "There would be no ISIS if we had not invaded Iraq," said David Kilcullen, former State Department employee and senior counter-insurgency advisor. The invasion of Iraq has caused the deaths of upwards of one million Iraqis who have died in conflict.
Let's not forget the warrantless domestic surveillance, initiated by the National Security Agency under Bush, as well as the horrors that took place at the hands of the Central Intelligence Agency in torture prisons like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. The Bush administration sold torture to the American public as "enhanced interrogation techniques."
But the failures and abuses of power at the hands of the Bush administration don't end there. Private military contractors such as Blackwater (now rebranded as Academi), once enlisted in the war on terror, were deployed in New Orleans during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina — and profited off the disaster, something not uncommon in American politics.
And I haven't even gotten to the financial crash in 2008, for which at least partial blame can be laid at the feet of Bush and his pro-deregulation cronies.
So, who is "everyone" and why should the 43rd president be missed?