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How George Bush's single White House term shaped US history for decades

Bush died on Friday at the age of 94

David Lindsey | Reuters  |  Washington 

George H W Bush

He was president for only four years, but George HW Bush shaped US history for decades, taking on tough jobs from Beijing to the CIA, ousting Iraqi forces from Kuwait, sealing a breakthrough budget deal that cost him an election and fathering a future president.

He died on Friday at the age of 94, his family said. His passing came seven months after the April 17, 2018, death of his wife, Barbara, to whom he was married for 73 years.

His presidency, which ran from 1989 to 1993, was defined by two events — his aggressive response to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, and the soon-to-be-broken "read my lips" pledge he made not to raise taxes while running for president in 1988. At a time when the Cold War was ending and the influence of Soviet-style communism was withering, Bush's military and diplomatic actions firmly cast the United States as the world's leading superpower.

After Bush emphatically said Saddam's aggression "will not stand," US-led forces routed Iraq's army in the Gulf War, driving it from Kuwait while stopping short of taking Baghdad, Iraq's capital. Bush's popularity rating among Americans soared to about 90 percent. Twenty months later, in 1992, the Republican Bush lost his bid for re-election to Democrat Bill Clinton, whose folksy manner and focus on the economy struck a chord with many Americans and made Bush seem disconnected from voters for focusing on foreign policy over domestic issues.

Despite a broad coalition that included several Arab states, US involvement in the Gulf War was seen as a violation of Arab sovereignty by some in the Middle East, and led a few militant groups — namely Osama bin Laden's recently formed al Qaeda — to turn their focus toward fighting US influence. A decade later, the presidency of Bush's son, George W Bush, would be jolted by al Qaeda's deadly hijacking attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. The Bushes were only the second father and son to serve as US presidents.

First Published: Sat, December 01 2018. 23:07 IST