Letter of the Day | Bush 41 was no saint
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Tributes to former US President George H.W. Bush have flooded social media since his death, and judging by the outpouring of grief from mainstream media, journalists seem to be just as upset at his passing as anyone.
The New Yorker, with writer Thomas Mallon, described Bush as a character who had an "irreducible niceness" to him, a man who waged a "just" war in Iraq and a president who "presided over a brief but glorious Pax Americana".
One is not advocating speaking ill of the dead, but this is a president of the great United States of America, and instead of honest, balanced tributes that deliver a full picture of Bush's life and legacy, the media seemed to favour hagiography, retelling the former president's life with its blemishes removed.
He was nominated by President Ford to head the CIA in 1976. The most significant episode that stands out during Bush's one-year stint as CIA director involved Operation Condor, a brazen, cold-blooded campaign to prop up right-wing military dictators throughout South America, like that of General Augusto Pinochet in Chile. In order to achieve this end, no violence was spared.
Spurred on by then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who blocked efforts to stop the slaughter, Condor organised assassination teams that tracked down and killed at least 13,000 dissidents. Hundreds of thousands of others were held in prison camps where many suffered torture and eventual death.
He was vice-president to Reagan from 1981-1989. On July 3, 1988, the US shot down an Iranian civilian airliner (Iran Air 655), massacring all 290 passengers, including 66 children. Bush responded saying, "I will never apologise for the USA. I don't care what the facts are."
Invasion of Panama
He invaded Panama in 1989, overthrowing the government. More than 4,000 Panamanian citizens lost their lives in the process.
Above all, however, Operation Desert Storm, the military offensive to liberate Kuwait from an Iraqi invasion in 1991, marked the defining event of the Bush presidency. US-led forces subjected Iraq to 42 consecutive days and nights of one of the most intensive aerial campaigns in military history, laying waste to military and civilian infrastructure with wanton abandon.
It was George Bush Sr who ordered the bombing of the 'Highway of Death' in 1991. The death toll remains unknown. Robert Fisk, the journalist, said he "lost count of the Iraqi corpses crammed into the smouldering wreckage or slumped face down in the sand".