Sunday 22 September 2019

Former US president George HW Bush dies aged 94

His son George W Bush called him a ‘man of the highest character’.

Former US president George HW Bush has died (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson, File)
Former US president George HW Bush has died (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson, File)

By Associated Press Reporter

The 41st president of the United States, George HW Bush, has died at the age of 94.

The Second World War hero, who also presided during the collapse of the Soviet Union and the final months of the Cold War, died shortly after 10pm on Friday, family spokesman Jim McGrath said.

His wife of more than 70 years, Barbara Bush, died in April.

Mr Bush’s son, George W Bush, described his father as a “man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for”.

In a statement, he added: “The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41’s life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for Dad, and for the condolences of our friends and fellow citizens.”

The former president served from 1989 to 1993, and eight years later watched his son George W became the 43rd president – only the second father-and-son chief executives, following John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

The elder Mr Bush, the son of a senator, rose through the political ranks: from congressman to UN ambassador, Republican Party chairman to envoy to China, CIA director to two-term vice president under the hugely popular Ronald Reagan.

He entered the White House in 1989 with a reputation as a man of indecision and indeterminate views.

The Iraq crisis of 1990-91 brought out all the skills he had honed in a quarter-century of politics and public service.

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George HW Bush talks with a group of young people at a rally in Houston, Texas, in 1970 (AP Photo/File)

After Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Mr Bush quickly began building an international military coalition that included other Arab states.

After winning United Nations support and a green light from a reluctant Congress, he unleashed a punishing air war against Iraq and a five-day ground juggernaut that sent Iraqi forces reeling in disarray back to Baghdad.

He basked in the biggest outpouring of patriotism and pride in America’s military since the Second World War, and his approval ratings soared to nearly 90%.

After freeing Kuwait, he rejected suggestions that the US carry the offensive to Baghdad, choosing to end the hostilities a mere 100 hours after the start of the ground offensive.

The decisive military defeat did not lead to the regime’s downfall, as many in the administration had hoped.

His legacy was dogged for years by doubts about the decision not to remove Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi leader was eventually ousted in 2003, in the war led by Mr Bush’s son that was followed by a long, bloody insurgency.

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George HW Bush during a news conference at the White House in Washington in 1989 (AP Photo/Marcy Nighswander, File)

The elder Mr Bush’s prime interest was foreign policy. Under his watch, the Berlin Wall came down, the Warsaw Pact disintegrated and the Soviet satellites fell out of orbit.

The other battles he fought as president, including a war on drugs and a crusade to make American children the best educated in the world, were not so decisively won.

He rode into office pledging to make the United States a “kinder, gentler” nation and calling on Americans to volunteer for good causes, to create “a thousand points of light”.

Mr Bush lost his bid for re-election to Bill Clinton in a campaign in which businessman H Ross Perot took almost 19% of the vote as an independent candidate.

Paying tribute to Mr Bush, current US president Donald Trump praised his “sound judgment, common sense and unflappable leadership”.

In a joint statement with wife Melania, he added: “Through his essential authenticity, disarming wit, and unwavering commitment to faith, family and country, President Bush inspired generations of his fellow Americans to public service – to be, in his words, “a thousand points of light” illuminating the greatness, hope and opportunity of America to the world.

“President Bush always found a way to set the bar higher.”

He said: “Along with his full life of service to country, we will remember President Bush for his devotion to family – especially the love of his life, Barbara.

“His example lives on, and will continue to stir future Americans to pursue a greater cause.”

Barack Obama, the 44th president of the US, said America had “lost a patriot and humble servant”.

He said: “While our hearts are heavy today, they are also filled with gratitude.

“George HW Bush’s life is a testament to the notion that public service is a noble, joyous calling. And he did tremendous good along the journey… It’s a legacy of service that may never be matched, even though he’d want all of us to try.”

Former US president Bill Clinton remembered Mr Bush for his “great long life of service, love and friendship”.

He said he would be “forever grateful” for the friendship he formed with the man he turned out of the White House after one term.

Mr Clinton said he was always struck by Mr Bush’s “innate and genuine decency” and by his devotion to his wife Barbara and his family.

He added that Mr Bush’s extensive record of public service was rare, with his years in the military, in US congress, the United Nations, China, the CIA and as vice president and president.

And Mr Clinton noted that Mr Bush never stopped serving even after leaving office, working on tsunami relief in Asia and within the US after Hurricane Katrina.

Former Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev expressed his “deep condolences” to Mr Bush’s family.

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George HW Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev, pictured in 1991 (AP)

Mr Gorbachev worked closely with Mr Bush to bring an end to the Cold War in the late 1980s and 1990s, and lauded the former president for his abilities as a politician as well as his personal character.

“It was a time of great change,” he told the Interfax news agency, “demanding great responsibility from everyone. The result was the end of the Cold War and nuclear arms race.”

Mr Gorbachev said that he and his wife, Raisa, “deeply appreciated the attention, kindness and simplicity typical of George and Barbara Bush, as well as the rest of their large, friendly family”.

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