Commentary: Mistakes, arrogance diminish Bush's legacy

This editorial appeared in The Kansas City Star.

George W. Bush would have us remember this above all: He was a wartime president.

"Every morning, I received a briefing on the threats to our nation," he said in his farewell address last week. "And I vowed to do everything in my power to keep us safe."

No man, woman or child has died as the result of a terrorist attack on American soil since the seminal date of Bush's presidency, Sept. 11, 2001. He deserves credit for that.

But Bush's war against terror cost the United States dearly in terms of international standing and the sacrificing of some of its own long-held ideals and constitutional protections. His mistakes, and the carelessness and arrogance with which he made them, greatly diminish his legacy.

In speeches and interviews over the past few months, Bush and his supporters have argued that the nation's military and intelligence apparatus adapted quickly after 9-11 to cope with terrorists' threats.

They point to the routing of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the defeat of Saddam Hussein in Iraq as evidence of decisive action that replaced repressive regimes with budding democracies.

But Bush sold the nation short with his insistence that safety could be achieved only by sacrificing some civil liberties. This diminished our standing as a nation that champions human dignity and leads with decency.

His administration advocated spying on U.S. citizens without a judge's order. It detained people indefinitely without charging them with crimes. It used torture and shipped people to other governments known for their cruelty.

The detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is a shameful symbol of our compromised ideals that must be closed down as quickly as possible.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Kansas City Star.

Related stories from McClatchy DC