Was George W. Bush a Pro-Shiite Supporter of Iran?

Despite a spectacular record of failure, no one questioned Bush's patriotism. No one questioned his citizenship or demanded to see his birth certificate. And no one claimed Bush was a Muslim although he very prominently doesn't drink alcohol.
03/11/2012 11:42 pm ET Updated May 11, 2012

Was George W. Bush a pro-Shi'ite supporter of Iran? No, and Barack H. Obama isn't Pro-Islamic either.

"There's something sick about an administration which is so pro-Islamic that it can't even tell the truth about the people who are trying to kill us." --
Newt Gingrich on President Obama's policies for Afghanistan and the Islamic world.

Suggesting President George W. Bush was a supporter of Iran seems shocking. Yet, a more convincing case can be made that Bush was pro-Iran, than that President Obama (who ordered Osama Bin-Laden's execution) is pro-Islamic.

Several senior GOP figures (e.g., Newt Gingrich, Governor Perry, Rick Santorum, Donald Trump, among others) have raised accusations and doubts about Obama's citizenship, patriotism and religious beliefs. Shouldn't Bush be subjected to the same scrutiny? And since Bush has been out of office for almost four years, we can more clearly evaluate who benefited from his presidency.

Iran and Iraq, implacably hostile neighbors, fought the First Persian Gulf War in the 1980s that neither won, but killed 500,000, and wounded millions. Iraq's vicious dictator Saddam Hussein served as a clear threat-in-waiting that helped contain Iran.

The new Iraq, emerging after the American invasion, is dominated by Iranian-oriented parties. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, for example, is close to Iran's current leadership, and came into office under Bush. His Islamic Dawa Party supported Iran during the Iran-Iraq war, and is rumored to receive covert Iranian support. By no stretch of the imagination is Al-Maliki pro-American.

An enduring mystery surrounding the Bush administration concerns why Iraq was invaded. In theory, we attacked Iraq to protect our allies from Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). In fact, our allies generally did not perceive Iraq as a threat (most considered Iran the greater danger) and advised us not to invade. And after we invaded, we didn't find any WMDs.

Even worse, we invaded with no plan for transitioning Iraq into an American ally. The U.S. derived no benefit from the Iraq war (not greater security from terrorism, not even preferential access to oil); however, it cost 4,500 U.S. military personnel killed, many more thousands of American military personnel wounded, and over $1 trillion (Costs of War, Brown University, 2011).

Iran was the main beneficiary of Bush's policy in Iraq. The U.S. accomplished, for Iran, what Iran couldn't achieve in its 8-year war with Iraq. We installed a pro-Iranian government in Iraq. Applying current Republican logic, Bush must be seen as a pro-Shi'ite supporter of Iran.

Shifting to domestic policy, Bush was an unmitigated disaster for the American economy. Under the Bush administration, unemployment doubled from 4 percent on January 20, 2001, to 8 percent on January 20, 2009. Bush inherited an annual budget surplus of $128 billion. When he left office, the Federal Government's annual budget deficit was $1.4 trillion. The Federal Debt increased from ~$6 trillion to ~$11 trillion over the same period, and grew (as a percentage of U.S. GDP) from ~55 percent when he assumed office, to ~80 percent when he left, another massive decline in our economic strength. (Economic data is from WolframAlpha.)

The economic situation created by Bush was so disastrous, the largest government bailout of the private sector in American history was needed to avoid our economy's complete collapse ("History of U.S. Government Bailouts", Propublica, 2009).

Bush also presided over a shocking loss of trust between the American people and their government. When Bush took office, 56 percent of Americans approved of Congress; when he left office, only 19 percent did.

We now face a potential military confrontation with Iran over its very real nuclear program, but do so from a much weaker position. Bush's policies were the best Iran could have hoped for: Iraq in Iran's political sphere of influence, our economy near collapse, our international alliances strained, and public trust in the U.S. government at all-time lows.

Yet, despite this spectacular record of failure, no one questioned Bush's patriotism. No one suggested 9/11 caught the U.S. unprepared because Bush neglected our defenses as part of some Islamic conspiracy. No one questioned his citizenship or demanded to see his birth certificate. And no one claimed Bush was a Muslim although he very prominently doesn't drink alcohol.

I believe Bush, as president, was a patriotic American who was either extremely unlucky, or simply not up to the job. And, while I don't always agree with Obama's policies, I believe he's a patriotic American too, trying to do his best with a difficult job. I certainly don't believe Obama (who enraged Muslim ally Pakistan with Bin-Laden's execution) is pro-Islamic.

I believe instead that the motivations of Gingrich, Santorum, et al are seriously suspect. We face too many real dangers to be misled by their outrageous attempts at character assassination.

I would welcome your comments:

  • Can anyone seriously make the case that Bush and/or Obama intentionally aided our enemies?
  • Do you think Gingrich, Santorum, et al sincerely believe their outrageous accusations about Obama?
  • If you agree with me that this type of character assassination is unhelpful, what can we do about it?
  • Any other thoughts you would like to share?

Steven Strauss was founding Managing Director of the Center for Economic Transformation at the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). He is an Advanced Leadership Fellow at Harvard University for 2012. He has a Ph.D. in Management from Yale University and over 20 years private sector work experience. You can follow him on twitter at: @Steven_Strauss