Terrorism, War, and Bush 43: Crash Course US History #46
Hi, I’m John Green, this is CrashCourse
U.S. history and today we’ve done it! WE’VE FINALLY REACHED THE 21st CENTURY!
Today, we boldly go where no history course has gone before, because your teacher ran
out of time and never made it to the present. Also, if you’re preparing for the AP test
it’s unlikely that today’s video will be helpful to you because, you know, they
never get to this stuff. Mr. Green, Mr. Green? Awesome, free period.
Yeah, Me From the Past, there’s no such thing as a free period. There’s only time,
and how you choose to use it. Also, Me From the Past, we’re in your future,
hold on I’ve got to take this stuff off it’s hard to take me seriously with that.
We’re in the future for you which means that you are learning important things about
the you who does not yet exist. You know about Lady GaGa, Kanye and Kim, Bieber,
well you’re not going to find out about any of those things because this is a history
class, but it’s still going to be interesting. INTRO
So the presidency of George W. Bush may not end up on your AP exam, but it’s very important
when it comes to understanding the United States that we live in today
The controversy starts with the 2000 Election. Democratic presidential candidate Al “I
invented the Internet” Gore was sitting Vice President, and he asked Bill Clinton
not to campaign much because a lot of voters kind of hated Bill Clinton.
The republican candidate was George W. Bush, governor of Texas and unlike his father a
reasonably authentic Texan. You know, as people from Connecticut go.
Bush was a former oil guy and baseball team owner and he was running as a Compassionate
Conservative, which meant he was organizing a coalition of religious people and fiscal
conservatives. And that turned out to be a very effective
coalition and George W Bush got a lot of votes. He did not however get as many votes as Al
Gore. But as you’ll no doubt remember from earlier
in Crash Course US History, in the United States presidential elections are not decided
by popular vote. They are decided by the Electoral College.
So the election was incredibly close. It solidified the Red-Blue divide that has become a trope
for politicians since. And in the end Gore won the popular vote by about 500,000 votes.
However, Al Gore did not have the necessary electoral votes to become president. Unless
he won Florida. Did he win Florida? I don’t even want to go there…
In Florida the vote was ridiculously close, but George W Bush had a gigantic advantage
which is that his brother, Jeb Bush, was the governor of Florida.
So when it came time to certify the election Jeb was like, “Yeah. My brother won. No
big deal.” But then the Gore campaign sued to have a recount by hand which is allowed
under Florida law. But then Bush’s lawyers asked the Supreme
Court to intervene and they did. Their decision in Bush v. Gore remains rather controversial.
They ruled that the recount should be stopped, interfering with a state law and also a state’s
electoral process, which is a weird decision for strict constructionists to make.
However, one of the strong points of the United States these past couple centuries has been
that sometimes we have the opportunity to go to war over whether this person or that
person should be president and we chose not to.
So regardless of whether you think the recount should have gone on, or George W Bush should
have been elected, he was, and he set to work implementing his campaign promises, including
working on a missile defence system that was very similar to Star Wars.
And that was Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars, not George Lucas’ Star Wars. Man if we could
get a federally funded new Star Wars trilogy that doesn’t suck that would be awesome.
Anyway, in the first 100 days of his presidency Bush also barred federal funding for stem
cell research, and he supported oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
And speaking of environmental policy, the Bush administration announced that it would
not abide by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on carbon emissions and that didn’t go over well with
environmentalists in the U.S. or in all of these green parts of not-America because they
were like, “You guys made all the carbon.” To which we said, “This is America.”
Libertage Bush also attempted education reform with
the No Child Left Behind Act, which mandated that states implement “rigorous” standards
and testing regimes to prove that those standards were being met.
The No Child Left Behind Act is especially controversial with teachers who are great
friends of Crash Course US History so we will say nothing more.
Most importantly, George W Bush pushed through the largest tax cut in American history in
2001. Claiming that putting more money in Americans’ pockets would stimulate growth
in an economy that had stumbled after the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2000.
Oh, it’s time for the Mystery Document? The rules here are simple.
I guess the author of the Mystery Document, I either get it right, or I get shocked with
the shock pen. Alright, what have we got here today. I’ve got a feeling it’s going to
be a sad one. “It was a beautiful fall day, with a crisp,
blue sky. I was coming in to work late that day; I guess I didn’t have first period
class. It was only the second or third day of school. When I emerged from the subway, Union Square
was strangely quiet, which only added to the beauty of the day. People were standing still,
which is weird in New York under any circumstances, and looking down University Place towards
lower Manhattan. Before I even looked I asked a passerby what had happened. She, or he,
I really don’t remember, said that a plane had crashed into the Trade Center. Then I
looked and saw the smoke coming billo wing out of the South Tower. I thought it was an
accident, but I knew that this was not going to be an easy day.
Well it’s obviously someone who was in New York City on September 11, 2001, but that
only narrows it down to like 10 million people. However, I happen to know that it is Crash
Course historian and my high school history teacher Raoul Meyer who wrote that account.
This is the saddest I have ever been not to be shocked.
So whether George Bush’s domestic policy would have worked is up for debate, but the
events of September 11, 2001 ensured that foreign policy would dominate any discussion
of the opening decade of the 21st century. That morning terrorists affiliated with al
Qaeda hijacked 4 airliners. Two planes were flown into Manhattan’s World Trade Center,
a third was crashed into the Pentagon in Washington and a fourth, also headed for Washington DC
crashed in Pennsylvania when passengers overpowered the hijackers.
Almost 3,000 people died including almost 400 policemen and firefighters.
As Americans rushed to help in the search for survivors and to rebuild a devastated
city, a shared sense of trauma and a desire to show resolve really did bring the country
together. President Bush’s popularity soared in the
wake of the attacks. In a speech on September 20, the president told Americans watching
on television that the terrorists had targeted America “Because we love freedom […]. And
they hate freedom.” This is another critical moment in American
history where the definition of freedom is being reimagined.
And we were reminded in the wake of September 11th that one of the central things that government
does to keep us free is to keep us safe. But at the same time ensuring our safety sometimes
means impinging upon our freedoms. And the question of how to keep America safe
while also preserving our civil liberties is one of the central questions of the 21st
century. At any rate, in the September 20th speech,
the president announced a new guiding principle in foreign policy that became known as the
Bush Doctrine. America would go to war with terrorism making
no distinction between the terrorists and nations that harbored them.
Bush laid out the terms for the world that night: “Either you are with us or you are
with the terrorists.” But that dichotomy of course would prove to
be a bit of an oversimplification. So on October 7, the United States launched
its first airstrikes on Afghanistan, which at the time was ruled by a group of Islamic
fundamentalists called the Taliban who were protecting Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda’s leader.
This was followed by American ground troops supporting the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance
in chasing out the Taliban and setting up a new Afghan government that was friendly
to the United States. This new government did undo many of the worst
Taliban policies, for instance allowing women and girls to go to school, and even to serve
in the parliament. More women than girls in the parliament naturally.
But by 2007 the Taliban was beginning to make a comeback and although fewer than 100 Americans
died in the initial phase of the war, a sizeable force remained and in the ensuing 12 years
the number of Americans killed would continue to rise.
And then, by January 2002, Bush had expanded the scope of the Global War on Terror by proclaiming
that Iran, Iraq and North Korea were an “axis of evil” that harbored terrorists, even
though none of those nations had direct ties to the September 11 attacks.
The ultimate goal of Bush Doctrine was to make the world safe for freedom and also to
spread it and freedom was defined as consisting of political democracy, free expression, religious
toleration, free trade and free markets. These freedoms, Bush said, were, “right
and true for every person, in every society”. And there’s no question that the Saddam
Hussein led Iraq of 2003 was not, by any of those definitions, free.
But the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States was predicated on two ideas. First,
that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction – chemical and biological weapons that they
were refusing to give up. And second, that there was, or at least may have been, a link
between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and the Al Qaeda attacks of 9-11.
So in March 2003 the United States, Britain, and a coalition of other countries, invaded
Iraq. Within a month Baghdad was captured, Saddam Hussein was ousted, Iraq created a
new government that was more democratic than Saddam’s dictatorship, and then descended
into sectarian chaos. After Baghdad fell, President Bush declared
the end of major combat operations in Iraq, but troops soon found themselves trying to
manage an increasingly organized insurgency that featured attacks and bombings.
And by 2006 American intelligence analysts concluded that Iraq had become a haven for
Islamist terrorists, which it hadn’t been, before the invasion.
In fact, Saddam Hussein’s socialist government, while it occasionally called upon religion
to unify people against an enemy, was pretty secular.
Although fewer than 200 Americans had died in the initial assaults, by the end of 2006,
more than 3,000 American soldiers had been killed and another 20,000 wounded.
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis had died in the conflict and the costs of the war which
were promised to be no more than $60 billion had ballooned to $200 billion dollars.
So that, and we try really hard here at Crash Course to be objective was a bit of a disaster.
But let’s now go back to the domestic side of things and jump back in time to the passage
of the USA PATRIOT act. Which believe it or not is an acronym for
the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and
Obstruct Terrorism act of 2001. Oh, Congress you don’t pass many laws these
days but when you do… mmhm…. there’s some winners.
The PATRIOT act gave the government unprecedented law enforcement powers to combat domestic
terrorism including the ability to wiretap and spy on Americans.
At least 5000 people connected to the Middle East were called in for questioning and more
than 1200 were arrested, many held for months without any charge.
The administration also set up a camp for accused terrorists in Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba,
but not the fun kind of camp, the prison kind, it housed more than 700 suspects.
The president also authorized the National Security Agency to listen in to telephone
conversations without first obtaining a warrant, the so-called warrantless wiretapping.
In 2013 Americans learned that NSA surveillance has of course gone much farther than this
with surveillance programs like PRISM which sounds like it’s out of an Orwell novel
– I mean both like the name and the actual thing it refers to.
Meredith would like us to point out that Prism is also the name of a Katy Perry album proving
that we here at Crash Course are young and hip and with it. Who is Katy Perry? Oh right,
she has that song in Madagascar 3. Sorry, I have little kids.
The Supreme Court eventually limited the executive branch’s power and ruled that enemy combatants
do have some procedural rights. Congress also banned the use of torture in a 2005 defense
appropriations bill sponsored by Republican John McCain who himself had been a victim
of torture in Vietnam. But the Defense Department did condone the
continued use of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” like waterboarding.
Which most countries do consider torture. But George W Bush won re-election in 2004,
defeating the surprisingly weak John Kerry, who was characterized as a “waffler” on
a number of issues including the Iraq war. Kerry’s history as a Vietnam protester and
also terrible windsurfer probably didn’t help him much.
Bush’s victory is still a bit surprising to historians admittedly at that moment the
Iraq war seemed to be going pretty well. But during Bush’s first term, the economy,
which is usually what really drives voters, wasn’t that great at all.
A recession began during 2001 and the September 11 attacks made it much worse. And while the
GDP did begin to grow again relatively quickly, employment didn’t recover, hence all the
description of it as a “jobless recovery.” 90% of the jobs lost in the 2001-2002 recession
were in manufacturing, continuing a trend that we had been seeing for 30 years. The
number of steelworkers dropped from 520,000 in 1970 to 120,000 in 2004.
And in his first term George W Bush actually became the first president since Herbert Hoover
to oversee a net loss of jobs. Now I want to be clear that that’s not necessarily
his fault as I have said many times before – economics are complicated. And presidents
do not decide whether economies grow. But at any rate George W Bush was re-elected
and went on to have an extremely controversial second term. Let’s go to the thoughtbubble.
In 2005 several events undermined the public’s confidence in the Bush administration. First,
Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff was indicted for perjury and then House Majority
Leader Tom “The Hammer” DeLay was indicted for violating campaign finance laws.
Then in August 2005, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the gulf coast near New Orleans submerging
much of the city, killing nearly 1500 people, and leaving thousands stranded without basic
services. Disaster preparation and response was poor on the state, local, and federal
levels, but the slow response of the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency
Management Agency was particularly noticeable as thousands of mostly African American New
Orleans residents suffered without food or water. Damage to the city was estimated at
around $80 billion dollars. And the Katrina disaster exposed the persistent poverty and
racial divisions in the city. While the Katrina response probably contributed
to the reversal of fortune for Congressional Republicans in the 2006 mid-terms, it was
more likely the spike in gasoline prices that resulted from the shutting down of refining
capacity in the gulf and increased demand for oil from rapidly growing China. Voters
gave Democrats majorities in both houses, and Nancy Pelosi of California became the
first woman Speaker of the House in American history.
And then, in 2007, the country fell back into recession as a massive housing bubble began
to deflate, followed by the near collapse of the American banking system in 2008.
Thought Bubble, thank you once again for the tremendous downer.
So, the Bush years are still in the recent past, and it’s impossible to tell just what
their historical significance is without some distance.
But the attacks on September 11 had far ranging effects on American foreign policy but also
on the entire world. Under the leadership of George W Bush the
United States began a global fight against terrorism and for freedom.
But as always, what we mean by the words is evolving and there’s no question that in
trying to ensure a certain kind of freedom we have undermined other kinds of freedom.
We’ll get to the even messier and murkier world of the 2008 financial collapse next
week. Until then, thanks for watching. Crash Course is made with the help of all
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