Lessons of a 20 Year War: An Analysis of the Bush Administration


CPL Sam Shepherd

On patrol in North East Bamyian with Kiwi Team One, performing both mounted and dismounted patrols The NZ PRT Bamyan is tasked with maintaining security in Bamyan Province. It does this by conducting frequent presence patrols throughout the province. The PRT also supports the provincial and local government by providing advice and assistance to the Provincial Governor, the Afghan National Police and district sub-governors. Thirdly the NZ PRT identifies, prepares and provides project management for NZAID projects within the region. These are contracted to Afghan companies who hire local workers to assist with the completion of these projects. Thus each project provides new amenities, and also provides employment in the region.

Lillian Eschweiler

In April, the Biden administration announced that we are withdrawing our troops from Afghanistan; thus ending what is now the longest American war. With all we know now, it’s quite easy to wonder, how has this war been going on for 20 years, and did we actually accomplish what it was meant to address? 

To understand how the war started, it’s important to look at the root causes of the conflict that lead to the war. To do that we need to take a look back in time 20 years, and examine the Bush Administration’s motives and actions. It also cannot be ignored that we discuss the cultural shift caused between 2001-2008 following the Sept. 1 attacks on the United States. 

George W. Bush was inaugurated and sworn into office on Jan. 20, 2001 with Dick Cheney serving as his Vice President. Bush, the son of former U.S. president George Bush Sr., had made campaign promises to provide better education, healthcare for all families, tax cuts, stronger social security, and a stronger military. His presidency promised to run with the philosophy of “compassionate conservatism”.

At the beginning of his first year in office, Bush had begun to intact his many plans in office. In February 2001, Bush passed an executive order for a ban on abortion, as well as a raid on the country of Iraq. In May, he passed a tax cut that would cut taxes by $1.35 trillion dollars, over the course of the next eleven years. And in August, he addressed the nation that stem cell research would still be federally funded but imposed restrictions on the testing material.

Bush, later would be admired as the president during 9/11, being strong in the face of a national tragedy. Prior to 9/11, Bush only ranked 60 percent in the nation’s popularity polls, and after the attacks, he ranked up to 87 percent-92 percent . After the 9/11 attacks criticism of the President was highly abhorred, to give an example, female country band “The Dixie Chicks” had lost many fans and were boycotted, after singer, Natalie Maines, told a London audience, “We’re ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas”. In reference to the invasion of Iraq. According to a Taste Of Country article, “Within the week, country radio stations in the U.S. were not only banning their music, but they were also renting steamrollers and hosting parties to crush all of the Dixie Chicks’ albums into dust. It was as if an entire format had been waiting for such a quip”. 

I spoke with my neighbor, Elijah Jones, born 1979, who lived through pre and post 9/11. Here’s what he had to say when asked about how some people saw Bush before and after 9/11.

“It’s conflicted (the public’s opinion) because there were questions about the legitimacy of his first election. Looking back on it now, it was definitely one of the larger faux pas, in our election process. The electoral college went against the popular vote,” Jones said, “after 9/11, it was divided, between who liked him and who didn’t. But again, I do feel like prior to 9/11, whoever was the president, was the president. People were more accepting toward the fact of who won, you could dislike the president, you could dislike their policies, or whatever, but they were still the president. Since 9/11, since the Bush administration, the political figure of the U.S. President has been incredibly polarized”. 

When Bush entered his second term in office, Bush had become more criticized, by the end of his term in 2008, Bush’s popularity had gone down to 24 percent-50 percent 

I also asked Jones about the culture of the nation prior to 9/11, and how the nation reacted, and he said.

“Prior to 9/11, I would say there was less political hostility, there was a lot less concern for security, for example at airports, public buildings, subways, etc. Issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, and immigration existed, they definitely got worse after 9/11. I would say that 9/11, in a way, had sort of broken the innocence that America had. We lived in a bubble sort of, where outside forces wouldn’t dare attack us. After 9/11 we had been attacked on American soil, so we were no longer safe or untouchable. It did create a temporary unifying moment of shared experience and national trauma. However, I feel all too quickly was weaponized into an outcry of who to blame and who to hate”.

Jones was quite onto something, while at the beginning of 9/11, much of the nation came together in solidarity; 36,000 donations were made to the New York Blood Center after the 9/11 attacks, as well as $3 million raised and donated to the Red Cross, in the two days following 9/11.

However, in solidarity came radicalization. Following the 9/11 attacks, violence against U.S. citizens of Arabic origin and citizens who practiced the Islamic religion spiked. Only 10 days after 9/11, 600 incidents were recorded, one of which being, an attack in Arizona, in which a man shot a gas station owner, in an anti-Arab attack. 

“Prior to 9/11,” Jones said, “Unless you were in a major city, with a large community of people of the Muslim faith, you were basically unaware of their existence. They were a marginalized group in the United States, they were certainly not a large population in the United States, you know until refugees started coming into the United States, people did start to become more aware of their existence, but when 9/11 happened, people became very aware of the Muslim population in the United States, and I think that’s when the Islamophobia came in.” 

And that brings us back to the initial question, how has this war continued for 20 years? 

Jones said, “I think the intent, at least the plan we were told by the president who initiated this war, we were gonna go into there to get this group of terrorists (The Taliban) out. But that mission wasn’t really accomplished, we never really ‘cut the head off the snake’ and now it slithered back out of the grass.”

In the current day, United States; Islamophobia and attacks against people of Middle Eastern and Arabic descent as well as followers of the Islamic religion still continue to face increased persecution and violence. During the Trump administration, we have seen a continued spike and even more divisiveness as a nation. And so with the Afghanistan War coming to an end, Islamic Americans are still fighting a war against discrimination, that has only intensified since the Bush administration. 

So one has to ask themselves, with everything we know now: what did a 20 year war really accomplish?