End of an era
FORMER US president George H.W. Bush, who guided America through the end of the Cold War and launched the international campaign to drive Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait, died at his home in Houston on Friday. He was 94.
Tributes quickly poured in for the 41st US president — a decorated World War II pilot, skilled diplomat and one-time CIA chief who also saw his son George follow in his footsteps to the Oval Office.
Bush was credited with creating a world of civility and furthering democracy, and was forthright and committed in his judgments.
His passing comes just months after the death in April of his wife Barbara — his “most beloved woman in the world” — to whom he was married for 73 years.
“Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro and I are saddened to announce that after 94 remarkable years, our dear dad has died,” former president George W. Bush said in a statement.
“George H.W. Bush was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for.”
Bush suffered from Parkinson’s disease and had used a wheelchair for several years.
He was born into a wealthy political dynasty, but put his career on hold to join the US Navy and was the last serving US president to have fought in World War II.
He flew 58 combat missions and was shot down over the Pacific by Japanese anti-aircraft fire.
As he accepted the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 1988, Bush pleaded for a “kinder, and gentler nation”.
He led the United States through the turbulent but largely peaceful fall of the Soviet Union in 1989 and declared a “new world order” in 1990, driving Iraq from Kuwait in a matter of weeks with a lightning air and ground assault — and the backing of a coalition of 32 nations.
“He was more than a great man; he was a good man,” Bush’s grandson George P. Bush posted on social media.
“His courage was matched by his compassion; and his dedication to country was equalled only by his devotion to his family.”
President Donald Trump yesterday hailed Bush’s “sound judgment, commonsense, and unflappable leadership”.
“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,” he said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “Australians join with the American people to mourn the loss of President George H.W. Bush.”
A note written by Bush to Bill Clinton, who defeated him after one term in 1992, went viral on social media overnight.
In the gracious message, dated Jan 20, 1993, Mr Bush wrote: “When I walked into this office just now I felt the same sense of wonder and respect that I felt four years ago. I know you will feel that, too.”
“There will be very tough times, made even more difficult by criticism you may not think is fair. I’m not a very good one to give advice; but just don’t let the critics discourage you or push you off course.
“Your success is now our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.”
President George H.W. Bush and first lady Barbara Bush in 1992; in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield in 1990; with President Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan in 1980; and (bottom) with son, President George W. Bush.