Page last updated at 12:46 GMT, Monday, 12 January 2009

Readers review the Bush years

George W Bush greets troops

Outgoing US President George Bush hands over to Barack Obama on 20 January, 2009, bringing to an end his eight-year run in the White House.

BBC News website readers have been reflecting on what the Bush years have meant to them.

TATIANA SOKOLOVA, 24, PhD STUDENT, MOSCOW
Tatiana Sokolova
Over eight years our relationship with the US has changed - our country has become stronger and America has grown weaker.

In almost every way America has become less powerful. Their image in the world has been damaged, their economy ruined and their soldiers are stuck in the Middle East fighting for their lives not for Western values.

Today most people in Russia care more about our partnership with Europe and our close neighbours than our relationship with America.

The US under Bush acted as though Russia and America were still trapped in the Cold War. Why did they place a missile defence system in Poland if they wish to stop rockets from the Middle East? Most Russians don't feel threatened by the defence system, but it seems unnecessary and silly.

Bush was consistent in his actions: he declared 'war on terror' and acted decisively on this with war in Afghanistan, Iraq and pressure on North Korea and Iran.

But these actions were harmful. Wherever the US got involved - Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq - they left behind black holes with no central power instead of stable states.

I hope Obama will be able to correct Bush's mistakes or at least not to commit new ones. But he won't be able to change American policy overnight.

GERD HILDEBRANDT, 51, IT CONSULTANT, COLOGNE, GERMANY
Gerd Hilderbrandt
George Bush has caused many Europeans to distance themselves from so-called American values. Thus he indirectly helped Europeans to find more trust in a 'European way'.

At the start of his first term most conservatives here in Germany were glad to see a tough guy in the White House who promised to bring back order to the world and re-establish conservative, Christian values.

I can't think of anyone who would have thought like that still in the middle of his second term.

I lived and worked in the US from 1988 until 1990, so before 9/11 I had a critical but passionate love affair with this vast, beautiful, diverse country.

On 9/11 I felt nothing but shock and disbelief. Afterwards I became increasingly worried by the military-financial complex gathering up behind George Bush and gaining increasing influence in US politics.

I still have many friends in the US and visit regularly, so I have been able to follow the post-9/11 changes closely. I became increasingly worried that the US would gradually turn into a pseudo-democracy because of the number of civil rights that were impaired or discontinued.

I believe George Bush will be remembered as the 'last dinosaur'. I hope he will be the last politician with a simplistic right-wing, capitalist, Christian 'us against them' approach to lead a major country.

I can't think of anyone else having had a similar influence on my life. My wife is American and if George Bush hadn't been president she would probably not have agreed to live with me here in Germany. Thanks George!

AHMED KASEM, BAGHDAD, IRAQ
Ahmed

Since the invasion, Iraq has gained freedom of speech, the freedom to vote and practise religious faith. But we have lost our security.

I am Shia. Under Saddam we were not allowed to practise our religious rituals, so in this way Bush's policy has improved life in Iraq for me.

Sectarianism has increased where I live. Sunnis were kicked out of the area. Some of my relatives were kicked out of their areas for being Shia. Now, thank God, things are getting better and some people are returning home.

But overall I don't support George Bush's policies here in Iraq because it has cost us a lot. When the US troops came they said they were liberating us from a tyrant and from WMD. But in reality we feel they came not for our sake, but for their own special interests.

A lot of people have been killed. Is that the price of freedom?

My sister's husband was killed in one of the explosions last year. My sister has three sons, and she lives with us here in Baghdad now.

She got really depressed after he died. She is one of Iraq's many widows. There are three million of them. Life is really hard for her bringing up their children on her own. She doesn't care about George Bush's policies, she's too busy trying to get by.

HAZIM, BASRA, IRAQ

Before the invasion I could go around Basra without being afraid of anything
George Bush's policy in Iraq has meant I can no longer go for a walk after 10 o'clock at night. That's the main change it's brought - the drop in our personal security.

Before the invasion I could go all around Basra without being afraid of anything.

It's true there are now more job opportunities with international organisations, but anyone who works for them risks becoming a target for some of the Shia militias.

Now that sanctions have been lifted, the door to Iraqi economic development is wide open.

We expected an open market - international investment so we could become another Lebanon.

Instead, the electricity supply is worse than it was. It used to be fixed, three hours on, three hours off and on all night. But now it's not as regular.

I do blame George Bush for these things because he chose the method of invasion and he knew who would be in charge. This government isn't fit to lead Iraq.

JERONIMO CASTRO, 47, EDUCATION PROGRAMME DIRECTOR, BOGOTA, COLOMBIA
Jeronimo Castro
Many believe Bush's legacy is a negative one. But for Colombia, his decisive support has helped to turn the fate of our conflict with the Farc guerrilla force.

Our advance against the guerrillas has allowed the urban and middle classes to feel secure again. It has allowed the government to go back into the rural areas once under guerrilla control.

The fight against drugs is an international failure. But that fight in Colombia has at least displaced part of the problem to other countries like Mexico, Guatemala and Venezuela. Bush's clear support and finance of the war has helped this minor achievement.

Bush's support for a future free trade agreement with Colombia also showed that his government was looking to expand further the American-Colombian relationship.

The events of 9/11 produced in Colombia, as in the rest of the world, a general and sincere solidarity with the USA. There are large numbers of Colombians living in that country. Many died during those attacks.

But that support vanished after the war in Iraq was defended with false intelligence, after the creation of Guantanamo prison and after the torture in Abu Ghraib, horribly depicted by the Colombian painter Fernando Botero.

In the end, Bush's presidency allowed the Democrats to return to power with a black president at the helm. His leadership showed that many of the conservative approaches to war, economy and markets were wrong.

WALEED OBAIDI, STUDENT MAZAR-E-SHARIF, AFGHANISTAN

Waleed Obaidi
Bush's impact on Afghanistan came just in time. It was great and it really made Afghans feel free and safe after being tortured by the Taleban. The first step he took to strike against terror was great - I only wish the other steps that followed had gone the same way.

To be honest he has been both helpful and harmful. The help came in areas such as road construction, education, media and reconstruction. But in other fields of the life of Afghan people he represented bad and harmful things. He ignored religious issues, and the war has broken into the houses of Afghan civilians.

Personally, I have witnessed lots of changes. Eight years ago I was only an ordinary man with basic knowledge that I got from my time at school. Now I am studying engineering and working in a part-time job in an international firm.

Mr Bush's popularity is actually not so bad. Some people support his actions. Others do not. Anyway, the truth is that his actions in the past have helped Afghanistan change.

For the new President Obama there are great expectations. We want to see changes in US troop operations, political affairs and help for Afghans in capacity-building programmes.

WANG LI, UNIVERSITY LECTURER, NANKAI, CHINA
Wang Li
President Bush's visit to Beijing during the Olympics indicated his courage and his vision to preserve relations between the US and China.

It was a truly positive image of him in Chinese eyes.

During his presidency, Mr Bush has clearly worked to improve and maintain Sino-US relations in a strategic way. The United States recognises the role played by China on many key issues, such as the recent financial crisis and it has not bothered China about the Taiwan question.

But it is true that China cannot agree with US policy on every issue, for example, Iraq and Afghanistan.

As a rising great power, China has been worked hard over the past years to improve its image. And with the economic growth, China appears more confident, flexible and responsible on the world stage.

Generally, Bush is not very popular in the eyes of most Chinese because of the wars against Iraq and others. But it has to be admitted that Chinese people have been influenced by media from the US and the UK.

I personally respect him as he has consistently supported close ties between the two countries. I hope that he will enjoy his life with his family after he retires from his position.


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