Terrorism, War, and Bush 43: Crash Course US History #46


In which John Green teaches you about the tumultuous 2000’s in the United States of America, mainly the 2000’s that coincide with the presidency of George W Bush. From the controversial election in 2000, to the events of 9/11 and Bush’s prosecution of the War on Terror, the George W. Bush presidency was an eventful one.


Transcript Provided by YouTube:

00:00
Hi, I’m John Green, this is CrashCourse U.S. history and today we’ve done it! WE’VE
00:05
FINALLY REACHED THE 21st CENTURY! Today, we boldly go where no history course
00:09
has gone before, because your teacher ran out of time and never made it to the present.
00:14
Also, if you’re preparing for the AP test it’s unlikely that today’s video will
00:17
be helpful to you because, you know, they never get to this stuff.
00:20
Mr. Green, Mr. Green? Awesome, free period. Yeah, Me From the Past, there’s no such
00:24
thing as a free period. There’s only time, and how you choose to use it.
00:28
Also, Me From the Past, we’re in your future, hold on I’ve got to take this stuff off
00:32
it’s hard to take me seriously with that. We’re in the future for you which means
00:35
that you are learning important things about the you who does not yet exist.
00:40
You know about Lady GaGa, Kanye and Kim, Bieber, well you’re not going to find out about
00:44
any of those things because this is a history class, but it’s still going to be interesting.
00:55
INTRO So the presidency of George W. Bush may not
00:58
end up on your AP exam, but it’s very important when it comes to understanding the United
01:03
States that we live in today The controversy starts with the 2000 Election.
01:07
Democratic presidential candidate Al “I invented the Internet” Gore was sitting
01:11
Vice President, and he asked Bill Clinton not to campaign much because a lot of voters
01:16
kind of hated Bill Clinton. The republican candidate was George W. Bush,
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governor of Texas and unlike his father a reasonably authentic Texan.
01:25
You know, as people from Connecticut go. Bush was a former oil guy and baseball team
01:29
owner and he was running as a Compassionate Conservative, which meant he was organizing
01:33
a coalition of religious people and fiscal conservatives.
01:36
And that turned out to be a very effective coalition and George W Bush got a lot of votes.
01:41
He did not however get as many votes as Al Gore.
01:44
But as you’ll no doubt remember from earlier in Crash Course US History, in the United
01:48
States presidential elections are not decided by popular vote. They are decided by the Electoral
01:53
College. So the election was incredibly close. It solidified
01:56
the Red-Blue divide that has become a trope for politicians since. And in the end Gore
02:01
won the popular vote by about 500,000 votes. However, Al Gore did not have the necessary
02:07
electoral votes to become president. Unless he won Florida. Did he win Florida? I don’t
02:13
even want to go there… In Florida the vote was ridiculously close,
02:17
but George W Bush had a gigantic advantage which is that his brother, Jeb Bush, was the
02:21
governor of Florida. So when it came time to certify the election
02:24
Jeb was like, “Yeah. My brother won. No big deal.” But then the Gore campaign sued
02:27
to have a recount by hand which is allowed under Florida law.
02:31
But then Bush’s lawyers asked the Supreme Court to intervene and they did. Their decision
02:35
in Bush v. Gore remains rather controversial. They ruled that the recount should be stopped,
02:40
interfering with a state law and also a state’s electoral process, which is a weird decision
02:45
for strict constructionists to make. However, one of the strong points of the United
02:48
States these past couple centuries has been that sometimes we have the opportunity to
02:52
go to war over whether this person or that person should be president and we chose not
02:56
to. So regardless of whether you think the recount
02:58
should have gone on, or George W Bush should have been elected, he was, and he set to work
03:02
implementing his campaign promises, including working on a missile defence system that was
03:07
very similar to Star Wars. And that was Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars,
03:10
not George Lucas’ Star Wars. Man if we could get a federally funded new Star Wars trilogy
03:14
that doesn’t suck that would be awesome. Anyway, in the first 100 days of his presidency
03:18
Bush also barred federal funding for stem cell research, and he supported oil drilling
03:22
in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And speaking of environmental policy, the
03:25
Bush administration announced that it would not abide by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on carbon
03:31
emissions and that didn’t go over well with environmentalists in the U.S. or in all of
03:35
these green parts of not-America because they were like, “You guys made all the carbon.”
03:39
To which we said, “This is America.” Libertage
03:47
Bush also attempted education reform with the No Child Left Behind Act, which mandated
03:51
that states implement “rigorous” standards and testing regimes to prove that those standards
03:56
were being met. The No Child Left Behind Act is especially
03:58
controversial with teachers who are great friends of Crash Course US History so we will
04:02
say nothing more. Most importantly, George W Bush pushed through
04:05
the largest tax cut in American history in 2001. Claiming that putting more money in
04:11
Americans’ pockets would stimulate growth in an economy that had stumbled after the
04:15
bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2000. Oh, it’s time for the Mystery Document?
04:19
The rules here are simple. I guess the author of the Mystery Document,
04:24
I either get it right, or I get shocked with the shock pen. Alright, what have we got here
04:31
today. I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be a sad one.
04:33
“It was a beautiful fall day, with a crisp, blue sky. I was coming in to work late that
04:38
day; I guess I didn’t have first period class. It was only the second or third day
04:42
of school.
04:42
When I emerged from the subway, Union Square was strangely quiet, which only added to the
04:46
beauty of the day. People were standing still, which is weird in New York under any circumstances,
04:52
and looking down University Place towards lower Manhattan. Before I even looked I asked
04:57
a passerby what had happened. She, or he, I really don’t remember, said that a plane
05:01
had crashed into the Trade Center. Then I looked and saw the smoke coming billo wing
05:05
out of the South Tower. I thought it was an accident, but I knew that this was not going
05:09
to be an easy day. Well it’s obviously someone who was in New
05:11
York City on September 11, 2001, but that only narrows it down to like 10 million people.
05:16
However, I happen to know that it is Crash Course historian and my high school history
05:21
teacher Raoul Meyer who wrote that account. This is the saddest I have ever been not to
05:25
be shocked. So whether George Bush’s domestic policy
05:27
would have worked is up for debate, but the events of September 11, 2001 ensured that
05:32
foreign policy would dominate any discussion of the opening decade of the 21st century.
05:37
That morning terrorists affiliated with al Qaeda hijacked 4 airliners. Two planes were
05:41
flown into Manhattan’s World Trade Center, a third was crashed into the Pentagon in Washington
05:46
and a fourth, also headed for Washington DC crashed in Pennsylvania when passengers overpowered
05:51
the hijackers. Almost 3,000 people died including almost
05:54
400 policemen and firefighters. As Americans rushed to help in the search
05:58
for survivors and to rebuild a devastated city, a shared sense of trauma and a desire
06:03
to show resolve really did bring the country together.
06:07
President Bush’s popularity soared in the wake of the attacks. In a speech on September
06:11
20, the president told Americans watching on television that the terrorists had targeted
06:15
America “Because we love freedom […]. And they hate freedom.”
06:19
This is another critical moment in American history where the definition of freedom is
06:23
being reimagined. And we were reminded in the wake of September
06:26
11th that one of the central things that government does to keep us free is to keep us safe. But
06:30
at the same time ensuring our safety sometimes means impinging upon our freedoms.
06:36
And the question of how to keep America safe while also preserving our civil liberties
06:40
is one of the central questions of the 21st century.
06:42
At any rate, in the September 20th speech, the president announced a new guiding principle
06:46
in foreign policy that became known as the Bush Doctrine.
06:49
America would go to war with terrorism making no distinction between the terrorists and
06:54
nations that harbored them. Bush laid out the terms for the world that
06:57
night: “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.”
07:01
But that dichotomy of course would prove to be a bit of an oversimplification.
07:05
So on October 7, the United States launched its first airstrikes on Afghanistan, which
07:08
at the time was ruled by a group of Islamic fundamentalists called the Taliban who were
07:12
protecting Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda’s leader. This was followed by American ground troops
07:16
supporting the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance in chasing out the Taliban and setting up
07:21
a new Afghan government that was friendly to the United States.
07:24
This new government did undo many of the worst Taliban policies, for instance allowing women
07:28
and girls to go to school, and even to serve in the parliament.
07:31
More women than girls in the parliament naturally. But by 2007 the Taliban was beginning to make
07:36
a comeback and although fewer than 100 Americans died in the initial phase of the war, a sizeable
07:41
force remained and in the ensuing 12 years the number of Americans killed would continue
07:45
to rise. And then, by January 2002, Bush had expanded
07:49
the scope of the Global War on Terror by proclaiming that Iran, Iraq and North Korea were an “axis
07:55
of evil” that harbored terrorists, even though none of those nations had direct ties
07:59
to the September 11 attacks. The ultimate goal of Bush Doctrine was to
08:03
make the world safe for freedom and also to spread it and freedom was defined as consisting
08:07
of political democracy, free expression, religious toleration, free trade and free markets.
08:13
These freedoms, Bush said, were, “right and true for every person, in every society”.
08:18
And there’s no question that the Saddam Hussein led Iraq of 2003 was not, by any of
08:23
those definitions, free. But the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United
08:26
States was predicated on two ideas. First, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction
08:30
– chemical and biological weapons that they were refusing to give up. And second, that
08:34
there was, or at least may have been, a link between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and the Al Qaeda
08:39
attacks of 9-11. So in March 2003 the United States, Britain,
08:43
and a coalition of other countries, invaded Iraq. Within a month Baghdad was captured,
08:48
Saddam Hussein was ousted, Iraq created a new government that was more democratic than
08:52
Saddam’s dictatorship, and then descended into sectarian chaos.
08:56
After Baghdad fell, President Bush declared the end of major combat operations in Iraq,
09:01
but troops soon found themselves trying to manage an increasingly organized insurgency
09:05
that featured attacks and bombings. And by 2006 American intelligence analysts
09:09
concluded that Iraq had become a haven for Islamist terrorists, which it hadn’t been,
09:14
before the invasion. In fact, Saddam Hussein’s socialist government,
09:17
while it occasionally called upon religion to unify people against an enemy, was pretty
09:22
secular. Although fewer than 200 Americans had died
09:24
in the initial assaults, by the end of 2006, more than 3,000 American soldiers had been
09:29
killed and another 20,000 wounded. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis had died in
09:33
the conflict and the costs of the war which were promised to be no more than $60 billion
09:37
had ballooned to $200 billion dollars. So that, and we try really hard here at Crash
09:42
Course to be objective was a bit of a disaster. But let’s now go back to the domestic side
09:47
of things and jump back in time to the passage of the USA PATRIOT act.
09:51
Which believe it or not is an acronym for the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing
09:56
Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism act of 2001.
10:01
Oh, Congress you don’t pass many laws these days but when you do… mmhm…. there’s
10:07
some winners. The PATRIOT act gave the government unprecedented
10:10
law enforcement powers to combat domestic terrorism including the ability to wiretap
10:15
and spy on Americans. At least 5000 people connected to the Middle
10:19
East were called in for questioning and more than 1200 were arrested, many held for months
10:24
without any charge. The administration also set up a camp for
10:27
accused terrorists in Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba, but not the fun kind of camp, the prison kind,
10:33
it housed more than 700 suspects. The president also authorized the National
10:37
Security Agency to listen in to telephone conversations without first obtaining a warrant,
10:42
the so-called warrantless wiretapping. In 2013 Americans learned that NSA surveillance
10:47
has of course gone much farther than this with surveillance programs like PRISM which
10:51
sounds like it’s out of an Orwell novel – I mean both like the name and the actual
10:55
thing it refers to. Meredith would like us to point out that Prism
10:59
is also the name of a Katy Perry album proving that we here at Crash Course are young and
11:04
hip and with it. Who is Katy Perry? Oh right, she has that song in Madagascar 3. Sorry,
11:10
I have little kids. The Supreme Court eventually limited the executive
11:14
branch’s power and ruled that enemy combatants do have some procedural rights. Congress also
11:19
banned the use of torture in a 2005 defense appropriations bill sponsored by Republican
11:24
John McCain who himself had been a victim of torture in Vietnam.
11:27
But the Defense Department did condone the continued use of so-called “enhanced interrogation
11:32
techniques” like waterboarding. Which most countries do consider torture.
11:36
But George W Bush won re-election in 2004, defeating the surprisingly weak John Kerry,
11:41
who was characterized as a “waffler” on a number of issues including the Iraq war.
11:45
Kerry’s history as a Vietnam protester and also terrible windsurfer probably didn’t
11:50
help him much. Bush’s victory is still a bit surprising
11:52
to historians admittedly at that moment the Iraq war seemed to be going pretty well.
11:57
But during Bush’s first term, the economy, which is usually what really drives voters,
12:01
wasn’t that great at all. A recession began during 2001 and the September
12:05
11 attacks made it much worse. And while the GDP did begin to grow again relatively quickly,
12:10
employment didn’t recover, hence all the description of it as a “jobless recovery.”
12:15
90% of the jobs lost in the 2001-2002 recession were in manufacturing, continuing a trend
12:21
that we had been seeing for 30 years. The number of steelworkers dropped from 520,000
12:26
in 1970 to 120,000 in 2004. And in his first term George W Bush actually
12:32
became the first president since Herbert Hoover to oversee a net loss of jobs.
12:36
Now I want to be clear that that’s not necessarily his fault as I have said many times before
12:40
– economics are complicated. And presidents do not decide whether economies grow.
12:45
But at any rate George W Bush was re-elected and went on to have an extremely controversial
12:49
second term.
12:50
Let’s go to the thoughtbubble. In 2005 several events undermined the public’s
12:54
confidence in the Bush administration. First, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff
12:59
was indicted for perjury and then House Majority Leader Tom “The Hammer” DeLay was indicted
13:04
for violating campaign finance laws. Then in August 2005, Hurricane Katrina slammed
13:09
into the gulf coast near New Orleans submerging much of the city, killing nearly 1500 people,
13:14
and leaving thousands stranded without basic services. Disaster preparation and response
13:19
was poor on the state, local, and federal levels, but the slow response of the Department
13:24
of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency was particularly noticeable
13:29
as thousands of mostly African American New Orleans residents suffered without food or
13:34
water. Damage to the city was estimated at around $80 billion dollars. And the Katrina
13:39
disaster exposed the persistent poverty and racial divisions in the city.
13:43
While the Katrina response probably contributed to the reversal of fortune for Congressional
13:47
Republicans in the 2006 mid-terms, it was more likely the spike in gasoline prices that
13:52
resulted from the shutting down of refining capacity in the gulf and increased demand
13:56
for oil from rapidly growing China. Voters gave Democrats majorities in both houses,
14:01
and Nancy Pelosi of California became the first woman Speaker of the House in American
14:05
history. And then, in 2007, the country fell back into
14:09
recession as a massive housing bubble began to deflate, followed by the near collapse
14:14
of the American banking system in 2008. Thought Bubble, thank you once again for the
14:19
tremendous downer. So, the Bush years are still in the recent
14:22
past, and it’s impossible to tell just what their historical significance is without some
14:26
distance. But the attacks on September 11 had far ranging
14:29
effects on American foreign policy but also on the entire world.
14:33
Under the leadership of George W Bush the United States began a global fight against
14:37
terrorism and for freedom. But as always, what we mean by the words is
14:41
evolving and there’s no question that in trying to ensure a certain kind of freedom
14:46
we have undermined other kinds of freedom. We’ll get to the even messier and murkier
14:50
world of the 2008 financial collapse next week. Until then, thanks for watching.
14:55
Crash Course is made with the help of all these nice people and it exists because of
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15:06
There are great perks over at Subbable, but the biggest perk of all is knowing that you
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helped make Crash Course possible so please check it out, thank you for watching, thanks
15:13
for supporting Crash Course, and as we say in my hometown, “Don’t forget to be awesome.”


This post was previously published on YouTube.

Photo credit: Screenshot from video.

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