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Social justice
20 June 2012

George W Bush, humanitarian hero

Here’s a story that will annoy rightwingers and leftwingers alike. It’s a report by Jim Landers of the Dallas Morning News on the humanitarian legacy of George W Bush: 

  • "The debate over a president’s legacy lasts many years longer than his term of office. At home, there’s still no consensus about the 2001-09 record of George W. Bush, with its wars and economic turmoil. 
  • "In Africa, he’s a hero. 
  • "‘No American president has done more for Africa,’ said Festus Mogae, who served as president of Botswana from 1998 to 2008. ‘It’s not only me saying that. All of my colleagues agree.’" 

In particular, it was the Bush administration that led the world’s response to Africa’s AIDS pandemic: 

  • "A decade ago, AIDS was killing 630 of every 100,000 Zambians, according to the World Health Organization… In neighboring Botswana, the toll was 750 of every 100,000 people… In 2001, four in 10 adults in Botswana were infected with HIV. President Mogae went before the United Nations to plead for the life of his country…‘We are threatened with extinction,’ he said. ‘People are dying in chillingly high numbers. It is a crisis of the first magnitude.’" 
  • Bush, with bipartisan support from Congress and $15 billion, mobilized the U.S. government with the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. In 2008, Congress agreed to provide $38 billion more… By the time Bush left office, the death rate from AIDS had fallen more than 60 percent in Botswana. There are now 330,000 taking anti-retroviral drugs… The death rate fell by nearly half in Zambia. There are 418,000 Zambians taking the drugs." 
  • "…Drug treatments are themselves one of the most important prevention measures, since people taking anti-retroviral drugs are less infectious. Another success has been saving infants from being born with the disease when their mothers are HIV-positive. Before U.S. assistance became available, four in 10 HIV-positive mothers in Botswana transmitted the disease to their children. It’s now down to 4 percent." 

But, wait a minute, how can this possibly be the case? Foreign aid, surely, is worse than useless, right? Well, yes, sometime it is. And sometimes it isn’t.

Ah, but what about George W Bush, wasn’t his Presidency a complete disaster? Well, in some respects, it was. Yet, in other respects – above all, his response to AIDS in Africa – it was a great success.

Complicated, isn’t it?


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