SMU Political Science Professor talks about how the death of Osama Bin Ladin will affect history's view of former President George W. Bush.

By Richard Dunham
Washington bureau chief

The lives and legacies of George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden have been inextricably intertwined since Sept. 11, 2001.

Two days after bin Laden’s terrorist operation killed more than 3,000 innocents, Bush declared, “We will not rest until we find him.” It was Bush who authorized the CIA to use the harshest interrogation tactics in U.S. history. Then came Tora Bora, Gitmo, water boarding, rendition, terrorist strikes in London and Madrid, and more than 6,000 U.S. military casualties in twin wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Now that bin Laden has been killed by U.S. forces on a mission first assigned by President Bush, aided by evidence gained from the controversial “enhanced interrogation techniques” authorized by the former president, Bush’s frustrating “mission impossible” has, in the dead of night, turned into “mission accomplished.”

And in an instant, Bush’s fruitless search for bin Laden was hailed across the political spectrum as a determined effort that paved the way for his successor’s success. . .

The fate of bin Laden was one of several unsettled matters that academics say will influence Bush’s ultimate place in history. These include the nation’s economic situation, the fragile stability of Iraq, the future of war-torn Afghanistan and the fate of democracy movements in undemocratic nations in the Middle East and North Africa.

“Certainly, President Bush handed off two unresolved wars and an economic collapse to his successor,” said Southern Methodist University political science professor Cal Jillson. “Anything that takes the edge off those problems — bin Laden’s death, economic recovery, and easing out of Iraq and Afghanistan — will help President Bush’s legacy, at least at the margins.”

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