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Former US President George HW Bush dead at 94

Author Jerome MUNYENTWALI Views

Former US President George HW Bush has died at the age of 94, a family spokesperson has announced. He has been the 41st US president and patriarch of the Bush political dynasty oversaw the Gulf War and the end of the Cold War.

Bush Senior died on Friday, about eight months after the death of his wife, Barbara Bush.

"Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro and I are saddened to announce that after 94 remarkable years, our dear Dad has died," his son, former president George W Bush, said in a statement released on Twitter by a family spokesman.

"George H.W. Bush was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for."

US President Donald Trump hailed his "sound judgement, common sense and unflappable leadership" in a statement posted on Twitter on Saturday.

"America has lost a patriot and humble servant in George Herbert Walker Bush. While our hearts are heavy today, they are also filled with gratitude," former president Barack Obama said in a statement.

The 41st president on the United States, Bush served from 1989 to 1993, with the successful campaign to drive Saddam Hussein from Kuwait his most significant accomplishment.

The one-term president lost the 1992 election to Democrat Bill Clinton, but he went on to see his son, George W, win the White House in 2001. Another son, Jeb, made a presidential run in 2016 but dropped out in the primaries.

’This will not stand’

The son of a wealthy Republican US Senator, Bush served in the second World War and was elected to two terms in the US Congress in the 1960’s.

President Richard Nixon became Bush’s mentor, appointing him Ambassador to the United Nations in 1970.

While Nixon later resigned in disgrace, Bush, a savvy political survivor, became head of the CIA in 1976.

He served as Ronald Reagan’s vice president for eight years, before entering the White House in 1989, pledging to make the US a "kinder, gentler" nation.

Less than a year after taking office, Bush sent troops to invade Panama and overthrow Manuel Noriega, a corrupt military ruler who had turned against the US.

The defining moment of Bush’s presidency came in August 1990, when Iraqi tanks rolled into Kuwait.

Bush famously vowed: "This will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait."

He worked closely with the United Nations and assembled a coalition of 32 nations to drive Iraqi forces out

American troops flooded into Saudi Arabia and established bases - a development that was later cited by Osama Bin Laden to justify attacks against the US.

Once underway, the war did not last long as Iraqi forces fled Kuwait. But Bush refused to order an advance towards Baghdad, opting not to topple Saddam.

In the aftermath of the war, Bush’s popularity quickly began to fade and he lost the 1992 election amid criticism of his handling of domestic affairs, including a weak economy.

’Mixed legacy’

Joe Watkins, former aide to Bush senior, told Al Jazeera that the former president will be "remembered very fondly, very warmly around the world" because of his foreign policy achievements.

Under his watch, the Berlin Wall came down, the Warsaw Pact disintegrated and the Soviet satellites fell out of orbit.

The other battles he fought as president, including a war on drugs and a crusade to make American children the best educated in the world, were not so decisively won.

Bill Schneider, a Washington-based political analyst, called Bush’s legacy "very mixed".

"He had one of the greatest triumphs of foreign policy in US history, which was the Gulf War. He also had one of the greatest political collapses of US history," Schneider told Al Jazeera.

"About a year and a half after he won the Gulf War, he was finished politically because the country went into a deep recession, and he didn’t seem to have a plan to get the US out of it."

After retiring from public life, Bush fulfilled a wartime pledge to one day jump out of a plane for fun and famously went skydiving on his 75th, 80th, 85th and 90th birthdays.

He joined Clinton to raise funds for victims of the 2004 Asian tsunami and the 2010 Haiti earthquake. In 2011, Obama awarded Bush the highest US civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom.

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