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Hurricane Katrina

One of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history, Hurricane Katrina, struck early in Bush's second term. The storm destroyed much of the city of New Orleans and the surrounding north-central Gulf Coast of the United States. Many thought Bush was slow in getting aid to the region; his director of emergency management eventually resigned. To his credit, Bush took full responsibility for the problems.

The terrorist attacks on 9/11

After his minority election, Bush wasn't very popular, but the country came together to back him after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon in Washington. These attacks killed over 2,800 people, a higher death toll than at Pearl Harbor . As Bush stood in the smoking ruins of the twin towers, once the world's tallest buildings, promising justice and protection, over 90 percent of the American people said they approved of his actions.

After the 9/11 attacks by extremist Muslims in Al Qaeda, in which hijacked planes destroyed the twin 110-story World Trade Center buildings in New York and damaged the Pentagon in Washington, Bush condemned Osama bin Laden and his organization Al Qaeda (2001) (which means "the base"). Bush announced that the United States would attack other countries (even though they weren't directly threatening the U.S.) if those countries harbored terrorists.

President Bush gave the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, where bin Laden was operating, a warning to "hand over the terrorists, or . . . share in their fate." Bush announced a global War on Terrorism, and after the Afghan Taliban regime wasn't forthcoming with Osama bin Laden, he ordered an invasion of Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban regime.

In 2003, he also invaded Iraq, whose connection to 9/11 was vague at best. Unlike his father's 1991 Iraq war, this time only a few thousand outside troops (mostly British and Australian) joined the largely American effort as the U.S. Army pushed into Iraq. The U.S. military was bogged down for years in both Iraq and Afghanistan in lengthy, often fruitless attempts at "nation-building." With chances for a clear victory dwindling, the American public got tired of the news of bombs and casualties.

Following the 9/11 attacks, Bush signed an executive order authorizing wiretaps without a court order. The American Bar Association said that move was illegal, and after years of wrangling, Bush agreed to abide by the law. Although President Bush felt he was standing tough in the cause of freedom, his popularity sunk to historic lows.

At the end of his administration — as conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan dragged on with no end in sight — Bush's approval rating had sunk to just 24 percent, the lowest since Nixon resigned in disgrace 35 years earlier.

 
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