America mourns former president Bush

Sunday December 02 2018

Visitors sign a guest book at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Centre on December 1, 2018 in College Station, Texas. Mr Bush, who died on November 30, will be buried next to his wife Barbara at the library on December 6, 2018. PHOTO | AFP


Flags flew at half-staff across the US on Saturday as Americans prepared for a week of solemn tributes to George H.W. Bush, in his home state of Texas and in the US Capitol, a day after the former president died at age 94.

Tributes poured in from world leaders in memory of the 41st US president, who guided America through the end of the Cold War and launched the international campaign to drive Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein's forces from Kuwait.

Many of those same leaders are expected to attend Mr Bush's state funeral next week, alongside President Donald Trump and his wife Melania. President Trump was notably absent from the funerals of the statesman's late wife Barbara, and of veteran fellow Republican John McCain.

Although the two Republican presidents were in many ways polar opposites -- the soft-spoken, patrician Bush reportedly once dismissed the blustering New Yorker as a "blowhard" and even voted for his rival Hillary Clinton -- President Trump paid the late leader a gracious tribute, saying he had "inspired generations of his fellow Americans to public service."

"His accomplishments were great from beginning to end," President Trump tweeted.

His respect


Declaring a national day of mourning for December 5 -- when the federal government and New York Stock Exchange will close in Mr Bush's honour -- President Trump also signalled his respect by calling off a press conference planned at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires.

The days-long national farewell to Mr Bush will begin Monday with a commemoration in Houston, where the Bushes lived for years and where he died on Friday surrounded by friends and family.

From there, Mr Bush's casket will travel to Washington on board President Trump's presidential aircraft -- in what the US leader called "a special tribute that he deserves very much."

The former president will lie in state in the US Capitol between Monday and Wednesday ahead of a state funeral at the towering National Cathedral, expected to draw dozens of dignitaries from around the world.

Mr Bush's remains will travel back to Texas on Wednesday, where he will lie in repose at St Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston with a funeral service the next day preceding his interment at the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station. He will make his final journey aboard a funeral train.

His footsteps

At the presidential library on Saturday, people came to sign the memorial book in Mr Bush's honour, or lay flowers at the feet of his statue.

Mr Bush was a decorated World War II pilot, diplomat and onetime CIA chief who saw his son George follow in his footsteps to the Oval Office -- making them only the second father-son duo in American presidential history, after John and John Quincy Adams.
From former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to current heads of state, leaders praised Mr Bush both for his strength and his moderation, as well as the commitment to internationalism typified by his assembling of a global coalition to oust Iraqi invaders from Kuwait in 1991.
Mr Jimmy Carter, now the oldest surviving former US president, said Mr Bush's administration "was marked by grace, civility and social conscience."