The legacy of President George W. Bush will undoubtedly be debated by scholars and historians for many years to come. But as the president and his administration enter their final weeks in office, many of those who were most affected by the policies and politics of the last eight years are already beginning to look back in an effort to assess what they experienced. Here are some of their voices.

'Intestinal fortitude'

David Bellavia, a former Army staff sergeant who served in the 1st Infantry Division for six years, is the recipient of the Silver Star and the Bronze Star. He is the author of "House to House," a memoir of his war experiences.

As an American, I supported our president, and I supported the ideas behind the Iraq war. This was the war that I joined the military to fight, and when my commander in chief said "this is righteous and noble," I believed him.

That doesn't mean I've supported all of the president's policy decisions regarding this war. Most of the time, I didn't even know what decisions were being made. When you're on the ground, you're in a sort of cocoon. You don't have access to electronic media, and newspapers are 4 months old. One thing I do remember is President Bush's "bring 'em on" comment in July 2003. That sort of taunt was not what we wanted to hear. That was a message that appealed to people with no dirt under their fingernails. Right after that, I went out in the sector and there was a huge firefight. When I deployed, 250 Americans had died in Iraq. When I left, that number was 1,500. My unit alone lost 37 men.

It's going to be 50 years before anyone is able to soberly look at this administration. People who take shots at Bush are missing the complexity of his job and his fundamental ability to maintain the courage of his convictions. The "surge" was an apology for the previous tactical game on the ground in Iraq. Bush's willingness to admit that there was a huge problem while he was in charge, and then to take the steps necessary to adjudicate that problem, took a tremendous amount of intestinal fortitude.

'Time for change'

Maher Arar is a citizen of Canada. A federal appeals court in New York is currently considering whether or not his lawsuit against the U.S. government should be heard.

While changing planes at JFK Airport in New York on my way home to Canada from a vacation with my wife and children in 2002, I was pulled aside, detained and interrogated by the FBI. U.S. officials told me that, based on classified evidence I was not permitted to see, I had been found to be an Al Qaeda member and was being sent to Syria rather than home to Canada.

Two weeks later, despite my repeated assertions that I would be tortured if I was sent back to Syria, where I was born and hadn't been since I was a teenager, I was flown by private jet to Jordan, beaten and interrogated, and then delivered to Syria.

For more than 10 months, I was tortured and interrogated and held in a filthy, dark, underground grave-like cell that was 3 feet wide, 6 feet wide and 7 feet high. Syrian authorities ultimately stated publicly they had found no connections to terrorism and released me home to Canada. I am fortunate to still have my family, but otherwise my life as I knew it has been taken from me -- my work, my confidence, my trust.

The Canadian government conducted an exhaustive public inquiry that culminated in a public apology to me for my ordeal, something I never got from the Bush administration, which was responsible for my ordeal. So far, I have not even succeeded in having my lawsuit considered; it has been thrown out at the request of the U.S. government on grounds of national security.

Both the reputation and the future of America depend heavily on the choices that the American people make today. Do Americans really feel safer today than they did before the Bush administration came into office? Are Americans willing to sacrifice more of their sacred human and civil rights?

The reputation of the United States has suffered enough, and it is time for positive change, a change that can protect national security while safeguarding human dignity, human rights and civil liberties.

Frustration with FEMA

Father Vien The Nguyen is pastor at Mary Queen of Vietnam, a Catholic parish in New Orleans East whose community was devastated by Hurricane Katrina.