Bush hails bin Laden death as victory for America

AP News
Posted: May 02, 2011 6:39 PM
Bush hails bin Laden death as victory for America

Officials in George W. Bush's administration joined the former president Monday in expressing gratitude that with the death of Osama bin Laden, justice had finally been served.

Bush said in a statement issued late Sunday night that President Barack Obama had called to tell him of bin Laden's death.

"I congratulated him and the men and women of our military and intelligence communities who devoted their lives to this mission," he said. "They have our everlasting gratitude."

Bush was in power on Sept. 11, 2001, when agents from bin Laden's al-Qaida network hijacked planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, killing nearly 3,000 people in the worst terrorist attack on American soil.

Bush sent U.S. forces against al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan in October 2001.

"President Bush's presidency changed. We went from peace to war in a matter of minutes," former Bush adviser Karen Hughes said Monday. "President Bush had an unrelenting focus from that day forward on protecting the security of our country and finding Osama bin Laden."

Bin Laden was shot in the head by elite U.S. counter-terrorism troops in northern Pakistan. Hughes called his death "a victory for justice and peace."

Dick Cheney, Bush's former vice president, offered rare praise for Obama.

"President Obama and his national security team acted on the intelligence when it came in and they deserve a lot of credit, too," Cheney said.

Bush said in the Sunday night statement: "This momentous achievement marks a victory for America, for people who seek peace around the world, and for all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001. The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done."

About a dozen supporters gathered near Bush's high-security Dallas home until a thunderstorm started about midnight Sunday. On Monday morning, a handful of red, white and blue balloons remained outside the gate on the street leading to his home and several American flags were planted in the flower beds.

A sign on the gate read in small letters, "President Obama forgot to say ..." then continued in letters big enough to be read from the road, "Thank you President Bush." A sign left on the rain-soaked road read: "Winning! Obama 1, Bush 0."

But Hughes said it wasn't about one administration vs. another.

"I think it took the combined efforts of two administrations," she said. "Both administrations deserve credit. I think both presidents deserve credit and most of the credit should go to the military and intelligence."

Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said he had admiration for the operation that was undertaken and had admiration for Obama ordering it.

"Chalk one up to the good guys," Chertoff said.

Former Bush White House Chief of Staff Andy Card said he credits the resolve of both presidents, Bush for putting bin Laden "on track to be brought to justice," and Obama for approving the operation that resulted in bin Laden's death.

Bush, who after Sept. 11 said he wanted to get bin Laden, "dead or alive," said in his book "Decision Points," that as he left the White House, one of his great regrets was leaving behind "unfinished business" regarding bin Laden.

"I wanted badly to bring bin Laden to justice," wrote Bush, who added that in the years after the attacks, the U.S. had forced bin Laden to change the way he "traveled, communicated and operated."

He described in the book hoping to get a call during a major assault in 2002 that bin Laden was dead or captured. "Our troops pursued every lead. Several times we thought we might have nailed him. But the intelligence never panned out," Bush wrote.

Bush's spokesman, David Sherzer, confirmed early Monday that the former president was at home Sunday night. Sherzer said Monday that Bush did not plan to make any more statements on bin Laden.