The events that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden were put in place by former President George W. Bush, he asserts in an interview published on the eve of the September 11 anniversary.
“It began the day after 9/11,” Bush said in an interview with USA Today
"The work that was done by intelligence communities during my presidency was part of putting together the puzzle that enabled us to see the full picture of how bin Laden was communicating and eventually where he was hiding.”
Bin Laden wasn’t killed until May of this year, nearly a decade after his most notorious act, and more than two years after Bush left the White House.
In the interview, Bush tells of the night of Sept. 11, 2001 when intelligence reports suggested a plane was headed for the White House. He said he “was just kind of dozing off” when a Secret Service agent told him he and First Lady Laura Bush would have to move to the underground bunker.
“I had the T-shirt on and the running shorts and I grabbed Laura, who didn’t have her contacts on,” Bush said. He also grabbed Barney, his Scottish terrier.
“We must have been looking like a motley crew as we headed down,” he said. “It was almost surreal, these big pneumatic doors as you're heading into the bowels of the White House, guys in black uniforms and guns.
"I didn't want to sleep down there because I knew I needed to be rested for the next day, and the bed looked horrible. Harry Truman must have bought the bed. It was one of those pullouts with a metal bar in the middle.
“I was envisioning Laura and I kind of fighting for the soft space."
Bush said he has no regrets over his actions in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, although he now realizes that his first addresses to the nation from Florida and Louisiana were far from perfect.
“The first two statements were on the fly. I didn't realize I had missed the mark,” he said.
“I just did the best I could do given the circumstances, but obviously it wasn't the best setting for a president to try to calm the nerves of the country. I wanted to speak from the Oval Office. I wasn't going to address our nation from a bunker. It would have been a huge psychological victory for the people who attacked."
His first thoughts after being told about the attacks on the World Trade Center and then as news came in about the Pentagon and the crashed plane in Pennsylvania were to try to gather facts.
“The problem that I faced … was during certain moments during the day, there was a fog of war, and the information flow was really inaccurate.
“We needed to take steps to make sure that the attack was a four-plane attack, not a 10-plane attack. We just didn't know.”
He saw his job as leader of the free world was to deal with the facts and “not to feel sorry for yourself, or not to say why did it happen under my watch? That's not a leadership trait that is admirable.
“I felt like I had the capacity to deal with the crisis, and you don't know until it happens. When I look back on it, I don't feel a sense of being overwhelmed."
As for the aftermath – the Patriot Act, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the allegations of torture – he has no regrets.
“Some of the tactics could have been different” in Iraq, he said. "Same with Afghanistan, same with the terrorist surveillance program."
But he said historians will agree that his decisions were “necessary in order to protect the country.”
“The response, laying out tools so that future presidents can have a better chance to protect the country, it's a legacy that I hope historians will say, 'It's a good legacy: He used tools that he thought were necessary and then he helped work with the Congress to codify them, so future presidents, if they so choose, can use those tools.' "
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