Former US President George W Bush’s reaction to the 9/11 attacks in America : ‘We’re going to get the bastards’

September 11, 2016 10:00 am

Firefighters in the rubble of the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001. Photo / AP

George W Bush’s reaction to the 9/11 attacks in America has been detailed in full for the first time by his press secretary, highlighting the former president’s immediate determination to “get the bastards” responsible.
Ari Fleischer’s six handwritten pages of notes from on board the president’s plane, Air Force One, which have been released ahead of the 15th anniversary of the attacks, reveal Bush’s shock and anger on the day.
“We’re at war,” Bush told Dick Cheney, the vice president, by telephone from the plane.
Hanging up and turning to his aides, he added: “That’s what we’re paid for boys. We’re going to take care of this, when we find out who did this they are not going to like me as president.”
The notes, some of which Fleischer has referenced before but were released in full to Reuters on Friday, reveal that the former president was quick to establish the need to retaliate after the atrocities.

The attacks, involving four hijacked passenger planes, killed 2996 people and injured more than 6000 others in New York City, Virginia and Pennsylvania.”I can’t wait to find out who did it,” he adds. “It’s going to take a while and we’re not going to have a little slap on the wrist crap.”
There was concern from the Secret Service that Bush’s plane was a target, but the former president was insistent that he had to return to Washington from Florida.
“I want to get home as soon as possible,” he said. “I don’t want whoever this is holding me outside Washington.”

George W Bush with Vice President Dick Cheney and senior staff in the President’s Emergency Operations Center in the White House on September 11, 2001. Photo / Supplied

In another conversation with Cheney, Bush stated that it was important that the American people saw that government was continuing to function.
“We’re going to get the b——-,” he told his vice president. He later declares: “It’s the new war. It’s the faceless coward that [attacks].”
Fleischer’s notes include a reference to a communication heard on the plane from the ground that “Angel is next”. Air Force One’s code name at the time was “angel” and there was worry on board that the plane was a target.
Fleischer said an armed guard was stationed outside the door leading to the Air Force One cockpit, in case someone on board was a threat.
Bush’s concern for his wife Laura and their two daughters Barbara and Jenna is also highlighted in the notes.
Later on, during the afternoon of September 11, Bush spoke to the First Lady.
“I’m coming home. See you at the White House. Love you … go on home,” he said according to the notes.
“If I’m in the WH and there’s a plane coming my way, all I can say is I hope I read my Bible that day.”
He was quick to make sure they were safe and moved to a secure location. He also asked about his beloved Scottish terrier.
“Barney?” Bush said.
“He’s nipping at the heels of Osama bin Laden now,” replied Andy Card, his chief of staff.
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