Bush said that the decision was not made out of anger but with a goal
The former US president gave a first hand account of the happenings of the deadliest day in the history of the country in 2001, speaking in a new documentary “9/11: Inside the President’s War Room” on BBC.
“I made some big decisions. Starting with the big thought of America being at war,” Mr Bush said on the show, in first comments ahead of the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
“And those decisions were not made out of anger, they were made with a goal in mind, which was to protect the American people. I think I was right,” he added.
Less than a month after the attacks that killed 2,996 people, Mr Bush declared a “war on terror” to begin the 20-year-long war in Afghanistan which has killed 2,800 US military personnel and allies soldiers as well as civilians.
The war ended with the Doha agreement and finally the Taliban seizing power in Afghanistan.
“You know, there weren’t any other attacks on America,” Mr Bush said when he was asked he if thinks his post 9/11 made the world a safer place.
“We’ll let the historians sort all that out. Let’s just say this – I’m comfortable with the decisions I made.”
Mr Bush, like many others, believed it was a “pilot error” when he was first told about the attack when he was with first-graders at a school in Florida, participating in a reading exercise called The Pet Goat.
“At first I thought it was pilot error,” Mr Bush said. “I couldn’t imagine anything other than a lousy pilot getting loose.”
On that morning, the CIA briefing by then-deputy director of the intelligence agency Mike Morell had no important announcement.
Mr Morell told the BBC that Mr Bush was in a “very good mood” that day.
“There was absolutely nothing in the briefing about terrorism,” Morell said. “It was focused primarily on what was happening in the West Bank and Gaza,” Mr Morrel said.
It was when he left for the school and was with children, he was told by Karl Rove, senior advisor to the president at the time, about the first attack.
“[She] says ‘we don’t know if it’s commercial, or private prop or jet.’ That’s all the details she had,” Mr Rove said about his assistant.
“So I went over – the president was 10 feet away or so – and I walked over and told him. And he had a quizzical look of his face, and he said: ‘Get more details’.”
Mr Bush continued with the class and listened to the children read when his aide Andrew Card whispered in his ear that the second tower had been hit, the infamous moment caught on video.
It was now clear that the country was under attack. Mr Bush finished the reading exercise for children, sitting there for seven minutes.
He then setup a situation room at the school and boarded Air Force One, before they got to know it was next “target.”
“There was a call into a switchboard that said ‘Angel’s next’. And Angel was the code word for Air Force Once,” Mr Bush said.
All the weapons were taken away from the people on the aircraft to make sure no one “conducts an inside job and take down Air Force One.”
In 2011, America killed terrorist Osama bin Laden in neighbouring Pakistan but the war continued.