It was a bittersweet moment for George W. Bush

It was a bittersweet moment for George W. Bush when President Barack Obama phoned him late on Sunday night to tell him Osama bin Laden was dead.

The former president, only weeks after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, famously said on a visit to the Pentagon: “I want justice. And there’s an old poster out west that says, ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive.’” Bush had desperately wanted to capture or kill Bin Laden, but the al-Qaeda leader eluded him throughout the remainder of his presidency, which ended on 20 January 2008.

Before announcing Bin Laden’s death to the public on Sunday night, Mr. Obama phoned Mr. Bush and Bill Clinton, who had been in office when al-Qaida attacked U.S. embassies in east Africa.

Mr. Bush issued a magnanimous statement, praising not only the military and intelligence communities but also Mr. Obama. “The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: no matter how long it takes, justice will be done,” Mr. Bush said.

The former president was at his home in Dallas, Texas, when he took the call from Mr. Obama. About a dozen people gathered outside his home to celebrate the demise of America’s most wanted terrorist.

Other senior members of Bush administration issued statements welcoming the news. Dick Cheney, the former vice-president who drove much of the U.S. response to 9/11 and said he wanted bin Laden’s head on a platter, was also gracious in congratulating Mr. Obama. But he also attributed the success to the “tireless work since 9/11”.

“Today, the message our forces have sent is clear - if you attack the United States, we will find you and bring you to justice,” Mr. Cheney said.

Mr. Bush’s defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, suggested some of the success may be due to intelligence gathered at Guantanamo.

“Initial reports indicate that intelligence efforts at Guantanamo Bay may have played an essential role in this success. All of this was made possible by the relentless, sustained pressure on al-Qaeda that the Bush administration initiated after 9/11 and that the Obama administration has wisely chosen to continue,” Mr. Rumsfeld said.

Colin Powell, Mr. Bush’s secretary of state, who fought back against some of the policies advocated by neo-conservatives such as Mr. Cheney, including the Iraq war, also welcomed bin Laden’s demise. “An evil person has been eliminated. Osama bin Laden is dead and buried at sea. Justice has been done,” he said.

Like his former colleagues, he warned that al-Qaeda remained a threat, and vigilance had to be maintained.

Copyright: Guardian News & Media 2011

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