ex­plain­ing him­self

For­mer US pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s mem­oirs re­veal the rea­sons be­hind some of the con­tro­ver­sial de­ci­sions he made while in of­fice, in­clud­ing his fum­bled re­ac­tion to the 9/11 ter­ror attacks.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - T MOVIES -

Ge­orge W. Bush’s mem­oirs re­veal the rea­sons be­hind some of the his con­tro­ver­sial de­ci­sions while in of­fice.

ON the fate­ful Septem­ber day nine years ago, Ge­orge W. Bush’s first inkling of the un­fold­ing tragedy came as he walked into a class­room in Florida to read to a group of young chil­dren.

“On the short walk from the mo­tor­cade to the class­room, Karl Rove (deputy chief of staff) men­tioned that an air­plane had crashed into the World Trade Cen­tre. That sounded strange. I en­vi­sioned a lit­tle pro­pel­ler plane hor­ri­bly lost,” writes Bush in De­ci­sion Points, his mem­oirs re­leased on Tues­day.

But then his na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, Con­doleezza Rice, called to tell him that what he thinks is a small plane is ac­tu­ally a com­mer­cial air­liner.

“I was stunned. That plane must have had the worst pi­lot in the world. How could he pos­si­bly have flown into a sky­scraper on a clear day? Maybe he had a heart at­tack,” writes Bush.

The pres­i­dent may have been stunned, but it did not stop him go­ing ahead with the school visit.

Then came the scene that as­ton­ished the rest of the world al­most as much as the attacks them­selves.

A pres­i­den­tial aide, An­drew Card, tells Bush that a sec­ond plane has hit the World Trade Cen­tre. The pres­i­dent looks to all the world as though he has been paral­ysed by shock. For seven min­utes he sits there be­fore a group of school­child­ren, im­mo­bile while Amer­ica was un­der at­tack. But Bush says he was think­ing. “I looked at the faces of the chil­dren in front of me. I thought about the con­trast be­tween the bru­tal­ity of the attacks and the in­no­cence of those chil­dren. Mil­lions like them would soon be count­ing on me to pro­tect them. I was de­ter­mined not to let them down,” Bush writes.

“The read­ing les­son con­tin­ued, but my mind raced far from the class­room. Who could have done this? How bad was the dam­age? What did the govern­ment need to do?”

Bush fi­nally leaves the class and is ush­ered into an­other room to watch TV cov­er­age of the attacks. The pres­i­dent’s first im­pulse is to get on tele­vi­sion him­self.

“I watched in horror as the footage of the sec­ond plane hit­ting the south tower re­played in slow mo­tion. The huge fire­ball and ex­plo­sion of smoke were worse than I had imag­ined. The coun­try would be shaken, and I needed to get on TV right away,” he says.

He drafted a few words long­hand and duly ap­peared to be­gin: “Ladies and gentle­men, this is a dif­fi­cult moment for Amer­ica.”

What fol­lowed was al­most as dam­ag­ing to Bush in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of 9/11 as

In this Sept 11, 2001, file photo, then Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush hears from his aide about the ter­ror attacks as he sits in front of a class­room full of pri­mary school­child­ren. In his mem­oirs (inset), Bush dis­cusses his con­tro­ver­sial de­ci­sion to fin­ish the event be­fore re­act­ing to the plane crashes in New York. his stunned ap­pear­ance at the school. The pres­i­dent dis­ap­peared into the sky on Air Force One and was not heard from by or­di­nary Amer­i­cans for hours as the full horror of the as­sault un­folded.

Bush says he was set­tling into his seat as news of the third plane crash, on the Pen­tagon in Vir­ginia, came in: “My blood was boil­ing. We were go­ing to find out who did this, and kick their ass.” Then he prayed.

Bush re­mained in the air for hours, giv­ing or­ders to his vice-pres­i­dent, Dick Cheney, at the White House. That de­ci­sion was con­tro- ver­sial as it made the pres­i­dent look as if he was in hid­ing or was not safe in his coun­try’s cap­i­tal.

Bush says that he or­dered the plane to re­turn to Washington DC but he was over­ruled by the se­cret ser­vice and po­lit­i­cal aides. Even­tu­ally it flew to an air force base in Louisiana and then to a mil­i­tary base in Ne­braska.

But then came a de­ci­sion Bush had never imag­ined he would have to make. A fourth plane was headed to­ward Washington. The pres­i­dent or­dered that it be shot down by Amer­i­can fighter air­craft.

“Hi­jacked planes were weapons of war. De­spite the agonising costs, tak­ing one out could save count­less lives on the ground. I had just made my first de­ci­sion as a wartime com­man­der in chief,” Bush writes.

Then news came in of the fourth plane hav­ing gone down in Penn­syl­va­nia.

“Did we shoot it down, or did it crash?” Bush asked. “No­body knew. I felt sick to my stom­ach. Had I or­dered the death of those in­no­cent Amer­i­cans?”

Only later did Bush learn that the plane had crashed af­ter the pas­sen­gers charged at the hi­jack­ers in the cock­pit.

The pres­i­dent says that one of the hard­est things was fol­low­ing what was ac­tu­ally go­ing on.

Air Force One had no satel­lite tele­vi­sion and so would have to pick up lo­cal tele­vi­sion sta­tions as it flew over.

“Af­ter a few min­utes on any given sta­tion, the screen would dis­solve into static. I caught enough of a glimpse of the cov­er­age to un­der­stand the horror of what the Amer­i­can peo­ple were watch­ing. Stranded peo­ple were jump­ing to their deaths from the top floors of the World Trade Cen­tre tow­ers,” he writes.

Bush re­turned to Washington with a clear sense that the en­emy had to be con­fronted, but no cer­tainty as to how to do it or even how to rally his own coun­try.

“There is no text­book on how to steady a nation rat­tled by a face­less en­emy,” he writes.

“I re­lied on in­stincts and back­ground. My west Texas op­ti­mism helped me project con­fi­dence.

“Oc­ca­sion­ally I spoke a lit­tle too bluntly, such as when I said I wanted Bin Laden ‘ dead or alive,’ ” Bush writes.

De­ci­sion Points – ghost writ­ten by for­mer Bush speech writer Christo­pher Michael – cov­ers 14 sep­a­rate de­ci­sions Bush made while in the White House, of­fer­ing anal­y­sis about how he reached them in an ef­fort to shed fur­ther light on his pres­i­dency.

The book be­gins with the 9/11 attacks, which dras­ti­cally re­shaped his for­eign and mil­i­tary pol­icy, and ends with the eco­nomic melt­down dur­ing his wan­ing days in the White House. – Guardian News & Me­dia 2010

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