Saturday was the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, and to commemorate the occasion, former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama made appearances at public ceremonies. Bush, who was in his first year in office at the time, spoke at both Shanksville, Pennsylvania and Ground Zero in New York City. And in his speech at the former, he mourned the divisions that plague the nation, while getting in some nudging references to the followers of another former president, who was otherwise engaged.
“In the weeks and months following the 9/11 attacks, I was proud to lead an amazing, resilient, united people,” Bush said. “When it comes to the unity of America, those days seem distant from our own.”
FULL SPEECH: Former President George W. Bush speaks at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on the 20th anniversary on 9/11. pic.twitter.com/mubnNNM2St
— NBC News (@NBCNews) September 11, 2021
Bush admitted he didn’t have any “explanations or solutions” for the nation’s current ills. “I can only tell you what I’ve seen. On America’s day of trial and grief, I saw millions of people instinctively grab for a neighbor’s hand and rally to the cause of one another. That is the America I know.”
He also alluded to one of the major problems tearing apart America two decades later. “There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home,” he said. “But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit, and it is our continuing duty to confront them.”
Bush didn’t name any group by name, but considering that extremists on the right greatly outweigh those on the left, it wasn’t hard for many people to connect the dots.
I’m not one to whitewash Bush’s legacy, but seriously: good for him for saying this. Linking January 6th and 9/11 is important, highlighting how Americans have tragically become the gravest danger to our democracy. https://t.co/hSlslkiFVA
— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) September 11, 2021
Former President Bush in Shanksville compares Jan 6 insurrectionists to 9/11 hijackers:”in determination to defile our national symbols they are children of the same foul spirit and it is our duty to confront them.” Wow
— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) September 11, 2021
It seems to me that bush is calling out Trump during this 911 speech?
This is in no way a endorsement of bush but seems worth noting
— Molly Jong-Fast (@MollyJongFast) September 11, 2021
George W. Bush uses his speech to underscore the threat posed by domestic extremists: "They are children of the same foul spirit, and it is our continuing duty to confront them…" pic.twitter.com/dQyQthZrGH
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) September 11, 2021
For everyone who thinks George W Bush was talking about Antifa and BLM
I've got news for you – he wasn't. pic.twitter.com/rM2DSk5T63
— Matthew Ryan 🌊 (@NotTheMattRyan) September 11, 2021
Others, however, did not want to praise the president who oversaw the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
One of the most incredible political accomplishments of my lifetime is George W Bush casting himself as a "hero" of 9/11 even though he
1. Ignored intelligence warning him of an attack in the Summer of 2001
2. Responded with the disastrous war in Iraq
3. Never caught Bin Laden
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) September 11, 2021
George W. Bush did the following:
-Disregarded memo 36 days prior to 9/11 stating Bin Laden to strike in US.
-Invaded Afghanistan & Iraq.
-Created the Patriot Act.
-Oversaw CIA torture program.
George W. Bush is a war criminal who still walks free. Never Forget.
— Jen Perelman (@JENFL23) September 11, 2021
A historian has a basic professional duty to recognize a speech like this as revisionist, self-absolving propaganda and to remind us what Bush's actual record was, and what was actually happening in America in the wake of 9/11 https://t.co/L1POcVO5rB
— David Klion (@DavidKlion) September 11, 2021
You can watch Bush’s full speech in the tweet embedded above.