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The death of Osama bin Laden: Statements by two presidents, Obama and Bush

Osama bin laden FBI 10 Most Wanted poster

President Obama's statement on the death of Osama bin Laden, as provided by the White House

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening. Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.

It was nearly 10 years ago that a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our history.  The images of 9/11 are seared into our national memory -- hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky; the Twin Towers collapsing to the ground; black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon; the wreckage of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak and destruction.

And yet we know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world.  The empty.... at the dinner table.  Children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father.  Parents who would never know the feeling of their child’s embrace.  Nearly 3,000 citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts.


On September 11, 2001, in our time of grief, the American people came together.  We offered our neighbors a hand, and we offered the wounded our blood.  We reaffirmed our ties to each other, and our love of community and country.  On that day, no matter where we came from, what God we prayed to, or what rreenactment of Obama enroute to give his remarks on the death of osama bin laden 5-1-11ace or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family.

We were also united in our resolve to protect our nation and to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice. 

We quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda -- an organization headed by Osama bin Laden, which had openly declared war on the United States and was committed to killing innocents in our country and around the globe. 

And so we went to war against al Qaeda to protect our citizens, our friends, and our allies.

Over the last 10 years, thanks to the tireless and heroic work of our military and our counterterrorism professionals, we’ve made great strides in that effort.  We’ve disrupted terrorist attacks and strengthened our homeland defense.  In Afghanistan, we removed the Taliban government, which had given bin Laden and al Qaeda safe haven and support.  And around the globe, we worked with our friends and allies to capture or kill scores of al Qaeda terrorists, including several who were a part of the 9/11 plot.

Yet Osama bin Laden avoided capture and escaped across the Afghan border into Pakistan.  Meanwhile, al Qaeda continued to operate from along that border and operate through its affiliates across the world.

And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.

Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden.  It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground.  I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan.  And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.

Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.  A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability.  No Americans were harmed.  They took care to avoid civilian casualties.  After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.

For over two decades, bin Laden has been al Qaeda’s leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies.  The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda.

Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort.  There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us.  We must –- and we will -- remain vigilant at home and abroad.

As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not –- and never will be -– at war with Islam.  I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. 

Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims.  Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own.  So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity. Osama bi laden

Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was.  That is what we’ve done.  But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding.  Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.

Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts.  They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations.  And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.

The American people did not choose this fight.  It came to our shores, and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens.  After nearly 10 years of service, struggle, and sacrifice, we know well the costs of war.  These efforts weigh on me every time I, as Commander-in-Chief, have to sign a letter to a family that has lost a loved one, or look into the eyes of a service member who’s been gravely wounded.

So Americans understand the costs of war.  Yet as a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed.  We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies.  We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror:  Justice has been done.

Tonight, we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who’ve worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome.  The American people do not see their work, nor know their names.  But tonight, they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice.

We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country.  And they are part of a generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since that September day.

Finally, let me say to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 that we have never forgotten your loss, nor wavered in our commitment to see that we do whatever it takes to prevent another attack on our shores. 

And tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11.  I know that it has, at times, frayed.  Yet today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people. 

The cause of securing our country is not complete.  But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to.  That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place. 

Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are:  one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Thank you.  May God bless you.  And may God bless the United States of America.    ####

president george w Bush at the scene of the 9-11 attacks in NYC

Statement by President George W. Bush, as provided by his presidential center

Earlier this evening, President Obama called to inform me that American forces killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of the al Qaeda network that attacked America on September 11, 2001. 

I congratulated him and the men and women of our military and intelligence communities who devoted their lives to this mission.  They have our everlasting gratitude. 

This momentous achievement marks a victory for America, for people who seek peace around the world, and for all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001. 

The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message:  No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.    ####

Photos: AFP / Getty Images (FBI poster); Jason Reed / Reuters (Obama enroute to his Osama remarks; Subsequent to initial publication, The Ticket learned this photo was taken during a reenactment of the president's speech for the benefit of non-White House photographers); Osama bin Laden (Al Jazeera); Win McNamee / Reuters (President Bush at the New York City 9-11 attack site).

Comments () | Archives (16)

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Of course this immediately raises questions as to how the US and the coalition will continue its offense in the mid-east, if they will pull out, whether the Taliban will seek mediation and most importantly if the nation can try to put some sort of bitter sweet closure to the affairs that led to Sept 11, 2001 that obliterated for a day a nation’s spirit and resolve.

But to put it simply can one man’s death, re arrange the sordid dichotomies of world affairs or is there someone new that we now ought to be concerned about?

Navy Seals--HORAH. One down many many more to go--ZAWAHIRI next!! You can run but you'll only die tired-Great News !!!!!

You have to love how Republican­s like Peter King try to work Bush into the conversati­on. Bush had nothing to do with this, and said he didn't know or care where Bin Laden was. All of this, including the intelligen­ce, happened under Obama's watch., Republican­s..


Great job President Obama! You accomplished in 2 years what The Idiot Bush could not in 8. You opposed the Iraq invasion because you knew we should be more focused on terrorism not adventurism or oil. You kept the focus where it should have been all along in Afganistan.

I do not know who is worse Bin Laden, who killed 3000 americans or Bush who killed 5000 Americans chasing ghosts or oil in Iraq? That whole administration should be put behind bars for incompetence.

The Commander in Chief told you un-American birthers that he had more important things to worry about, now you see what he meant.

I could not be more proud of you Mister President!!!

Great speech by Obama. There aren't any of the Republican Presidential hopefuls that is the least bit Presidential. They all look if they are running for President of Lilliput.

Geez. What's going to be on the Republican platform? One week a birth certificate from our non-citizen president and the next week that same "muslim" President puts out a hit on Bin Laden.

Bin Laden's death will serve as a major achievement for Obama's foreign policy and allow him to keep his election promise and begin pulling out troops from Afghanistan in July.

that really a great news by Obama about death for usama......he had to be killed some of other day , its gud he is dead

Good news indeed!

It seems rather...odd...OBL was located, killed, his body retrieved, DNA confirmed, and then the body given a burial at sea...all in a matter of hours? Hmmmm....

I wish I could comment on all the stupidity here but I dont have the patience, so I'll just do the closest to the top.

So when intelligence started tracking this courier that ultimately led us to Osama over FOUR YEARS AGO, Obama was in office? I didn't think so. I also don't recall Obama being in office when the manhunt started for Bin Laden, or the war on terror began.

Give President Bush the credit he deserves.

Really a Great speech by President Obama. It is odd pinning W. Bush's comment at the tail end of this article. It seems to give Bush equal footing when in fact the U.S. failed to apprehend bin Laden during a full 7 years of his command. To the LA Times: Let W's comment stand on it's own or along with other notable public figures who are not POTUS.

reminds me of the grassy knoll.

What Bush couldn't do Obama did thank you Obama

you guys are all ignorant morons if you think that bush had nothing to do with is? and that obama was the reason we found and killed bin laden.
pathetic and completely ignorant if you truly feel that way.

American Airman you hit the nail on the head!! Most of these morons were probadly 67 or 8 years old when 9/11 happened!! When you read Obama's speech read it carefully and see how many times he pats himself on the back for such a good job he's doing?? Ya, right!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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