Bush urges Americans on 9/11 to embrace unity, reject politics of 'fear'

Former President George W. Bush called on Americans to reject politics of “fear and resentment” on the 20th anniversary the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, harking back to the unity he witnessed in the months following that fateful day.

Bush, who was president at the time of the attacks, delivered an address Saturday morning at a memorial ceremony near Shanksville, Pa., where Flight 93 crashed into an empty field after passengers and crew members overtook the plane from hijackers who had planned to attack the U.S. Capitol. 

“In the weeks and months following the 9/11 attacks, I was proud to lead an amazing, resilient, united people,” Bush said before noting that “when it comes to the unity of America, those days seem distant from our own.” 

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Malign force seems at work in our common life that turns every disagreement into an argument and every argument into a clash of cultures,” the former president explained. 

He went on to say that "so much of our politics has become a naked appeal to anger, fear and resentment. That leaves us worried about our nation and our future together."

Bush said that while he comes “without explanations or solutions,” he wished to remember the unity among Americans in the aftermath of the plane crashes in Pennsylvania, New York City and Arlington, Va.

“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,” he noted. 

“That is the America I know,” he added, prompting applause from the crowd gathered at the memorial service. 

Bush, who following the attacks initiated the invasion into Afghanistan that sparked America’s longest war, said he wished to speak directly Saturday to those who served in U.S. military operations over the past two decades. 

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“The cause you pursued at the call of duty is the noblest America has to offer,” he said. “You have shielded your fellow citizens from danger. You have defended the beliefs of your country and advanced the rights of the downtrodden.” 

“You have been the face of hope and mercy in dark places,” he continued. “You've been a force for good in the world.” 

Bush went on to say that “nothing that has followed, nothing, can tarnish your honor or diminish your accomplishments.” 

“To you and to the honor of the dead, our country is forever grateful,” he added. 

The anniversary of the 9/11 attacks comes following the Biden administration’s widely criticized withdrawal from Afghanistan as the Taliban consolidated power in the country two decades after the U.S. toppled the militant group. 

Bush, who was joined at the Shanksville ceremony with former first lady Laura Bush as well as Vice President Harris and second gentleman Doug EmhoffDoug EmhoffThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations — Global supply chain bottleneck worries for U.S. economy The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Biden: We will fix nation's problems The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - New front in mandate wars; debt bill heads to Biden MORE, also used the occasion to warn of the dangers continuously posed by both "violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home."

Bush said that while there is often “little cultural overlap between the two,” he argued that they are “children of the same foul spirit, and it is our continuing duty to confront them.”