The September 11 memorial site in New York.
The September 11 memorial site in New York. Emily Prain

George Bush's initial reaction to 9/11 attacks made public

GEORGE W. Bush's initial reaction to the news of the September 11, 2001 attacks has been made public for the first time.

In the attacks, 2996 died when hijacked commercial airliners slammed into the Twin Towers in New York City, and crashed into the Pentagon and a field in rural Pennsylvania.

The attacks were planned and carried out by the al-Qaeda group.

To mark the 15th anniversary of the attacks, Mr Bush's former press secretary Ari Fleischer has released the six pages of notes that he made as Mr Bush and those around him reacted to the unfolding terrorist atrocity.

They reveal Mr Bush's immediate reaction was to seek revenge against the terrorists.

Telephoning his vice-president Dick Cheney, he said: "We're going to get the bastards. We're at war."

After hanging up the phone, Mr Bush turned to his aides and said: "When we find out who did this, they're not going to like me as president. Somebody's going to pay."

The then-US president told aides: "I can't wait to find out who did it."

Nine days later, Mr Bush declared "war on terror", telling a joint session of the US Congress and the American people: "Our war on terror begins with al-Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated."

In a radio broadcast last week, current President Barack Obama remembered the dead and hailed the bravery of survivors and emergency personnel who responded on 9/11.

"We cannot give in to those who would divide us. We cannot react in ways that erode the fabric of our society," he said.

The attackers' goal was to frighten Americans into changing how they lived, Mr Obama said, adding: "Americans will never give in to fear."

He pledged that the US would stay relentless against attacks from al-Qaeda and Islamic State.

"So in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and beyond, we'll stay relentless against terrorists like al-Qaeda and ISIL," he said.

"We will destroy them."