WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former President George W. Bush, who spent years searching for Osama bin Laden, had two words for President Barack Obama when Obama told him of the al Qaeda leader’s death: “Good call.”
Bush, who has shied away from the public eye since leaving office in January 2009, spoke about the U.S. raid that killed bin Laden in remarks to a conference of hedge fund managers. An ABC News contributor attended the event and reported on them.
Bush said he was eating souffles at a Dallas restaurant with his wife, Laura, and two friends when he got word that Obama, his successor as president, was trying to reach him.
“I excused myself and went home to take the call,” Bush said. “Obama simply said, ‘Osama bin Laden is dead.’”
After Obama described in detail the secret U.S. raid on Osama’s compound in Pakistan and the decision he made to go ahead with the mission, Bush said he told Obama: “Good call.”
ABC News said Bush told the group that bin Laden’s death was a victory for the American people and “a great victory in the war on terror.”
He said U.S. intelligence services deserve a lot of credit for tracking down bin Laden and spoke of meeting in Afghanistan with Navy SEAL Team Six, the highly skilled strike team that reportedly conducted the raid.
“They are awesome, skilled, talented and brave,” he added. “I said, ‘I hope you have everything you need. One guy said, ‘We need your permission to go into Pakistan and kick ass.’”
Bush escalated a U.S. hunt for bin Laden after the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, but the al Qaeda leader escaped from the mountains of Tora Bora in Afghanistan and ended up living in a large house in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad, apparently for years.
Bush’s predecessor, President Bill Clinton, launched missile strikes against bin Laden’s compound in Afghanistan in 1998 in an unsuccessful effort to kill bin Laden following al Qaeda attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa.
Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Will Dunham