Former president George W. Bush warned of the threat posed by homegrown violent extremism during his speech at the Flight 93 memorial to mark the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. “We have seen growing evidence that the dangers to our country can come, not only across borders, but from violence that gathers within,” Bush said at the memorial site in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
“There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home,” Bush continued. “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.” By referring to the “determination to defile national symbols,” Bush appeared to reference the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, which he had already denounced. At the time, Bush said he was “appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election.” Now the former president warned about domestic extremism amid fears of potential unrest in a right-wing rally planned for Sept. 18 in Washington, D.C. to express support for those who took part in the Jan. 6 riot.
Bush made an effort to contrast how Americans were united after the Sept. 11 attacks and the increasing divisions that exist in the country today. “When it comes to the unity of America, those days seems distant from our own,” Bush said. “A malign force seems at work in our common life that turns every disagreement into an argument, and every argument into a clash of cultures. 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.”
The former president, his wife, Laura, and Vice President Kamala Harris took part in a ceremony at the site where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed after passengers overpowered the hijackers. “Many who are now alive owe a vast, unconscious debt to the defiance displayed in the skies above this field,” Bush said.
President Joe Biden praised Bush’s words, telling reporters in Pennsylvania that the former president “made a really good speech today. Genuinely.” Biden marked the two-decade anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks by visiting all the sites where hijacked planes crashed that fateful day. He started the day out in New York, where he stood alongside former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton at the site where the World Trade Center towers once stood. Biden, who was a senator when the attacks took place, then went to Shanksville, Pennsylvania and planned to end the day at the Pentagon.