In a memorably explosive 2006 interview with Chris Wallace, former President Bill Clinton went off on a finger-wagging “tear,” as Wallace put it, when questioned about whether he had done enough during his terms in office to get Osama bin Laden. “I got closer to killing him than anybody has gotten since,” growled a furious Clinton. Now a recently-released audiotape confirms that Clinton did indeed have at least one clear opportunity to kill the world’s most wanted man in 1998 – and passed on it, allowing bin Laden to live to mastermind the 9/11 attacks.
Last week Australian Michael Kroger, the former head of the Liberal Party in the state of Victoria, unveiled on Australia’s Sky News a never-before-released audio of Clinton speaking to a group of businessmen in Melbourne on September 10, 2001, recorded a mere ten hours before the first plane hit the World Trade Center. In that recording, made with the former president’s knowledge according to Kroger, Clinton responded thusly in response to a question about international terrorism:
And I’m just saying, you know, if I were Osama bin Laden — he’s a very smart guy, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about him — and I nearly got him once. I nearly got him. And I could have killed him, but I would have to destroy a little town called Kandahar in Afghanistan and kill 300 innocent women and children, and then I would have been no better than him. And so I didn’t do it.
Questioned by Fox News about the Clinton recording, Michael Scheuer, chief of the bin Laden unit from 1995 to 1999, replied that Clinton was a “disgrace” and a “monumental liar” for claiming that he didn’t kill bin Laden because of the collateral damage. He asserted that only Taliban and bin Laden and his crew would’ve died if Clinton had given the go-ahead for a missile strike on the region in December of 1998. But Clinton didn’t act, said Scheuer, because he’s a “coward morally” and because he’s “more concerned, like Obama, with what the world thinks about him.”
In the 2006 Wallace interview, Clinton referenced a wildly controversial ABC miniseries called The Path to 9/11*, which had aired a mere two weeks earlier and which Clinton angrily called part of a right-wing “disinformation” campaign against him. That docudrama, based in part on The 9/11 Commission Report, dramatized the historical thread connecting the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, Islamic attacks on American interests throughout the Clinton era, the failure to connect the dots under Bush, and the attacks of that September morning in 2001.
Prior to its premiere, a false accusation of “conservative bias” on the part of the filmmakers quickly spun into leftist hysteria that the $30+ million miniseries was a “well-honed propaganda operation” on the part of a stealth cabal of conservatives. Clinton and his supporters, fearing the miniseries would tarnish his political legacy, claimed it was full of lies and pulled out all the stops to suppress it, including threats by the Senate Democratic leadership, led by Harry Reid, to pull ABC’s license if the miniseries aired. With a few very minor edits, the miniseries squeaked by and went on to high ratings; but it has not aired since and ABC-Disney refuses to release a DVD [check out John Ziegler’s riveting documentary Blocking the Path to 9/11 for the whole outrageous story].
The miniseries featured one particular scene vetted, as every scene was, by a battery of ABC lawyers, in which a CIA team and its Afghan allies have bin Laden in its sights, call the White House for approval to make the hit, and are denied the green light. Clinton and his people attacked this scene as an outrageous fabrication.
But in May 2012, CBS’ 60 Minutes broadcast a startling segment featuring former CIA officer Hank Crumpton, Deputy Director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, who discussed with interviewer Lara Logan his participation in operations to capture and/or kill bin Laden well before 9/11. Crumpton complained about “the lack of response on the part of the administration” and described one incident in which his team sighted bin Laden. It sounds very similar to the dramatized scene from Path to 9/11:
Crumpton: Our human sources took us to a village uh, far, not far from Kandahar –
Logan: And what did you see there?
Crumpton: We saw a security detail, a convoy, and we saw bin Laden exit the vehicle.
Crumpton: Clearly. And we had – the optics were spot on, beaming back to us, CIA headquarters. We immediately alerted the White House, and the Clinton administration’s response was, “Well, it will take several hours for the TLAMs, the cruise missiles launched from submarines, to reach that objective. So you need to tell us where bin Laden will be five or six hours from now.” The frustration was enormous.
Logan: So at that moment you wanted to kill him.
Logan: But you couldn’t get permission.
Logan then narrates that Crumpton “couldn’t get permission to do anything, including allowing the CIA’s Afghan agents on the ground to attack bin Laden’s compound.”
Now the Clinton admission serves as further vindication for the Path to 9/11’s veracity; in fact, Scheuer also stated, as he has on numerous previous occasions, that the Clinton administration passed on as many as ten opportunities to nail bin Laden.
Imagine how different the world would be if President Clinton had pulled the trigger on bin Laden in 1998. There would have been no 9/11, says Michael Scheuer, and probably no Iraq war. “I worked hard to try to kill him,” Clinton insisted in the Wallace interview. “I authorized a finding for the CIA to kill him. We contracted with people to kill him. I got closer to killing him than anybody has gotten since.” But when he could have, he didn’t. Even if it truly was out of concern for Kandahari civilians, this question posed rhetorically by Scheuer cuts to the heart of the matter: “Who was he elected to protect, Kandaharis or Americans?”
* Full disclosure: The Path to 9/11 was written and produced by my friend Cyrus Nowrasteh, whom I assisted on the project.
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