The top military commander in Afghanistan – Stanley McChrystal – says that getting Bin Laden is the key to defeating Al Qaeda.
Getting Bin Laden sounds fine to me. But apparently the Bush administration couldn’t have cared less about him.
The oldest – and second-largest – French newspaper claims that CIA agents met with Bin Laden two months before 9/11, when he was already wanted for the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole. Sibel Edmonds (the former FBI translator, who Department of Justice’s Inspector General and several senators have called extremely credible, and some of whose previous claims have been confirmed by the British press) makes similar allegations. Bear with me, the rest of this essay is less speculative. If true, then the CIA could have nabbed Bin Laden before 9/11.
On October 14, 2001, the Taliban offered to hand over Osama bin Laden to a neutral country if the US halted bombing gave the Taliban evidence of Bin Laden’s involvement in 9/11. As the Guardian writes:
Returning to the White House after a weekend at Camp David, the president said the bombing would not stop, unless the ruling Taliban “turn [bin Laden] over, turn his cohorts over, turn any hostages they hold over.” He added, “There’s no need to discuss innocence or guilt. We know he’s guilty” …
Afghanistan’s deputy prime minister, Haji Abdul Kabir, told reporters that the Taliban would require evidence that Bin Laden was behind the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US.
“If the Taliban is given evidence that Osama bin Laden is involved” and the bombing campaign stopped, “we would be ready to hand him over to a third country”, Mr Kabir added.
The Guardian subsequently points out:
A senior Taliban minister has offered a last-minute deal to hand over Osama bin Laden during a secret visit to Islamabad, senior sources in Pakistan told the Guardian last night.
For the first time, the Taliban offered to hand over Bin Laden for trial in a country other than the US without asking to see evidence first in return for a halt to the bombing, a source close to Pakistan’s military leadership said.
So the U.S. could have had Bin Laden led away in handcuffs in October 2001.
According to the U.S. Senate – Bin Laden was “within the grasp” of the U.S. military in Afghanistan in December 2001, but that then-secretary of defense Rumsfeld refused to provide the soldiers necessary to capture him.
This story was disclosed years ago. It was confirmed in 2005 by the CIA field commander for the area in Afghanistan where Bin Laden was holed up.
In addition, French soldiers allegedly say that they easily could have captured or killed Bin Laden in Afghanistan, but that the American commanders stopped them.
In 2005, Cenk Uygur pointed out:
The New York Times reported this weekend that we sent in 36 U.S. Special Forces troops to get Osama bin Laden when we knew he was in Tora Bora. By contrast, we sent nearly 150,000 soldiers to get Saddam Hussein. In case you’re keeping count at home, we got Saddam and we didn’t get Osama. What does that tell you about this administration’s priorities? This goes beyond incompetence. If you send only 36 soldiers to get somebody in the middle of Afghanistan, it means you don’t want to get him…
Osama had about 1,500-2,000 well-armed, well-trained men in the region. 36 guys to get 2,000? Why would we let ourselves be outgunned like that?…
There is an inescapable fact – if you put this little effort into capturing someone, it means you don’t want to capture him.
In 2007, Uygur rounded up evidence that the White House didn’t care much about Bin Laden:
Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, Army Chief of Staff, on captruing Osama bin Laden:
“I don’t know that it’s all that important, frankly.”
Dick Cheney downplaying the importance of capturing Osama bin Laden:
“He’s not the only source of the problem, obviously. . . . If you killed him tomorrow, you’d still have a problem with al-Qaeda.”
President Bush on how important he thinks capturing Osama bin Laden is:
“So I don’t know where he is. You know, I just don’t spend that much time on him. … And, again, I don’t know where he is. I — I’ll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him.”
“Deep in my heart I know the man’s on the run, if he’s alive at all…I just don’t spend much time on it, really, to be honest with you.”
President Bush also shut down the CIA operation trying to capture Osama bin Laden. And let him escape in Tora Bora.
If they care about capturing the man who actually attacked us on 9/11 and killed nearly 3,000 Americans, they have a funny way of showing it.
A retired Colonel said that the U.S. could have killed Bin Laden again in 2007, but didn’t:
We know, with a 70 percent level of certainty — which is huge in the world of intelligence — that in August of 2007, bin Laden was in a convoy headed south from Tora Bora. We had his butt, on camera, on satellite. We were listening to his conversations. We had the world’s best hunters/killers — Seal Team 6 — nearby. We had the world class Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) coordinating with the CIA and other agencies. We had unmanned drones overhead with missiles on their wings; we had the best Air Force on the planet, begging to drop one on the terrorist. We had him in our sights; we had done it ….Unbelievably, and in my opinion, criminally, we did not kill Usama bin Laden.
And Margie Burns argues that a request under the Freedom of Information Act confirms that the Bush White House didn’t care very much about Bin Laden at all. Among the millions of emails, only a few refer to Bin Laden, and those are mainly public press releases:
“Missing” White House emails retrieved from Bush administration records indicate that top Bush Justice Department officials had little interest in the pursuit of Osama bin Laden or Mullah Mohammed Omar, head of the Taliban in Afghanistan…
Given all the public emphasis on “information sharing” and cooperation among law enforcement and security entities, and the speechifying against a purported “wall” between domestic and foreign information gathering, one would think there would have been extensive correspondence about bin Laden and Omar among others.
Again, either there was such extensive correspondence, and it is being suppressed; or there was no such interest in bin Laden at the highest levels of government, meaning that indeed the previous administration viewed bin Laden chiefly as a public relations tool.
What did they know about bin Laden that they did not share with the public? Were they confident, for undisclosed reasons, that he posed no threat? Why are there no expressions of concern about his whereabouts?
If capturing or killing Bin Laden is so important, why didn’t we do it in early 2001, or October 2001, or December 2001, or 2007?