A tape surfaced on Thursday of Bill Clinton describing that he had a chance to kill Osama bin Laden, but declined to do so because he was afraid of inflicting civilian casualties. The exquisite irony is that the statement was made on September 10, 2001 to a group of businessmen in Melbourne, Australia. The former president seemed to be flippant about the incident, even though Bin Laden had already been complacent in the bombing of the USS Cole and a number of other terrorist acts.
Ten hours later, the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were in flames and the long war on terror was on.
“’And I’m just saying, you know, if I were Osama bin Laden — he’s very smart guy, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about him — and I nearly got him once,’ Clinton is heard saying. ‘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.’”
Clinton is apparently referring to an incident in 1998 when the opportunity arose to take Bin Laden out with a missile strike. The Joint Chiefs of Staff advised against taking the shot for fear of civilian casualties. Some analysts believed that the estimate of 300 was exaggerated.
Allahpundit at Hot Air suggests that this is an example of what had subsequently been called “September 10 mentality.” Former President Clinton undoubtedly held a different view of his forbearance less than 24 hours later. It certainly explains how even President Obama has been able to tolerate civilian casualties during the drone war.
The haunting question of course arises, what if Clinton had taken the shot and ended Bin Laden 13 years before the Navy SEALs put him down in real history? It may have been at the cost of 300 or so innocents. On the other hand, thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan might still be alive and the twin towers would still be standing.
Clinton is a man who famously lacks the capacity for shame, as the Monica Lewinsky affair indicates. But one wants to wonder if this keeps the former president awake at night. Also, what does Hillary Clinton, who may be running for the top job herself, think?