The following is excerpted from Paul Sperry’s
hard-hitting new book, “Crude
Politics,” which was released in August by Thomas
Nelson Publishers imprint WND Books, and is now in its
“We need to finish the job,” former President Clinton last year advised President Bush concerning Osama bin
Laden, who is still at large.
Of course, he’s one to talk.
The only time Clinton got tough on bin Laden was in 1998, in the midst of the Lewinsky scandal, when he
needed a big media distraction.
Twice in 2000, including one time after the USS Cole bombing, Clinton had bin Laden in his sights and failed to pull the trigger, according to a senior
Pentagon official familiar with covert
counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan at the time.
He said the CIA had equipped pro-U.S. factions on the ground in Afghanistan with high-tech surveillance
gear from the Defense Department to track bin Laden.
They were armed with sniper rifles and shoulder-fired rocket launchers, the official explained, and had the OK to assassinate bin Laden on orders from U.S.
intelligence back in Washington.
“There were surveillance systems brought in-country, and they were doing observations and watching some of
the likely places bin Laden frequented, such as Tora Bora, and guest-houses in the area,” said the official, who requested anonymity. “And we
were viewing” the satellite images relayed from Afghanistan.
“Some of it was collaborative – some DOD, some CIA – but we were looking,” he said. “And Clinton had opportunities to take him out and didn’t take them.”
“One was more a command-and-control issue – when they
should have made a decision to shoot, but it never got out of country, because the bureaucracy of carrying [the order] back [to Afghanistan] through channels was too much, and the opportunity just disappeared,” he said. “And then another one when Clinton said ‘No.'”
The Pentagon official explained that Clinton feared the paid CIA recruits might hit innocent Afghans.
“There was actionable intelligence provided by that gear, by the optics,” he said. “But once it went up the chain of command, it got into stuff like, ‘How
sure are you guys about that 6-5 guy in the middle of that group? It kind of looks like him, but how sure are you?'”
“Clinton didn’t want to have an accidental shot kill innocent civilians,” he added. “But everyone was pretty certain it was Osama bin Laden. We had images
of his face.”
Clinton certainly deserves his share of blame for failing to take out bin Laden when he had the chance.
However, that was before Sept. 11. Bin Laden did not attack and kill thousands of American civilians on American soil when Clinton was commander in chief. That happened on Bush’s watch, and he essentially blew a prime opportunity to take out bin Laden when U.S. intelligence had a fix on him in his Tora Bora rats’ nest. He blew it because he and his oil cronies were preoccupied with another opportunity – taking out the Caspian energy export pipeline-blocking Taliban in Kabul and Kandahar.
Sept. 11 should have been the last straw. Everyone counted on Bush to decapitate the al-Qaida leadership
once and for all. He had a clear national mandate.
U.S. Central Command officers have told me that they had hoped for a narrowly defined and concentrated
search-and-destroy mission against al-Qaida in Afghanistan – go in, get bin Laden, and get out. What
they got instead was a broadly defined, long, complicated mission that has included Afghan proxy forces, humanitarian airlifts, regime change, nation building, economic development, and occupation – all the things that Bush’s pal and special envoy in Kabul
and now in Baghdad, “Unocal Zal” Khalilzad, had on his wish list for his native country, a list that became
the White House’s operating manual in Afghanistan. The plan was so comprehensive and complex that it
virtually guaranteed finding bin Laden would slip down the priority list.
To be sure, presidents throughout history have been accused of putting business interests first, even ahead of national security. In the most recent
example, Clinton was accused of being in the pocket of U.S. aerospace-defense contractors, such as Loral and
Hughes, that were hungry for deals in Communist China, which has nuclear-tipped missiles aimed at American
cities. He even had his own Caspian pipeline scandal. Millionaire Lebanese oil man Roger Tamraz gave the
1996 Clinton-Gore reelection effort some $300,000 in exchange for White House access.
Tamraz was trying to get U.S. backing for the development of an alternate pipeline route from Azerbaijan to a Mediterranean port in Turkey – this
one through Armenia, Azerbaijan’s enemy. Despite warnings from a conscientious NSC aide, the White
House hosted him at several events. The shady Tamraz got his access, if not his pipeline.
Sleazy as it was, the funds-for-access deal was not tied to an American war. And this is by no means just any war. This is an epic battle to protect your family and mine, where we live, from al-Qaida, the most dangerous and effective network of terrorists in the history of terrorism.
Paul Sperry is
Washington bureau chief for WorldNetDaily.com. He is
the author of “Crude
Politics: How Bush’s Oil Cronies Hijacked the War on
Terrorism” published by WND
Books, an imprint of Thomas Nelson Publishers.