On September 10, 2001, Clinton Explained Why He Didn’t Kill bin Laden

An extraordinary historical nugget has been unearthed in Australia. In September 2001, Bill Clinton was in that country. Only hours before the terrorists struck the World Trade Center, Clinton was talking to a group in Melbourne. Terrorism and bin Laden came up in that discussion, and Clinton said that he had had an opportunity to kill bin Laden when the terrorist was in Kandahar, but he had decided not to do so because the strike (the nature of which was not defined) would also have killed 300 innocent people. Here it is, as aired on Melbourne television:

Of course, one shouldn’t assume that Clinton’s account, as it related to his motives, was true. He evidently thought it put him in a favorable light, although it is a story that I don’t think he repeated after September 11. What this audio tells us for certain is that Clinton did pass up a chance to kill bin Laden, for whatever reason. This has been the subject of some debate over the years. Clinton’s 2001 admission that he could have had bin Laden killed but decided not to for humanitarian reasons is quite different from the defense he mounted in 2006.

Over the years, Clinton’s defenders have generally soft-pedaled claims that Clinton could have killed bin Laden but failed to do so. For example, in early 2008 FactCheck.org wrote:

Q: Did Bill Clinton pass up a chance to kill Osama bin Laden?

A: Probably not, and it would not have mattered anyway as there was no evidence at the time that bin Laden had committed any crimes against American citizens.