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  • Saturday, August 26, 2006


    Bush Administration Public Statements Concerning the Failure to Capture or Kill Osama bin Laden

    After the terrorist attack on the United States of September 11, 2001, the U.S. Congress jointly enacted the Authorization of Use of Military Force (the "AUMF"), Pub. L. No. 107-40, sec. 2(a), 115 Stat. 224 (Sept. 18, 2001)(reported as a note to 50 U.S.C. sec. 1541). The AUMF authorized the President:

    to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations,
    organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided
    the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such
    organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international
    terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations, or

    Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, President Bush announced that the terrorist organization al Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden, planned and executed the attacks. President Bush promised to capture or kill Osama bin Laden.

    Five years since the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden still has not been captured or killed. The question is why not? How could the combined might of the United States and allied military and intelligence forces have failed for five years to have captured or killed the "most wanted" terrorist in the world? And as the President and his military and intelligence forces have failed to capture or kill bin Laden, how effective has the President been at implementing the AUMF to future acts of international terrorism against the United States?

    Try getting a straight answer to these questions from President Bush or any other present or former Bush Administration official. This post will set forth some examples of their public statements on this subject.

    On March 1, 2006, President Bush held a joint press conference with President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, Afghanistan:

    QUESTION: I'd like to ask you, Mr. President, there was a time when you
    talked about getting Osama bin Laden dead or alive. Why is he still on the loose
    five years later? And are you still confident that you'll get him?

    PRESIDENT BUSH: I am confident he will be brought to justice. What's
    happening is, is that we got U.S. forces on the hunt for not only bin Laden, but
    anybody who plots and plans with bin Laden. There are Afghan forces on the hunt
    for not only bin Laden, but those who plot and plan with him. We've got Pakistan
    forces on the hunt. And part of my message to President Musharraf is, is that
    it's important that we bring these people to justice. He understands that. After
    all, they've tried to kill him four times. So we've got a common alliance, all
    aimed at routing out people who are evildoers, people who have hijacked a great
    religion and kill innocent people in the name of that religion. We're making
    progress of dismantling al Qaeda. Slowly but surely, we're bringing the people
    to justice, and the world is better for it, as a result of our steady progress.

    On March 4, 2006, President Bush answered questions at a joint appearance in Islamabad, Pakistan with Pakistani President Musharraf:

    Q Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, what would you like to see
    President Musharraf do in the war on terrorism that he's not doing now? Is the
    United States getting the access and the help that it needs to go after al Qaeda
    and Osama bin Laden?

    PRESIDENT BUSH: There's a lot of work to be done in defeating al Qaeda.
    The President and I know that. We spent a good while this morning talking about
    the work that needs to be done. The best way to defeat al Qaeda is to find -- is
    to share good intelligence to locate them, and then to be prepared to bring them
    to justice. So, one, the first question that I always ask is whether or not our
    intelligence-sharing is good enough, and we're working on it to make sure it's
    good enough. Intelligence is gathered by -- in a lot of different ways, but the
    key thing is that, one, it be actionable, and two, it be shared on a real-time
    basis. Secondly, in order for Pakistan to defend herself from al Qaeda, she must
    have equipment necessary to move quickly, without tipping off the enemy. The
    President is training up special forces teams to do just that. And so while we
    do have a lot of work to be done, it's important that we stay on the hunt. Part
    of my mission today was to determine whether or not the President is as
    committed as he has been in the past to bringing these terrorists to justice,
    and he is. He understands the stakes; he understands the responsibility; and he
    understands the need to make sure our strategy is able to defeat the enemy. Do
    you want to say something to that?

    PRESIDENT MUSHARRAF: May I add to this, with your permission? The first
    element that one needs to be very clear is the intentions. And it's very clear
    that the intentions of Pakistan and my intentions are absolutely clear that we
    are a very strong -- we have a strong partnership on the issue of fighting
    terrorism. So the intentions should be very clear. Then we need to strategize. We have strategized. We have strategized how to deal with terrorism, and then strategized also on how to deal with extremism, which is very different from terrorism. So we have strategized both. Then we need to come forward to the implementation part. Now, the implementation has to be strong also, with all the resolve. We are doing that also. So if at all there are slippages, it is possible in the implementation part. But as long as the intention is clear, the resolve is there, and the strategy is clear, we are moving forward toward to delivering, and we will succeed. That is all.

    During on April 24, 2006 press briefing en route to Athens, Greece, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice had this to say:

    QUESTION: On the bin Laden tape, what do you make of it? What's your
    reaction? Is he still trying to seem relevant? Does the U.S. still think that he
    is relevant and also what do you say to critics that said our efforts in Iraq
    are taking away from actually capturing him?

    SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, there is -- all the time, every
    day, all the time, an effort to continue to degrade and round up the al-Qaida
    network, including efforts against Osama bin Laden. But the effort is more than
    one man. This is about disabling the al-Qaida network. It is the scores of
    important field generals of al-Qaida that have been put out of commission one
    way or another in the last three and a half years, and that's the real story of
    dealing with al-Qaida. I don't know what to make of the tape, except that he
    continues to say things that he's always said. You know, what it is a reminder
    of is that we have a determined enemy that we need to fight, but I don't give it
    any credence beyond that. And the effort in Iraq to help bring about an ally in
    the middle of the -- in the center of the Middle East that will be a stalwart
    fighter against terrorism, that will be a state that speaks to the ideology of
    hatred that has produced the al-Qaidas of the world, I think is a very
    short-sighted view to say that somehow because you are engaged in the efforts to
    build a different kind of Iraq and a different kind of Middle East, that you're
    somehow not focused on the efforts of al-Qaida; it's both shortsighted and a
    very narrow definition of what actually produced al-Qaida.

    On April 5, 2006, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher was interviewed on Pakistani television by Hamid Mir. Here is how he addressed the failure to capture or kill Osama bin Laden:

    MIR: What is the level of U.S. engagement in nabbing terrorists within

    ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: This is a task that is being carried out
    by the Pakistani forces and very sadly they have lost people doing this. We’ve
    pointed out many times that no country has caught more Al Qaeda or lost more men
    doing that than Pakistan. So it’s a very strong fight that Pakistan has carried
    forward. We talked, President Bush and President Musharraf have talked quite a
    bit about this during their visit. Pakistan is working on all the terrorists,
    the Taliban, the Al Qaeda, all the violent groups that are trying to upset and
    destabilize Pakistani society. So that is very important to us. But it is, it’s
    a Pakistani fight. To the extent that we can help them, we will. But Pakistan is
    very much engaged.

    MIR: U.S., U.S. forces are not active in Pakistani territory?

    ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: U.S. forces are active on the Afghan side.
    And again it’s a common enemy and we all need to do what we can, but not on the
    Pakistani side.

    MIR: Recently, U.S. troops have started a new operation in Afghan
    province, Kunar. So can you tell us that, do you have any clue about Osama Bin
    Laden and any other big Al Qaeda fish?

    ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I don’t know, I don’t have any new
    information on that and certainly I’ll leave the military operations to the
    military people.

    MIR: So can you tell us that, why the most wanted person is still at

    ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I’ve only come here a few times. I’ve only
    flown over those areas of mountains a few times, but it’s pretty obvious that it
    is a difficult area to operate in. It’s a difficult area to find somebody in.
    You know we’ve had cases in the United States of people going up in the hills
    and have been able to hide for a few years. So the success of this fight doesn’t
    depend on one person. Certainly we would like to capture Osama Bin Laden and
    Mullah Omar. I think we are all interested in doing that, but there is a, a
    violent group, a violent element of Taliban and Al Qaeda people who’ve been
    really trying to kill us all, kill Pakistanis, Americans and Afghans, who’ve
    been exploding bombs and shooting bullets that kill a lot of people. And we’ve
    got to stop them all. Catching the leaders is certainly important, but we’ve got
    to stop them all. And not just in military ways. We have to extend government on
    both sides so that government really has control over these areas and is able to
    provide for the needs of the people in these areas. We’ve got to extend economic
    opportunity and we’ve been working with Pakistan and Afghanistan on proposals
    like the Regional Opportunity Zones. So we recognize there is a
    multi-comprehensive need for working on the military side, the police side, the
    economic side and the government administration side. And trying to coordinate
    on both sides is very important. It’s a common enemy, it’s a common problem and
    it needs a common solution. And we’ll do what we can to work together.

    On April 20, 2006, Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte responded to a question at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. as follows:

    MR. SALANT: Speaking of al Qaeda, have we gotten any closer to catching
    Osama bin Laden over the past year? And is the intelligence information flow
    about him growing, lessening or remaining the same?

    MR. NEGROPONTE: I think that first -- the first thing I'd say about Mr.
    bin Laden is that I believe his range of action, his operational capacity has
    been substantially diminished since the year 2001. He no longer has a sanctuary
    from which he can operate with impunity, as he did when the Taliban governed
    Afghanistan. And I think his style has been cramped. He's hiding -- in hiding
    somewhere, we believe, in the Pakistan/Afghanistan border area, and I don't
    believe is nearly as operationally active as he previously was. It would,
    of course, be desirable that he be captured or killed at the earliest
    opportunity. And one could say that about him as well as his deputy, Mr.
    Zawahiri, and others. We wish that this might have happened sooner. But on the
    other hand, I think it would also be fair to point out that since 9/11, many,
    many of Mr. bin Laden's principal lieutenants and deputies have been captured or
    killed. And his high command is not nearly what it used to be. And I think this,
    too, has diminished the operational effectiveness of the al Qaeda movement. So I
    think we've dealt them a number of body blows, but we haven't yet dealt a
    knock-out blow to Mr. bin Laden himself.

    Summary: When confronted with the failure to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, President Bush and Administration officials, for all their double-talk and mumbo-jumbo, have three basic answers: (1) the War on Terrorism really is not about capturing or killing one man; (2) we have captured or killed many other members of al Qaeda; and (3) bin Laden is hiding in a place where it is difficult to find him.

    None of them has explained, even in the most general terms, what has been done to try to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. None has explained how it is possible for Osama bin Laden to have evaded being captured or killed for so long. Are you satisfied with their answers?

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