It’s a fact: Bush let Osama Bin Laden get away

Not that any of us ever doubted it, but it’s really nice to see it confirmed by those at the top.

During the 2004 presidential campaign, George W. Bush and John Kerry battled about whether Osama bin Laden had escaped from Tora Bora in the final days of the war in Afghanistan. Bush, Kerry charged, “didn’t choose to use American forces to hunt down and kill” the leader of Al Qaeda. The president called his opponent’s allegation “the worst kind of Monday – morning quarterbacking.” Bush asserted that U.S. commanders on the ground did not know if bin Laden was at the mountain hideaway along the Afghan border.

But in a forthcoming book, the CIA field commander for the agency’s Jawbreaker team at Tora Bora, Gary Berntsen, says he and other U.S. commanders did know that bin Laden was among the hundreds of fleeing Qaeda and Taliban members. Berntsen says he had definitive intelligence that bin Laden was holed up at Tora Bora – intelligence operatives had tracked him – and could have been caught.

“He was there,” Berntsen tells NEWSWEEK. Asked to comment on Berntsen’s remarks, National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones passed on 2004 statements from former CENTCOM commander Gen. Tommy Franks. “We don’t know to this day whether Mr. bin Laden was at Tora Bora in December 2001,” Franks wrote in an Oct. 19 New York Times op-ed. “Bin Laden was never within our grasp.” Berntsen says Franks is “a great American. But he was not on the ground out there. I was.”

In his book – titled “Jawbreaker” – the decorated career CIA officer criticizes Donald Rumsfeld’s Defense Department for not providing enough support to the CIA and the Pentagon’s own Special Forces teams in the final hours of Tora Bora, says Berntsen’s lawyer, Roy Krieger. (Berntsen would not divulge the book’s specifics, saying he’s awaiting CIA clearance.)

That backs up other recent accounts, including that of military author Sean Naylor, who calls Tora Bora a “strategic disaster” because the Pentagon refused to deploy a cordon of conventional forces to cut off escaping Qaeda and Taliban members. Maj. Todd Vician, a Defense Department spokesman, says the problem at Tora Bora “was not necessarily just the number of troops.”

While Bernstein praises the CIA’s heroism and their efforts in our so-called war on terror, the conclusions are unmistakable. But hey, we got Saddam Hussein, a doddering tyrant in the twilight of his power. Too bad we inherited an albatross we can’t ever get off our necks. Pity, too, that OBL is free and his empire spreading like a wildfire. Oh well.

The Discussion: 27 Comments

Time to crank up the slime machine! I assume Hannity, Limbaugh and the other Bushbots are getting their marching orders today and we’ll start to hear what a lying scum Gary Berntsen is.

CIA field commander? Former ambassador to Iraq? Former Secretary of Commerce? They’re all lying scum and, even worse, probably Democrats.

August 7, 2005 @ 4:07 pm | Comment

Even worse than Democrats — liberal Democrats!

August 7, 2005 @ 4:10 pm | Comment

And, therefore, it’s only sensible…justified…even patriotic to hold up the book in the clearance process. Makes a man proud to clear brush.

August 7, 2005 @ 5:48 pm | Comment

Yes indeed, the President actually did let bin Laden get away, and on more than one occassion.

The shocking story of incompetence is all revealed here.

August 7, 2005 @ 9:34 pm | Comment

Oh Conrad, that is tired, disproven BS written by a pompous investment banker! You are mighty naive for a power attorney.

August 7, 2005 @ 9:41 pm | Comment

When I saw your headlines, I thought someone had a document from the President that required Bin Laden to slip away. But no, it was just one of those leaders that entice one to read more but not deliverying. when one talks about the fog of war, this is what they are talking about. It is difficult to know what will work, what will not. We know what did not work, but it is not clear (even with all this stuff written) what will work. Nor is it particulary useful, even for future operations.

August 7, 2005 @ 10:28 pm | Comment

Gee, Richard. If the LA Times is a conservative mouthpiece for BushHitler McChimp, then how about the Washington Post?

The government of Sudan, employing a back channel direct from its president to the Central Intelligence Agency, offered in the early spring of 1996 to arrest Osama bin Laden and place him in Saudi custody, according to officials and former officials in all three countries.

The Clinton administration struggled to find a way to accept the offer in secret contacts that stretched from a meeting at a Rosslyn hotel on March 3, 1996, to a fax that closed the door on the effort 10 weeks later. Unable to persuade the Saudis to accept bin Laden, and lacking a case to indict him in U.S. courts at the time, the Clinton administration finally gave up on the capture.

Even the esteemed Sandy “it that a classified document in your pants or are you glad to see me” Berger confirms it:

“The FBI did not believe we had enough evidence to indict bin Laden at that time, and therefore opposed bringing him to the United States,” said Sandy Berger, who was deputy national security adviser then.

August 7, 2005 @ 10:28 pm | Comment

Gee, Conrad, looking at that article it sure looks like Clinton did everything within his power to get him.

Unable to persuade the Saudis to accept bin Laden, and lacking a case to indict him in U.S. courts at the time, the Clinton administration finally gave up on the capture.

What should they have done at that point, when most of the US didn;t even know who OBL was? At least the Clinton people took him seriously and obsessed over him! Unilike the newcomers, obsessed with tax cuts and the bosoms on the Justice Dept. statue. And if you’re going to argue the Clitonites were too girly and wimpy to do anything, why didn’t Bush then step up to the plate and do something?

Anyway, we all know where the other stands on this topic. And nothing you say, absolutely nothing, alters the fact — repeat, fact — that Bush let OBL get away in Tora Bora AFTER the horrors of 911 meant we could break the traditional rules. Clinton didn’t have those freedoms back in 1999, as you well know.

August 7, 2005 @ 10:37 pm | Comment

Well JFS I would be surprised to hear you say anything else. (Said with a deep sense of respect.)

August 7, 2005 @ 10:38 pm | Comment

Wait, so 911 meant we could break rules? And since most of the US did not know who OBL was in 1999, that meant he was less dangerous? And are you saying that Clinton knew he was a major threat and let him get away? (1999 was after the 1998 US embassy bombings in Africa, remember) And you are saying that Bush does not take OBL seriously? I see some major jumps in logic. Even the last comment I find foolish to say the least. Regardless of your dislike for the man, I wouldn’t say for a second that Bush doesn’t take OBL seriously.

August 7, 2005 @ 11:24 pm | Comment


One, the idea that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute OBL is indicative of the Clinton administrations dithering approach. The NSA had the interecepts and transcripts of each and everyone of OBL’s satellite phone calls and Al Qaeda had admitted responsibility for attacks on the US.

Besides, OBL had declared war on the US, vowed to murder Americans world wide, attacked the Cole and the US embassies in Africa, etc. There was nothing — except lack of imagination and commitment — preventing Clintong from declaring him an enemy combatant and locking his ass up in Gitmo, as is being done now.

August 7, 2005 @ 11:39 pm | Comment

I think this blog is much better when it focuses on China and not American domestic politics. There should be some sort of filter option in which one can choose between “China” and “China + Richard’s anti-W rantings”

August 7, 2005 @ 11:51 pm | Comment

Though on the other hand, every single post you make bashing the American government and its leadership that doesn’t make you or your blog “disappear” is a testament to the superiority of Western liberalism over totalitarianism–Chinese or otherwise.

August 7, 2005 @ 11:52 pm | Comment

How bout we accept that both sides have fucked up mightily in these OBL misadventures and call it a day

August 7, 2005 @ 11:54 pm | Comment

Its complete 20/20 hindsight to say it now, but isn’t it that the point raised about lack of incriminating evidence to act back in the 90s show up the inadequacy of an law enforcement approach to dealing with persons out to destroy you wholesale?

August 8, 2005 @ 12:36 am | Comment

Johnny, that’s a great idea. China issues get some depth and balance, while the W theme just pushes into partisan derangement overdrive. Boring, unless you’re in the choir already.

I demand two new buttons at the top of the blog: on the left, “China Issues”….on the right, “Get in Touch With Your Inner Hyena.”

August 8, 2005 @ 3:33 am | Comment

Sam, I see your point but I don’t think “partisan derangement overdrive” is an accurate description of how we Americans on TPD (well, some of us) usually discuss the Bush administration. Yes, certainly those of us on the Left (like Richard and I and several others) seldom or never find any common ground with those on the Right (like Gordon, et al) BUT, I wouldn’t say that the discussions become deranged. Quite the contrary, you’ll often find us saying to each other, “Alright, we’ll never agree on American politics but we’re still friendly in other ways.”
And here’s my main point about that: Don’t you think it’s a good example for the Chinese readers to see, about how Americans can agree to disagree about domestic politics?
I’ve seen few (or none) Chinese commenters here (or anywhere) ever criticising their own government as much as some Americans do on TPD.
And although the arguments are heated, they seldom descend into personal attacks or hatred.
In contrast, arguments here about Asian issues (Japan in particular) have often tended to sink into ad hominem attacks, and abuse, etc.
At any rate, I tend to think that it might actually be GOOD for debates on American politics to go on here, precisely BECAUSE debates about internal politics are something most Chinese readers have not had much exposure to…

August 8, 2005 @ 4:15 am | Comment

I agree with Ivan.

It reminds me of a point made by that Natan Sharansky fellow when he came to my university to speak during my freshman year (before his book came out). He said that the enemies of Republicans are not Democrats, and the enemies of Democrats are not Republicans. At the end of the day, the real enemies of democratic states are dictatorships.

And he’s absolutely right. I mean, I voted for Kerry (grudgingly) but I’d rather have W & Co. over Hu & Homies any day. And I think Richard would too, if only for the reason that he can freely work to destroy him without fear of retribution

August 8, 2005 @ 4:43 am | Comment

Hey Johnny K,
Interesting point you made, vis a vis Sharansky’s remarks.
I also voted VERY grudgingly for Kerry (my candidate was Howard Dean – although I would have voted for John McCain if the Repubs had nominated him)
And much as I despise GW Bush and consider him to be the most intellectually stupid, most vulgar, most morally imbecilic “President” in all of US history, still, I think we could have had even far worse leaders in the White House, but the democratic process STILL protects us from – um – from having even worse leaders than GW Bush.
And actually I think GW Bush had the potential to be a decent guy. I think he would be fine, and even admirable and likable, if he had a job commensurate with his abilities and his interests: Like, manager of a small town gas station, or a bartender. I think he’d be a GREAT bartender!
I don’t hate Bush. I just think he doesn’t belong in the White House. And I don’t blame him for the war and other current catastrophes, as much as I blame the people who chose him and installed him in the White House.
But back to your reference to what Sharansky said about Democrats and Republicans: It takes me back to my childhood (1960s and 70s) when I grew up in a VERY politicized, Democratic Party household, where the Republicans were considered to be almost as bad as the Communists. ๐Ÿ™‚ (Well this was in Nixon’s time….) But most of the people in my community were Republicans – my friends and teachers, and even many of my relatives – and sure, we argued tooth and nail about politics, but otherwise we got along fine. And this was in Nixon’s time, when the country was probably even MORE “polarized” than it is today.
Oh and this was all in the same years, when the Cultural Revolution was going on in China. In China, in the 1960s and 70s, you could be murdered for even being SUSPECTED of having “incorrect” political thoughts. But in America, we just shouted about it over late night summer picnics, and then we would talk about something else and remain friends…..

August 8, 2005 @ 5:45 am | Comment

Thomas, Bush himself acknowledged he didn’t take OBL very seriously until after 911.

Clinton did what he could with the resources he had. He could not go to war, the public would never have allowed it. Bush had to campaign for a year before convincing America there was a real need to attack Iraq. The new twist of events — our intelligence findings of OBL’s determination to attack inside the US – only occurred in the very end of Clinton’s term. Despite the solidd warnings, Bush’s people promptly cut ant–terrorism spending, refused to meet with Richard Clarke, who was near hysterical with worry of an impending attack, and ignored his suggestions to step up monitorting of AQ. Enopugh said.

August 8, 2005 @ 8:55 am | Comment

Rather pathetic that Conrad’s only response to the CIA officer’s charges is “Clinton did it, too!”

BTW the supposed Sudanese offer to SA was in 1996. The embassy bombings happened in 1998 and the Cole attack in 2000. Get your facts straight.

August 8, 2005 @ 10:03 am | Comment

I want to meet Ivan for a drink.

Several drinks actually. Consumed in short order. It’s the Korean tradition.

August 8, 2005 @ 10:20 am | Comment

Ckrisz, they cannot get their facts straight, because the facts are so damning to their argument. It’s a knee-jerk response from my Republican friends, right out of South Park: “Blame Clinton!” They sing it in chorus, hopingit will drown out all reality. Unfortunately, it won’t work anymore. The post-911 days when the Bushies could do and say anything are long gone. They had their chance, at Tora Bora and before the Iraq invasion and, as we now know, before the attacks of 911, and they blew it. They have no credibility anymore, as our president’s miserable approval ratings clearly demonstrate.

August 8, 2005 @ 10:22 am | Comment

Just under 50% isn’t quite what I’d call a miserable approval rating…

Here in South Korea, the curent bumbling fool in power is enjoying approval ratings in the high 20%

August 8, 2005 @ 12:30 pm | Comment

Well, no matter how it compares to Korea it’s still the lowest presidential approval rating in American history. That does say something. And it’s 42 percent – that’s a good deal below 50 percent.

August 8, 2005 @ 12:50 pm | Comment

Johnny K, by the way – I can’t stop my posts on the Bush malfeasances. It is a higher calling, a near-religious obligation. This is not a blog about China. I suggest everyone read the legend atop my blog, which describes it as “A peculiar hybrid of personal journal, dilettantish punditry, pseudo-philosophy and much more… ”

I cannot be restricted about my choice of topics. One day it’ll be about my problems at work and my desire to move back to China, the next it will be only about the CCP, and then there will be a lot about the horrors of the Bush mis-administration. Sorry, it’s who I am and what I want this blog to be. It’s not changing. Thanks for your tolerance. As Sammy Davis Jr. used to say, “I gotta be me.”

August 8, 2005 @ 8:17 pm | Comment

The lowest Presidential approval rating in hostory? Not quite.

Nixon left office at 24% and Carter at 34%.

Clinton hit a equal low of 42% in June 1993.

Reagan dipped below 40% during his administration and did Bush Senior, LBJ and Gerald Ford.

August 9, 2005 @ 1:08 am | Comment

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