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Posted: 9/24/2001 9:18:55 AM EDT
[url]http://www.nationalreview.com/york/york092401alert.shtml[/url] Another Clinton Tale? Did he really come close to taking out Osama bin Laden? September 24, 2001 10:00 a.m. n recent days, as it has become increasingly clear that Islamic terrorist Osama bin Laden is behind the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, former president Bill Clinton has made a series of public statements claiming his administration came close to killing bin Laden during a cruise-missile raid in 1998. Touring the rubble of lower Manhattan on September 13, Clinton said, "The best shot we had at him was when I bombed his training camps in 1998. We just missed him by a matter of hours, maybe even less than an hour." A few days later, on NBC, Clinton said, "We had quite good intelligence that he and his top lieutenants would be in his training camp. So I ordered the cruise-missile attacks, and we didn't tell anybody, including the Pakistanis, whose airspace we had to travel over, until the last minute. And unfortunately we missed them, apparently not by very long....We never had another chance where the intelligence was as reliable to justify military action." The former president's statements left the impression that he was hot on the trail of bin Laden and came excruciatingly close to killing him. But one of Clinton's top military commanders, who was deeply involved in the Afghanistan operation, has a different recollection. In an interview with National Review Online, retired general Anthony Zinni, commander of U.S. forces in the region at the time, described the 1998 cruise-missile raid as a "million-to-one-shot." "There was a possibility [bin Laden] could have been there," Zinni recalls. "My intelligence people did not put a lot of faith in that....As I was given this mission to do, I did not see that anyone had any degree of assurance or reliability that that was going to happen." Still, Zinni defends the decision to strike. "In weighing that out, without great intelligence, it's a million-to-one shot," he says. "Should you take it? Yes. You might get something, but in the absence of that, you can send [bin Laden] a message, maybe cause him to go off balance and set him back a little bit." In the past, Clinton's critics assailed the Afghanistan raid — plus another attack on a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan — as ineffective maneuvers whose main value was as a "Wag the Dog" diversion from the Monica Lewinsky scandal. (Clinton ordered the attacks at the height of the scandal, three days after testifying before independent counsel Kenneth Starr's grand jury.) Now, whatever Clinton's motivation, George W. Bush has made it clear he sees the action as a model of how not to strike back at terrorism. "When I take action, I'm not going to fire a $2 million missile at a $10 empty tent and hit a camel in the butt," Bush reportedly told a group of senators. "It's going to be decisive."
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