July 31st, 2014
06:56 PM ET
2 months ago

Bill Clinton: ‘I nearly got’ Osama bin Laden

Washington (CNN) - Bill Clinton, just hours before planes crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, reportedly told an audience in Australia that he almost killed Osama bin Laden during his presidency.

Speaking to a group of businessmen in Australia on September 10, 2001, according to audio aired by SkyNews Australia on Wednesday, Clinton said that he "nearly got" the al Qaeda leader but didn't go through with a missile attack because of the collateral damage that would have come from it.

"He [Osama bin Laden] is a very smart guy, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about him – and I nearly got him once," Clinton said. "I nearly got him. And I could have killed him, but I would have to destroy a little town called Kandahar in Afghanistan and kill 300 innocent women and children, and then I would have been no better than him. And so I didn’t do it.”

The tape, which was provided to SkyNews by Michael Kroger, a former head of the Liberal Party of Australia, aired on the networks show "Paul Murray Live."

According to Kroger, who appears on the show, the Clinton remarks came from a meeting the former president had with 30 businessmen and women at Crown Casino Complex in Melbourne.

"The event was taped with his knowledge," Kroger says on the show. "The tape has never been played. … Bill Clinton was answering a question from a member of the audience about terrorism, international terrorism and he made some extraordinary remarks which had hitherto remained in my vault."

A number of books and the 9/11 Commission Report have acknowledged that the Clinton administration considered a December 1998 strike on bin Laden but scrapped the plan over possible collateral damage.

Bin Laden would infamously go on to be the mastermind behind the September 11 attacks that killed 2,977 people. After going into hiding for years, bin Laden was killed on May 2, 2011 by U.S. Special Forces during an early morning raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan.


Filed under: Australia • Bill Clinton • Osama bin Laden
soundoff (561 Responses)
  1. walkadee

    Obama has no problem killing innocent civilians.. Even if they're Americans

    July 31, 2014 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  2. Mark

    Then why didn't you, Billy Boy? The game is always easier to play from the stands, isn't it?

    July 31, 2014 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  3. freedomofspeechimamerican

    But you didn't and you backed off because you put it on the back burner you were not qualified
    all those college days in a ivy league school haven't taught you your not even half the president Obama is !
    You sucked up to the Israeli's and they owned you, we need a American who will stand up for American's
    Vote for Elizabeth Warren – Ready for Warren 2016

    July 31, 2014 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  4. Keith

    "He [Osama bin Laden] is a very smart guy, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about him – and I nearly got him once," Clinton said. "I nearly got him. And I could have killed him, but I would have to destroy a little town called Kandahar in Afghanistan and kill 300 innocent women and children, and then I would have been no better than him. And so I didn’t do it.”

    Fair trade-off. Spare 300 foreign women and children at the expense of 4000 American lives and their family's happiness. Dirt bag democrats..

    July 31, 2014 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  5. Chris

    I am not sure what the implication is supposed to be . There is nothing wrong with the fact that Clinton didn't choose to bomb an entire town to get someone who was not even on the average American's radar at the time. This is like playing the "what-if" game about killing Hitler in the early 1930s.

    July 31, 2014 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    Could of, should of, would of.

    Uh, huh. Hindsight really IS better than foresight.

    If Clinton had REALLY wanted to finish off bin Laden, his "people" should have come up with a better plan than wiping out a whole town. So why didn't they?

    July 31, 2014 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  7. freedomofspeechimamerican

    Bill you backed off when they had Bin Laden in a fortress years before 911 after the Cole was hit, we all watched it you backed off we need a American who will stick up for Americans that's why I'm ready for Elizabeth Warren in 2016.
    Should of could of one things for sure you will never be the president that president Obama has been.
    I'm ready for Elizabeth Warren in 2016, middle class presidents will save America the rich will sell out America
    and build their fortunes !

    July 31, 2014 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  8. bmike

    Like you Bill but that hindsight..let's move on.

    July 31, 2014 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  9. Duke

    He could have, would have, should have. He should be embarrassed, but he brags about it.

    July 31, 2014 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    Once a politician always a politician. What BS, he was worried about collateral damage. Say that to the lives lost on 911. He didn't give the order because just like those who followed him used Bin Laden as a means to bring fear to US citizens and pocket our tax dollars with contracts and weapon sales to Pakistan

    July 31, 2014 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  11. Jim

    Move forward 16 years and now we have his wife and another loser in the white house placing the muslim brotherhood in gov't...when you don't learn from history, it's destined to be repeated...I'm guessing the next attack will be far worse than 9/11...

    July 31, 2014 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    why not credit the one in charge of that attack

    July 31, 2014 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  13. Marshall

    Kandahar is a province, not a town, Bill.

    July 31, 2014 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  14. Marshall

    Kandahar is also a city of over 400,000...either way, not a little town.

    July 31, 2014 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  15. Fred

    "I could have killed him, but was too busy enjoying my girlfriend, Monica, playing tonsil hockey with me!"
    -Billy Clinton

    July 31, 2014 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  16. JJ

    Mr. President, Khandahar might be a little town by DC standards, but there are about a half million people there.

    July 31, 2014 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  17. bmurdoc

    Well, in retrospect that was a pretty bad call, huh Bill?

    July 31, 2014 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  18. Sarah

    Just another way Clinton failed this country.

    July 31, 2014 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  19. fdisafskmsd

    He should have done it. 3000 Americans were worth more than 300 Afghans easily.

    July 31, 2014 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  20. Jeff Brown

    Clinton let OBL get away more than once. On this issue, 300 innocent lives versus hundreds of thousands of deaths resulting from the incidents of 9/11....not a good in hindsight

    July 31, 2014 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  21. Joe barnathan

    Thank you cnn for this article it shows the world terrorist in in Pakistan or Gaza must be killed even at the cost of innocent lives...BTW I seriously doubt that the us military could not use a smaller weapon and only kill in the Immediate area of Osama. So 300 people wouldn't die..

    July 31, 2014 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  22. Miguel

    Being the president can be overpowering. I would have done the same thing as Clinton did. At that time 9-11 hadn't occurred and 300 people , including children is traumatizing to have to push the button. But I wonder how many peoples opinions would change if this happened AFTER 9-11............................

    July 31, 2014 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    He Killed 10X more

    July 31, 2014 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  24. Cassius Ahenobarbus

    "I would have been no better than him." Translation, "The safety and security of American citizens was at risk, but my narcism required me to filter this information in terms related to, well, me, and, therefore, I decided that I was better than him and failed to take the action necessary to eliminate the risk to American citizens, leading to cataclysmic consequences at home and abroad."

    July 31, 2014 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  25. Solomon

    He Killed 10X more

    July 31, 2014 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
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