July 31st, 2014
06:56 PM ET
9 years 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.

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"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. Harry

    "I could have killed Bin Laden (but I was getting my pipes cleaned at the time)."

    August 1, 2014 04:07 am at 4:07 am |
  2. HM8432

    3000 dead Americans wish Clinton would have killed bin Laden too!

    August 1, 2014 04:08 am at 4:08 am |
  3. Kris Wood

    Apparently "lesson learned".

    August 1, 2014 04:11 am at 4:11 am |
  4. Jimmy Bean

    Bin Laden was dead long before May 2011

    August 1, 2014 04:17 am at 4:17 am |
  5. scott

    'I would have been no better than him'? How about Israel killing innocent people and the USA supplying them with weapons? Yes we are no better then them. just only if we can get away it?. like bush getting away with his lies.

    August 1, 2014 04:27 am at 4:27 am |
  6. Doctor Fine

    That's the problem with Good Versus Evil: You have to give an evil person the rope to hang themselves-you have to un-mask their evil BEFORE getting society's anger against their deeds aroused.

    FDR had to wait for Pearl Harbor before the American People were aroused enough to dig through the huge undertaking of World War II. What will it take for Americans to become aroused at all the gangsters within and without her borders in the MODERN world?

    While we relaxed and practiced Kum-Bay-Yah our enemies took up guns and knives against us. And took up financial and legal procedures to strip of our prosperity and take it for themselves...

    Gangster Outlaws and Evil people are no JOKE my fellow Americans-time to separate the wheat from the chaff and start kicking some butts... No?

    August 1, 2014 04:27 am at 4:27 am |
  7. mbaron1949

    Interesting take: the idea that had Clinton gone through with killing bin Laden, there'd have been "collateral damage" of "300 innocent women and children, and then I would have been no better than him. And so I didn’t do it.”
    Seems the American public gave Truman a pass for the approximately 200,000 innocent lives lost at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945. Did Truman “do no better,” and perhaps even much worse, than Hirohito?

    August 1, 2014 04:28 am at 4:28 am |
  8. Xib


    August 1, 2014 04:31 am at 4:31 am |
  9. mbaron1949

    Interesting take, that had Clinton gone ahead and killed bin Laden, he'd have "killed 300 innocent women and children, and then I would have been no better than him. And so I didn’t do it.”
    Seems the American public gave Truman a pass in August 1945 when about 200,000 innocent lives were killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Was Truman no better, and perhaps much worse, than Hirohito?

    August 1, 2014 04:32 am at 4:32 am |
  10. Steven

    This is really old news. He's been on record. Why is CNN posting 14 year old news.

    August 1, 2014 04:34 am at 4:34 am |
  11. MikeBronx

    Well, the nanny that took care of Hitler though about suffocating him while he was an infant, then again, history could have been so different ..... maybe.

    August 1, 2014 04:38 am at 4:38 am |
  12. mona19595

    Should have taken him out with the Navy Seals on the hunt, Kandahar would have been safe

    August 1, 2014 04:44 am at 4:44 am |
  13. Anonymous

    I could have killed Bin Laden too, but then I took an arrow to the knee

    August 1, 2014 04:48 am at 4:48 am |
  14. Anon

    But you didn't

    August 1, 2014 04:49 am at 4:49 am |
  15. Adam

    Morality has no place in politics. It is a President's job to protect his people. I'm sure Clinton regrets not taking the shot.

    August 1, 2014 05:00 am at 5:00 am |
  16. Anonymous

    But you didn't..

    August 1, 2014 05:05 am at 5:05 am |
  17. lou

    Only, you didn't....

    August 1, 2014 05:06 am at 5:06 am |
  18. Tom

    We know that sad story and no one gives a F.

    August 1, 2014 05:31 am at 5:31 am |
  19. Harleigh Kiffer

    But when you are 2 busy with an intern and other women who has time to care about terrorism.

    August 1, 2014 05:31 am at 5:31 am |
  20. Anonymous

    I thought he did that ,killed Osama Bin Laden during those last days of his presidency. Oh well maybe I am wrong?

    August 1, 2014 05:33 am at 5:33 am |
  21. Shirin Qadir

    I thought he did that already, killed Osama Bin Laden ,during those last days of his presidency....and Abbottabad operation was just a drama ...Oh well maybe I was wrong?

    August 1, 2014 05:39 am at 5:39 am |
  22. uninpressed

    Keep in mind, Mr. Clinton had other issues(relations) on his plate.

    August 1, 2014 05:40 am at 5:40 am |
  23. Bridget Adraku.

    Excellent you are proving the world you have so could be more proactive not reactive.
    Last month we cultural differences in terms of fast and you did partake.
    Next is our atomic exhibitions when the world leaders are one. Unless they observe our ambitions and UN's consesus.
    Your care, our concern.

    August 1, 2014 05:48 am at 5:48 am |
  24. Jeremy Stevens

    I see.....but can we still blame 9/11 on Bush? Surely his 7 months at the wheel trumps this monumental lack of judgment, right?

    August 1, 2014 05:50 am at 5:50 am |
  25. ireuel

    How ironic.

    August 1, 2014 05:59 am at 5:59 am |
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