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. Malory Archer

    Isn't it ironic that those who rail against President Obama's use of drones to take out terrorists because of civilian casualties are the SAME individuals who are now wailing about President Clinton's decision to NOT wipe out an entire village and its inhabitants? Oh wait... that's not ironic – it's hypocritical as hell.

    August 1, 2014 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  2. Courtney

    Does anyone else find it troubling that he brought this up the day before 9/11? It makes you wonder if he knew something devastating would happen the next day.

    August 1, 2014 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  3. P.Y. Lemon-jello

    Well said President Clinton. You and President Obama "git ur dun."

    August 1, 2014 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  4. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair

    "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."
    Thanks, Bubba. Thanks heaps.
    I am thankful for his decision, too. The optics on it would have looked really bad. United States launches sneak attack into sovereign nation that kills dozens of civilians would have played in one of two disastrous ways. An air strike would have probably meant that there would be no means to verify the objective. A ground assault has its' own set of logistical problems, the least of which is the operation being called an invasion.

    Besides, he did a lot better than George W. Bush. "Heh, heh. I don't know where he is. Heh, heh." And then he proceeded to invade a sovereign nation that nothing to do with either 9/11, Bin Laden, or WMDs.

    August 1, 2014 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  5. yolanda

    Hey, @Joey, yeah I guess he was just a figurehead, huh? Then why did Obama kill the old guy (10 years later) if he wasn't important...you can't have it both ways.

    August 1, 2014 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  6. jaclyn1973

    And Gore created the internet...What a crock.

    August 1, 2014 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  7. AmericansRights

    Was too busy with Monica

    August 1, 2014 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  8. Phillp Bunn

    Bill Clinton said, " Hey diddle-diddle, the cat and the fiddle, "I" could have jumped over the moon: Bill "First Person" Clinton: "I could have done; I could have done; I could have done"; but instead: " I stayed behind for BJ."

    August 1, 2014 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  9. Rick M.

    Bush was handed all the intel he needed to thwart 9/11 and sat on his hands. Then sank the country economically, with his unilateral decision to invade/attack a country with no provocation, thus killing far too many military people. Who benefited? Haliburton and Chaney's cronies, reaping oil profits.

    August 1, 2014 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  10. Chris..E.Al

    Ive have told you leftist rebels 1000times B.C lead from behind behind ? hmmm

    August 1, 2014 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  11. Johnson

    That makes it official

    Clinton is mostly to blame for 9/11.

    August 1, 2014 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  12. GihadJoe

    So it's ok to keep blaming Bill, but not Bush? Ok silly hypocrites, I got you! Heck lets just blame Reagan, the 1st Bush, and the CIA for turning Bin Laden into the monster that he was.

    August 1, 2014 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  13. Kflann

    Could'a, would'a, should'a, can't wait for Hillary to be president, to here her excuses for failure.

    August 1, 2014 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  14. Ed D

    Clinton said he could have, Bush had tried for most of his presidency with a war, then Obama got it done! So who does the credit go to?

    August 1, 2014 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  15. JB

    This story is so old, it should be called "olds" not news. It came out in 2002.

    August 1, 2014 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  16. TomGI

    "‘I could have killed’ Osama bin Laden"

    Such a superhero. By the way, how's Energizer doing?

    August 1, 2014 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  17. Old_Hippie

    Everyone is reacting in hindsight. No one knew that 9/11 was going to happen or that it was even in the planning stages. From what I have read, Bin Laden was not the designer of the attack, he just approved the plan. So, you far right political goons have no qualms about killing 300 or more innocents to get to the man you are after. Nice, real nice, thank you for confirming my decision to turn left in my life.

    August 1, 2014 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  18. KDan

    Its hard to believe that with the technology available at that time that they could't find a way to smoke bin laden while minimizing collateral damage. Indecision from another Commander In Chief, this is becoming a familiar thing. Anyway instead of 300 of them it was thousands of us but that must be OK because we are a generous nation and would gladly save others at the expense of our own.

    August 1, 2014 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  19. bodie

    and the Monday morning quarterbacks are in mid-season form already...

    August 1, 2014 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  20. WeKnowAlready

    We know this already! However, the socialist left kept saying this wasn't true....now we have the admission directly from the horses ass so to speak.

    August 1, 2014 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  21. Uh-Clem

    It's really evident from many of the posts here that people can't distinguish the difference between hindsight and wisdom. But, in the end, they are always right

    August 1, 2014 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  22. Mr

    Except he was too busy chasing interns around the White House.

    August 1, 2014 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  23. YC

    And your wife could have saved the Americans in Benghazi.

    August 1, 2014 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  24. blvicente

    All you Bush-bashing lemmings wanting to blame 9-11 on GWB: There you have it. Clinton knew Bin Laden wanted to harm the US, and he traded 3,000 American lives for 300 in Kandahar.

    August 1, 2014 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  25. Andy

    And because you did not kill him Bill, the plans for 9/11 came to fruition

    August 1, 2014 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
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