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. TruthandConsequence

    This reminds us that 9/11 is an event connected to the early years of the Clinton Administration, the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 and the arrest and conviction of the blind sheik who remains in a U.S prison. With Clinton's reprisal raids on Al Qaeda in the aftermath of the embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam and the length of preparation for the renewed attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11, these events were born in the Clinton Administration and not in the Bush Administration. I sometimes wonder what kind of tenure Bush would have had without having to respond to 9/11. The dot.com boom begun in the early daddy Bush years ran its course in the Clinton years and was bust before Clinton left office. Except for 9/11 and his need to respond to it and further threats against the U.S., I expect the economy would have been at the center of Bush's focus .

    July 31, 2014 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  2. Gurgyl

    -could be true, but Obama killed while Bush hid him in Pakistan, gave 30 billion dollars yearly.

    July 31, 2014 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  3. tron777

    He spared a few Afghans and was rewarded by being responsible for 3000 dead Americans.

    July 31, 2014 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  4. m

    poor Bill...he's old and nuts!

    July 31, 2014 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  5. lonelymoderate

    In retrospect, many more innocent lives would have been saved later than would have been killed in that strike. Thjat is the lesson learned. Israel has apparently learned that lesson where I fear the people in power in the US have not.

    July 31, 2014 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    So, instead of 300 lives over there, you spent thousands of lives over here. Gee, thanks.

    July 31, 2014 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  7. Dragon

    No better proof then he was a coward and twin towers was his fault. Had he done his job instead of waiting for Monica to do hers no two towers no gulf war no Afghan or Iraq. All because of a coward president.

    July 31, 2014 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  8. docdeb27

    Because unlike Bush, he IS better than the terrorists and would not kill innocents.

    July 31, 2014 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  9. mdl

    now 3,000 US citizens are dead because you hesitated in order not to look bad.

    July 31, 2014 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  10. Hmama Hamada

    President Clinton does not kill Osama Bin Laden to save 300 women and children that 3000 men women and children paid for at 911 for this action. I wonder how many of those 300 women and children that he saved are terrorist now.
    To eliminate a major threat to killing of Americans especially in America is the number one job of the President of the USA.

    July 31, 2014 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  11. AZ Resident

    It's very interesting the choices we make and the ripple effects afterwards. "what if" scenarios come to my mind.

    He made the right decision back then though.

    July 31, 2014 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  12. NameGeorge.Bobb.

    I always had an admiration for Bill Clinton.Clean cut,and neatlly attire with smart suits*apart fromn that I found him to be one of the most liked President.Honest,and has a concern for poorer people of other Nations like Haiti. Ashe.

    July 31, 2014 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  13. Peace

    Well, he always was a worthless wor monger, just like his Bush buddies.

    July 31, 2014 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    What I want to know is why "Dubya" could NOT kill him. 8 years, 2 wars, thousands of Americans killed, trillions of dollars and no scalp. C'mon. Barry takes him out in what 2.5 years with a dozen frogmen?

    July 31, 2014 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  15. Dan

    What I want to know is why "Dubya" could NOT kill him. 8 years, 2 wars, thousands of Americans killed, trillions of dollars and no scalp. C'mon. Barry takes him out in what 2.5 years with a dozen frogmen?

    July 31, 2014 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  16. James

    Ironic. I don't think I would have made that decision either, as 300 people's lives is kind of a big deal. But I know that we killed way more than 300 innocent people in Afghanistan after 9/11. No good answers to this one.

    July 31, 2014 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  17. Tom

    Saved 300 of them...so they killed 3000 of us. Sleep well, Bill.

    July 31, 2014 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  18. Jim McDonald

    This can't be true. Liberals have been telling me for years 9/11 was 100% Bush's fault.

    July 31, 2014 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  19. your neighbor

    The Divine Image

    To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
    All pray in their distress;
    And to these virtues of delight
    Return their thankfulness.

    For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
    Is God, our father dear,
    And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
    Is Man, his child and care.

    For Mercy has a human heart,
    Pity a human face,
    And Love, the human form divine,
    And Peace, the human dress.

    Then every man, of every clime,
    That prays in his distress,
    Prays to the human form divine,
    Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

    And all must love the human form,
    In heathen, Turk, or Jew;
    Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
    There God is dwelling too.

    July 31, 2014 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  20. cents_of_humur

    Dress... Robe... whatever right.. killed it on something. At least one brought a smile, good for you.

    July 31, 2014 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  21. Triumph1

    Well Bill, you've got a lot of blood on your hands, including some from my loved ones.

    July 31, 2014 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  22. SUQdis

    killing from a distance doesn't count. that's when collateral damage becomes a concern factor (thank you Israel… *unts). if you really wanna kill, do it up close and personal. how much do you want it? with hindsight, Bin Laden and his top planners should have been priority 1. if they had been priority 1, I think the combined resources of USA and allies could have squashed him like a bug.

    however, to put it in perspective, how many died in Rwanda/Burundi? and the world pretty much did F all...

    July 31, 2014 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  23. Eardley Ham Woodbury, MN

    Well, you grandstanding jackwagon, you could've but didn't. That means that your irresponsible decision led directly to the deaths of over 3000 innocent people on 9/11.

    July 31, 2014 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    How Dare You! Osama was already dead you lying sack of ....! How many lies do we have to swallow before we stop believing theswe pathetic stooges.

    July 31, 2014 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  25. sam

    Ahhh...once again Wild Bill's memory seems amazingly self stroking. I guess he just forgot that Bin Laden was offerred to him on a platter and he turned it down.

    July 31, 2014 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
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