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. geen

    WOW...concern about killing 300 innocent civilians coming from the president of a country which has, by his orders, done it so often that they renamed the incidents "COLLATERAL DAMAGE" instead of calling what it is...outright and preplanned murder of indigenous populations...remember, there was only ONE country which dropped nuclear bombs on a civilian population: not satisfied to do it once, they did it again a week later..200,000 died..collateral damage? hm...anyone remember Vietnam? routinely B-52's from 35,000 feet dropped bombs on civilians (By the way, regardless of what these moron's say, there is simply no way to pinpoint where CARPET BOMBING, WITH NAPALM IS NOT GOING TO KILL CIVILIANS...guess my question to Bill, slug that he is, would be: Since when did you, who order the bombing of Bosnia, become concerned over bombing civilians..not to mention the Sudan pharmaceutical company..hmm...get a pair, Bill....

    July 31, 2014 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  2. Jack

    What a great President! Your thoughts?

    July 31, 2014 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  3. Jack

    What a great man, and President! Your thoughts?

    July 31, 2014 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  4. KC Yankee

    Here we go! Give us your 20/20 hindsight, America! Let it out . . .

    July 31, 2014 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  5. slyfielj

    Damned if you do damned if you don't. You just can't win.

    July 31, 2014 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  6. Ed

    Bah. That's right down there with those dweebs who gas on about how they almost died in the 9/11 attacks but missed their flight.

    July 31, 2014 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    For a guy that deregulated so much to create a mess while playing with his cigar, he sure has nerve

    July 31, 2014 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  8. Name

    300 innocent woman and children? So 300 innocent men would have been alright to kill?

    July 31, 2014 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  9. joecalbear

    Why didn't you do it, Bill? The Israelis would.

    July 31, 2014 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  10. Sheriff Callie

    One paragraph, seven references to "I." Can't spell narcissism without an I.

    July 31, 2014 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  11. FX

    That was a huge missed opportunity. Had 300 or so people died then, hundreds of thousands would be alive today by not going into Afghanistan and Iraq, and destabilizing the Middle East and so on.

    July 31, 2014 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  12. ja

    Why the hell didn't you, he was a nuisance then, you dragged your feet otherwise, i could have been president, or king or emperor

    July 31, 2014 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  13. TC

    Clinton is an idiot.

    July 31, 2014 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  14. Miguel

    Could have killed Bin Laden except he was chasing fat interns...

    July 31, 2014 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    Instead of bombing the place can't he just send in special forces. Isn't that what special forces are trained to do?

    July 31, 2014 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  16. meowmix

    Oh, I'm sure Hilary was thinking the same thing when you've allowed Monica to give you the special President's salute.

    July 31, 2014 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  17. Rien

    Instead of bombing the place can't he send in special forces. Isn't that what they are trained to do? Why the hell is the US government spending so much money in special operations if they won't utilize them? More than 2,000 americans might be alive today if he just send in the SEALs or Delta Force.

    July 31, 2014 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  18. John Rhinehart

    Smart move sllick willie, how many have died in WTC/IRAQ/AFGHANISTAN, nice trade i'd say.

    July 31, 2014 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  19. Traci Gilmartin

    "and then I would have been no better than him."

    And that, my good friends, is what separates a leader from a terrorist, compassion from contempt, the civilized world from the barbaric.

    To extend a similar comparison, that of the death penalty. While I am pro-death penalty where the guilt of the condemned is not in question... let us consider the most recent examples in which the death penalty took an abnormally long time to bring about. While it is easy for some to simply brush off the fact that a man languished for two hours before dying as simply deserving of it anyway... that his victims had to suffer and that so should he... that then makes you no better than the murderer themselves. It is the resisting of turning to barbarism, retribution, etc... that makes us civilized and compassionate. For without such traits and emotions we would never be any better than those we condemn and simply a mockery of everything we claim to stand for.

    As The Comedian so aptly put it in the graphic novel and film 'Watchmen".... "Once you realize what a joke everything is being The Comedian is the only thing that makes sense."

    Are we to allow ourselves to become that, a parody of what we should be? As for me I know where I will stand on civility and barbarism, to quote another... "Even in the face of Armageddon I shall not compromise in this."

    July 31, 2014 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  20. gregladen

    I'm pretty sure this was already known.

    July 31, 2014 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    Could have, should have, would have. Didn't

    July 31, 2014 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  22. american i no i'm better then you

    We should act moore often 300 evil souls that will spend iternaty in hellis not worth 1 american life

    July 31, 2014 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  23. phillip barker

    Aw! What a guy! So 3,000+ get killed on 9/11 because he can't organize precision strike .

    July 31, 2014 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    He should have did it. Those are the tough decisions that GOOD presidents are supposed to make. And I am sure those women and children knew he was there and were benefitting from his money.

    July 31, 2014 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  25. Steve

    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.

    Good job Clinton..how was our collateral damage?

    July 31, 2014 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
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