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. Tennessee3501

    Former President Bill Clinton: "I could have killed Bin Laden, but it would have made the anti-death penalty liberals mad at me. Besides, Monica was waiting for me in the Oval Office!"

    August 1, 2014 01:10 am at 1:10 am |
  2. MMECitizen

    then why didn't you, Mr. C?

    August 1, 2014 01:11 am at 1:11 am |
  3. Getoverit

    Nooooo! Come on, Bill, you're ruining the liberal "Bush's fault" narrative.

    August 1, 2014 01:11 am at 1:11 am |
  4. Umpire Sam

    Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it, who to disobey were against all proportion of subjection.

    should have killed him !

    how many others in Afganistan would have not been killed since and might have saved the USA 2 trillion dollars

    August 1, 2014 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
  5. Sal

    But you didn't.

    August 1, 2014 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
  6. Jernonimo Jones

    Well at least I don't give a shit one way or the other #canada

    August 1, 2014 01:20 am at 1:20 am |
  7. Kirk

    I don't think 9/11 was done by Bin Laden.

    August 1, 2014 01:25 am at 1:25 am |
  8. benji

    He made the right decision.

    August 1, 2014 01:34 am at 1:34 am |
  9. Imjesayin

    So what? He wasn't President on 9/11. Guess what moron was President and ignored a memo entitled, "Bin Laden determined to strike inside United States"? The same moron who was pretending he could read a children's book while 3,000 people were killed.

    August 1, 2014 01:40 am at 1:40 am |
  10. david

    You are a good man, Clinton. Unlike G.W.

    August 1, 2014 01:40 am at 1:40 am |
  11. Dan

    You failed to explain why this matters at all.

    August 1, 2014 01:40 am at 1:40 am |
  12. Name A poet of the Community

    So I'd say 9/11 was your fault Clinton

    August 1, 2014 01:43 am at 1:43 am |
  13. Beth

    Coulda woulda shoulda. Your apathy marched us to 9/11. Your time is over so shut up, sit down, be invisible.

    August 1, 2014 01:44 am at 1:44 am |
  14. Hilary

    Little town called Kandahar? It's the second largest city in Afghanistan.

    August 1, 2014 01:45 am at 1:45 am |
  15. Wes

    President Bush inherited bin laden. clinton is a disaster.

    August 1, 2014 01:49 am at 1:49 am |
  16. John ferguson

    Maybe you could of billy, if Monica was blowing the one eyed monster! Maybe you could done more good for this country

    August 1, 2014 01:51 am at 1:51 am |
  17. Nipper

    Would anything have stopped Osama bin Laden's plans for 9/11? I find it laudable that Pres Clinton felt that 300 Afghani lives were so important as to NOTcarry out the mission in order to save Afghani lives..... including that of bin Laden and his henchmen. Who later would take nearly 10 times that many AMERICAN lives.

    August 1, 2014 02:01 am at 2:01 am |
  18. frznagn

    And the history books will forget this ever happened, but will always note that Bush could've killed OBL at Tora Bora and didn't.

    August 1, 2014 02:01 am at 2:01 am |
  19. James

    A very difficult choice he had to make and I would argue he still made the correct one. Hindsight is 20/20, but with no intel on what he may have been planning, to pre-emptively cause that much collateral damage internationally to kill 1 fugitive during peace-time would have been a poor decision. Sadly this is the reality of balancing leadership and morality.

    August 1, 2014 02:05 am at 2:05 am |
  20. res65

    i understand where pres. clinton is coming from and hindsight is better than 20-20.
    most people would have traded 300 in kandahar for the 3000 we lost in the world trade center IF they knew.
    it's a darn tough call either way

    August 1, 2014 02:10 am at 2:10 am |
  21. Swarley

    Woulda, coulda, shoulda.

    August 1, 2014 02:14 am at 2:14 am |
  22. Nash

    This is a perfect example of how ethical people, especially in such a high leadership position with almost all the resources at their disposal, consider taking the right action even if it emerges as a bigger problem in the future with no morals and humanity shown by one's enemies. Mr. Clinton, you made the ethical decision. We lost innocent lives in September 11, 2011 attack and lost many American military members, whose sacrifices are way beyond what we can offer them in return, but that's who we are. That's why America is America, a symbol of freedom and prosperity through the world. I have served in the military and I do believe that you made absolutely right choice to put ethics and American values ahead of everything. Americans do not murder innocent women and children and these terrorists attacking our civilians will not scare us in any ways to deliver justice and freedom for all human beings throughout the world. American military is the global force for GOOD...

    August 1, 2014 02:14 am at 2:14 am |
  23. nik green

    Yes, he COULD. But he DIDN'T, because – according to Sibel Edmonds, the FBI translator/mid east expert, whistleblower and "most legally gagged person in US history" – Osama bin Laden was "working for the US Government, and continued to do so right up until 9/10/2001", when he went missing after receiving kidney dialysis treatment in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. OBL was one of ours, and he was double-crossed by the CIA.

    August 1, 2014 02:19 am at 2:19 am |
  24. Thomas

    Bill Clinton, did try to kill Osama bin Laden and he missed .

    Why didn't the Clinton administration share the imperative intelligence concerning Bin Laden with then incoming president GW Bush ? And why didn't the GW Bush administration understand the severity of Bin Ladin's reach prior 911 ?

    Two arrogant and finger pointing administrations .

    August 1, 2014 02:20 am at 2:20 am |
  25. Nathan Fleischman

    Is it just me, or is Bill Clinton jealous?

    August 1, 2014 02:23 am at 2:23 am |
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