Tape Reveals Bill Clinton Bragging on 9/10/11: ‘I Could Have Killed’ bin Laden

‘I could have killed him’

Bill Clinton, September 10, 2001: I could have killed Bin Laden once but called it off because of civilian casualties (HotAir)

A time capsule from Australia via MSNBC, captured for posterity at what would have been around 11 p.m. New York time. The hijackers may have been ritually shaving themselves as he said it. Previewing the audio, the host says Clinton “almost brags” about his decision. Of course he does; at the time, it would have been a no-brainer for a politician to congratulate himself for sparing a terrorist in the name of also sparing dozens (or, if you believe Clinton, hundreds) of civilians, even if that terrorist was responsible for the U.S.S. Cole attack. Twenty-four hours later, I guarantee you he wasn’t bragging anymore. In fact, you can draw a straight line from this audio to America’s drone policy today. These 20 seconds or so are precisely why Obama ended up pulling the trigger on Anwar al-Awlaki and why he continues to pull the trigger on Al Qaeda’s bigger fish even if it means incinerating civilians in Waziristan or Yemen in the process. He’s never going to let a statement like this come back to haunt him. Post-9/11, when you’ve got a big fish on the hook, you reel him in come what may. A presidency can survive anger from doves and civil libertarians that the White House was overly aggressive in targeting jihadis. It can’t survive having skyscrapers knocked over by someone who, you’re sheepishly forced to admit, you had a clear shot at killing years before. By the same token, if the FBI had announced on the morning of 9/11 that they’d busted a spectacular Al Qaeda plot to fly planes into the Twin Towers, plenty of people would have chortled that that’s the most ludicrous, Michael Bay-ish nonsense yet cooked up by a government eager to find pretexts to roll back civil liberties. There’s a reason why the term “September 10th mentality” exists, and Bill Clinton’s not the only one who was guilty of it.

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