In case you missed it, there has been a public war going on between former President Bill Clinton and Former Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney has been very critical of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton especially about their handling of Iraq. To counter the criticism, Bubba told David Gregory, “If they hadn’t gone to war in Iraq none of this would be happening” and that the Obama administration was cleaning up Dick Cheney’s mess.
The former President has conveniently forgotten that (1) he supported the Iraq war and (2) the Bush Administration might never had gone into the Middle East if Clinton had authorized the CIA to kill bin Laden when they had him in their sights in 1999.
In 2003 Bill Clinton said he supported the Iraq war even though there was a 50-50 chance he could be wrong.
Clinton, who was interviewed Thursday, said he did not believe that Bush went to war in Iraq over oil or for imperialist reasons but out of a genuine belief that large quantities of weapons of mass destruction remained unaccounted for.
Noting that Bush had to be “reeling” in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, Clinton said Bush’s first priority was to keep al Qaeda and other terrorist networks from obtaining “chemical and biological weapons or small amounts of fissile material
“That’s why I supported the Iraq thing. There was a lot of stuff unaccounted for,” Clinton said in reference to Iraq and the fact that U.N. weapons inspectors left the country in 1998.
“So I thought the president had an absolute responsibility to go to the U.N. and say, ‘Look, guys, after 9/11, you have got to demand that Saddam Hussein lets us finish the inspection process.’ You couldn’t responsibly ignore [the possibility that] a tyrant had these stocks,” Clinton said.
But would the Iraq war have happened if Bush wasn’t “reeling” in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, as Clinton stated? According to the former head of the CIA bin Laden unit, Michael Scheuer, Clinton had three legitimate opportunities to kill bin Laden during his second term.
Scheuer went on CBS’s Early Show and had this exchange with Harry Smith:
Smith: Let’s talk about what President Clinton had to say on Fox yesterday. He basically laid blame at the feet of the CIA and the FBI for not being able to certify or verify that Osama bin Laden was responsible for a number of different attacks. Does that ring true to you?
Scheuer: No, sir, I don’t think so. The president seems to be able, the former president seems to be able to deny facts with impugnity. Bin Laden is alive today because Mr. Clinton, Mr. Sandy Berger, and Mr. Richard Clarke refused to kill him. That’s the bottom line. And every time he says what he said to Chris Wallace on Fox, he defames the CIA especially, and the men and women who risk their lives to give his administration repeated chances to kill bin Laden.
And on Fox News Sunday, he told Chris Wallace:
Scheuer: Mr. Wallace, my opinion is not all that important. I went to a little Jesuit school in Buffalo called Canicius, and the priests taught us never to lie, but if you had to lie, never lie about facts. Mr. Richard Clarke, Mr. Sandy Berger, President Clinton are lying about the opportunities they had to kill Osama bin Laden. That’s the plain truth, the exact truth.
Men and women at the CIA risked their lives to provide occasions to kill a man we knew had declared war and had attacked America four or five times before 1998. We had plans that had been approved by the Joint Operations Command at Fort Bragg. We had opportunities, many opportunities to kill him.
But that’s the president’s decision. That’s absolutely the case. It’s not a simple, dumb bureaucrat like me; that’s not my decision. It’s his. But for him to get on the television and say to the American people he did all he could is a flat lie, sir.
NBC News confirmed that the U.S. could have captured or killed bin Laden in 1998/99. And Hank Crumpton, former Deputy Director of the CIA’S Counter-Terrorism Center told “60 minutes” the CIA could have gotten bin Laden:
Crumpton: We saw a security detail, a convoy and we saw bin Laden exit the vehicle.
Lara Logan: Clearly?
Crumpton: Clearly. And we had– the optics were spot on. It was beaming back to us, CIA headquarters. We immediately alerted the White House. And the Clinton administration’s response was, “Well, it will take several hours for the TLAMs, the cruise missiles launched from submarines, to reach that objective. So you need to tell us where bin Laden will be five or six hours from now.” The frustration was enormous.
It’s easy to understand that the former President would want to protect and defend his wife. But if his wife wants to be the 45th President perhaps she should learn to defend herself. Or if he insists on defending Hillary, Bubba should remember his role in the support of and buildup to the Iraq war.
Cross-posted at The Lid