Tuesday, June 24, 2003
AP has a story on the wires that the CIA may have spotted bin Laden from Predator drones in late 2000 and early 2001, but no order was given to kill the man.

Before the usual suspects jump on the "Bush blew it!" bandwagon, let's get a few things straight from the beginning:

  • Bush did not take office until March January 2001.
  • By 2001, the WTC massacre was already planned and financed.
  • Killing bin Laden would require firing into a sovereign nation without a declaration of war. That would be a violation of that precious International Law™, which must never, ever be violated, heaven forfend.
  • There was disagreement over whether the man seen was actually bin Laden. It's not as if Afghanistan had a shortage of turbaned guys with beards, or Japanese trucks.
  • Bin Laden was never convicted in any American court, much less an international court. No UN resolution was in place, authorizing his killing. This would have made his removal an unsanctioned unilateral American act of violence and an extrajudicial killing, both of which, of course, are very very bad because they delay the coming of the messiah the advent of World Peace™.
  • Innocent people (innocent brown Muslim people!) would likely have died along with bin Laden -- also unacceptable under any circumstances.
  • Al-Qaeda was more than just one millionaire. Bin Laden's death would certainly be damaging, but not a crippling blow to the network.
Which brings me to this:
  • If Bush had given the order, and the missiles were fired, and bin Laden was turned into small chunks; and if, in all likelihood, the WTC and Pentagon massacres were still carried out, how many of his current detractors would be out there yelling how we deserved it, how it was all our fault for killing al-Qaeda's "spiritual leader," how this was just an arrogant attempt at bullying by the Boy President who put us all in danger with his arrogant disregard for the feelings of humiliated Muslims and the complexities of international norms?
Call me a cynic, but somehow I doubt that, had Bush made an effort to kill bin Laden prior to 9/11, he'd be given credit for any foresight. I doubt even Clinton could talk his way out of that one.

Update: Geoff Grasshoppa Meltzner fact-checked my [statements], and pointed out an obvious howler: Bush was inaugurated as President on January 20, 2001, as is customary. I meant to say that Bush's team wasn't fully in place until March 2001, but Bush himself was in the White House well before then. Apologies for the error; the rest of my point stands, though.

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