Citing a 2009 Senate report as evidence, two Democrats sought to debunk Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s claim that “any president” would have given the order against terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.
As the first anniversary of bin Laden’s death approaches Wednesday, Robert Weiner, a former Clinton White House spokesman, and Weiner associate Richard Mann say they prove wrong the statements by Romney and other critics of Obama that “any president” would have given the order that launched the raid that killed Osama bin Laden last year.
Weiner and Mann contrast Bush’s 2001 outsourcing a raid on Bin Laden’s 2001 Tora Bora location to the Afghanis who failed — on purpose or through ineptness — to Obama’s U.S. solo action in Abbottabad, Pakistan that succeeded when Obama did not reveal or leak the strategy.
Weiner and Mann say they document their claim with information from a 2009 Senate Foreign Relations Committee report, “TORA BORA REVISITED: HOW WE FAILED TO GET BIN LADEN.”
The Democrats published their argument as a column in the the Naples (Fla.) Daily News.
“When placed in a similar situation with parallel choices, George W. Bush, Obama’s predecessor, failed to succeed because he made the opposite decision,” Weiner and Mann write. “In December 2001, Bush had the chance to capture Bin Laden in Tora Bora, Afghanistan, was faced with the choice of doing it ourselves or involving a foreign government, and asked the Afghanis to do it. Whether by ineptness or intent, the Afghani troops allowed bin Laden to escape.”
Weiner and Mann show how Obama’s approach was totally different: “When Obama was questioned as why he did not inform the Pakistanis in advance about Abbottabad, he said, ‘I didn’t tell most people here in the White House. I didn’t tell my own family. It was that important for us to maintain operational security.’ When asked during the 2006 presidential campaign debates what he would do with ‘actionable intelligence’, he said he would have the United States ‘act unilaterally’ rather than in consort with foreign intelligence if necessary to capture bin Laden. That’s precisely what he did, as the President restated at a White House news conference yesterday.”
Weiner and Mann cite the 2009 Senate Foreign Relations Committee report: “The Committee says its review ‘removes any lingering doubts and makes it clear that Osama bin Laden was within our grasp at Tora Bora.'”
Weiner and Mann note that the Committee chairman at the time expressed the “hope that we can learn from the mistakes of the past.”
“Obama did,” say Weiner and Mann.
Obama recognized that bin Laden’s compound could not exist without local and likely some kind of government cooperation, Weiner and Mann say.
“During the years after the Tora Bora debacle, the Bush administration went even further in the opposite direction from Obama’s later actions. Bush closed the CIA’s unit on bin Laden. In contrast, Obama reprioritized the search for bin Laden. Bush said, ‘I truly am not that concerned about him. I am deeply concerned about Iraq. I really don’t spend that much time on him, to be honest with you.’ Likewise, Governor Romney said he ‘would not move heaven and earth’ to get bin Laden,” the Democrats say.
Further, the pair argue, the notion recently raised by former Bush administration honchos Karl Rove, Condoleezza Rice, and Dick Cheney that Bush deserves a share of the credit for Obama’s bin Laden operation is ridiculous and should be recognized as “sour grapes.”
“Obama’s team had as key players Vice President Joe Biden, a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a former Senate Armed Services Committee member, and their emphasis on using intelligence and special operations over a large military footprint ultimately proved successful. Despite 100,000 troops and another 100,000 contractors, the Taliban actually grew stronger,” Weiner and Mann say. “It was the surgical raid by a small team that defeated the man behind the 9/11 attacks.”
Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.