“Driven out of their strongholds, the remnants of the Taliban and al Qaeda fled to Afghanistan’s rugged eastern border with Pakistan. In early 2002, Tommy Franks mounted a major assault called Operation Anaconda. Out troops, joined by coalition partners and Afghan forces, squeezed out the remaining al Qaeda and Taliban fighters in eastern Afghanistan. CIA officers and Special Forces crawled through the caves, calling in airstrikes on terrorist hideouts and putting a serious dent in al Qaeda’s army.
“I hoped I would get a call with the news that Osama bin Laden was among the dead or captured. We were searching for him constantly and received frequent but conflicting information on his whereabouts. Some reports placed him in Jalalabad. Others had him in Peshawar, or at a lake near Kandahar, or at the Tora Bora cave complex. Our troops pursued every lead. Several times we thought we might have nailed him. But the intelligence never panned out.
“Years later, critics charged that we allowed bin Laden to slip the noose at Tora Bora. I sure didn’t see it that way. I asked our commanders and CIA officials about bin Laden frequently. They were working around the clock to locate him, and they assured me they had the troop levels and resources they needed. If we had known for sure where he was, we would have moved heaven and earth to bring him to justice.”
Those are Bush’s words, and I don’t believe them. And here is why.
At that time we knew that a portion of the Pakistan government was supporting the Taliban and probably still are. We surrounded Tora Bora on the Afghan side and relied on the Pakistanis to block exits from Tora Bora into Pakistan. They allowed bin Laden and much of al-Qaeda to escape. President Obama was able to find and kill bin Laden ONLY because he kept the Pakistan government in the dark.
We have George W. Bush’s words above. Years later, he expressed unconcern about bin Laden being only one man, as if the man responsible for 9-11 was not important. In his book In My Time, Dick Cheney does not mention Tora Bora. Tommy Franks in his book American Soldier did not know where bin Laden was. However, Franks’s deputy in command, Michael DeLong in his book A General Speaks Out, said that bin Laden was definitely at Tora Bora. He said that in the first edition of the book and changed his story in the second edition. Donald Rumsfeld claimed that we could not use American troops to block exits from Tora Bora because they would upset the area residents. Imagine that.
We had troops in the area who ready and eager to join in the battle. They were not used and wonder today why not. Tora Bora occurred within 90 days of 9-11. Imagine how different our world would be today if we had killed or captured bin Laden and the majority of al-Qaeda there. The war against al-Qaeda would have been one of the shortest wars in our history. At the beginning of the US Civil War, Union soldiers were asked to enlist for a short war, 90 days or less. The Civil War dragged on for four long, hard years. The war against al-Qaeda began on 9-11-2001 and has dragged on for 11 years with no end in sight.
How do I know that Bush’s words are untrue? Let me count the ways.
When 9-11 occurred, I thought that the Bush team was the team we needed to fight al-Qaeda. One year into the Iraq war in 2004, I had changed my mind completely. I wanted to know what was happening in Iraq and the media were not forthcoming. I started reading every book I could on Iraq and they convinced me that the Bush administration was incompetent. I have continued my reading on Iraq including Paul Bremer’s 2006 book entitled My Year in Iraq. I am convinced that all of Bush’s efforts were a mistake and a terrible of waste of life and national treasure. Even the apparent success of the surge was a fortuitous coincidence with Iraqi internal conditions that made the surge look like a success to American reporters.
Then in 2005, there was Katrina which could have been largely prevented if Bush had strengthened the levees instead of spending the money on a shipping canal that was hardly ever used. He had 4.5 years to address that problem and did not. The Afghan and Iraq wars continued during Bush’s second term. In 2007 and 2008, the banking system nearly ground to a halt and the Great Recession began. Bush could have acted earlier with Alan Greenspan to stop the inflation of the credit bubble. He did nothing.
If the Bush administration was so incompetent after invading Iraq, do we have any evidence that they were more competent before? No, we do not. We know now that Iraq was invaded under false pretenses. The Bush administration did not prevent 9-11 from happening. After it happened, it declared war on Afghanistan even though the Taliban were willing to turn bin Laden over to another country. Bush refused and started bombing the country. Rumsfeld knew that there were few targets to attack in Afghanistan and expressed the desire to start bombing Iraq where there were more targets.
So I say to you that the Bush administration was an incompetent administration from beginning to end, for the entire eight years. Not capturing bin Laden and the majority of al-Qaeda at Tora Bora when they were cornered was either stupid or criminal or both.
- The Life and Death of Osama Bin Laden | A Timeline (burialinsurance.org)
- General Tommy Franks? (themoderatevoice.com)
- Pakistan after Bin Laden (robertlindsay.wordpress.com)
- Donald Rumsfeld’s ‘water boy,’ Gen. Tommy Franks, picked for Mitt Romney’s Military Advisory Council (dailykos.com)
- McRaven: Pakistan Didn’t Know About Osama Bin Laden (usnews.com)