US forces had Osama Bin Laden “within their grasp” in Afghanistan in late 2001, a US Senate report says.
The report seeks to affix a measure of blame for the state of the war in Afghanistan today on military leaders under former president George W. Bush, specifically Donald H. Rumsfeld as defence secretary and his top military commander, Tommy Franks.
It says: “Removing the al-Qaida leader from the battlefield eight years ago would not have eliminated the worldwide extremist threat.
“But the decisions that opened the door for his escape to Pakistan allowed bin Laden to emerge as a potent symbolic figure who continues to attract a steady flow of money and inspire fanatics worldwide. The failure to finish the job represents a lost opportunity that forever altered the course of the conflict in Afghanistan and the future of international terrorism.”
The report states categorically that bin Laden was hiding in Tora Bora when the US had the means to mount a rapid assault with several thousand troops at least.
Fox"News" is quick to spin away from this, and they would be expected to act in such a manner. They have claimed that the evidence is some 8 years old, and by default completely irrelevant to the story. Also, they want to distance themselves from language like this:
Moments after he complained about “over the top” attacks on President Bush by Democrats last night (5/2/06), Sean Hannity reprised his baseless, discredited attacks on Bill Clinton for “turning down” an offer from Sudan of “bin Laden on a silver platter.” In a teaser preceding the interview, FOX News displayed the disrespectful banner, “Bubba and Bin Laden.”
The Bin Laden claim and the complaints about attacks on Bush came during an interview with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Hannity said, “I want to go back to the issue of Sudan offering bin Laden on a silver platter. Bill Clinton, himself, acknowledged this.” In fact, Clinton said no such thing and Hannity knows it – or he damn well ought to.
Media Matters continues:
On July 20, ABC radio host Sean Hannity thrice repeated the false claim that former President Bill Clinton refused a 1996 offer from Sudan to hand Osama bin Laden over to the United States. Hannity has previously propagated this claim, for which the 9-11 Commission found "no reliable evidence to support."
As Media Matters for America has noted, the false claim originated in an August 11, 2002, article on right-wing news website NewsMax.com that distorted a statement Clinton made on February 15, 2002. While addressing the Long Island Association's annual luncheon, Clinton said he "pleaded with the Saudis" to accept Sudan's offer to hand bin Laden over to Saudi Arabia. Sudan never offered bin Laden to the United States, and Clinton did not admit to the Sudan offer in that speech or anywhere else.
And while this specious claim has been debunked multiple times by multiple sources - and completely ignored by conservative media and bloggers - it should be pointed out that this is a verifiable failure by not only George W. Bush's administration, but of the conservative media that claim that reporting accurately on the ongoing "war on terror" is a priority for them as well.
This hardly comes as a surprise, as Bush priorities in relation to the “war on terror” – bin Laden in particular – haven’t always mirrored the initial goals he set forward.
Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes appeared on Fox this morning to discuss his recent meeting with President Bush in the Oval Office. The key takeaway for Barnes was that “bin Laden doesn’t fit with the administration’s strategy for combating terrorism.” Barnes said that Bush told him capturing bin Laden is “not a top priority use of American resources.” Watch it.
Bush’s priorities have always been skewed. Just months after declaring he wanted bin Laden “dead or alive,” Bush said, “I truly am not that concerned about him.” Turning his attention away from bin Laden, Bush trained his focus on Iraq — a country he now admits had “nothing” to do with 9/11.
At this point, It's likely conservatives are going to be on defense for a while as they attempt to excuse, misdirect, and fabricate their way out of this corner.