With the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks coming up this weekend, it’s not surprising that former President George W. Bush would be back in the news a bit, reflecting on his memories of the tragic day. But that’s no excuse for falsely claiming credit he doesn’t deserve.
Bush said the events that led to the death of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May began during his administration.
“The work that was done by intelligence communities during my presidency was part of putting together the puzzle that enabled us to see the full picture of how bin Laden was communicating and eventually where he was hiding,” he said. “It began the day after 9/11.”
I can understand why Bush would push the argument, but it’s misleading. Sure, there were important post-9/11 reforms that improved U.S. officials’ capacity to acquire and act on intelligence, but when it comes to getting bin Laden, this is generally a subject the former president should try to avoid.
After all, in March 2002, just six months after 9/11, Bush said of bin Laden, “I truly am not that concerned about him…. You know, I just don’t spend that much time on him, to be honest with you.”
In July 2006, we learned that the Bush administration closed its unit that had been hunting bin Laden.
In September 2006, Bush told Fred Barnes, one of his most sycophantic media allies, that an “emphasis on bin Laden doesn’t fit with the administration’s strategy for combating terrorism.”
And don’t even get me started on Bush’s failed strategy that allowed bin Laden to escape from Tora Bora.
I’m happy to extend plenty of credit to all kinds of officials throughout the government; the successful raid on the bin Laden compound was a team effort. But that doesn’t mean Bush should come around now, looking for a pat on the back.