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It was a throw-away line at best in the middle of a story on NBC Nightly News last Tuesday night that no one seemed to notice.

The story was about “a rehab center for young Saudi Arabian boys” that had once been lured into joining al Qaeda. After serving time in a juvenile detention facility, the boys were now being trained to reenter the world as productive members of society. NBC reporter Jake Tapper spoke to one young man about how he came to be where he is now, when he casually dropped the following bombshell:
 




 

I stopped dead in my tracks: “What the hell did he just say???”

In case you didn’t catch it, this young Saudi boy seems to confirm that Osama bin Laden was indeed at Tora Bora with him when President Bush failed to send in American ground troops to try and capture him in December of 2001.

A little bit of background: Three months after the attacks of 9/11, the CIA reported that they, along with Afghan rebels, were in a major firefight with al Qaeda fighters holed up in the mountains of Tora Bora, Afghanistan. Based upon the ferocity of the fighting, the CIA concluded that al Qaeda was likely defending “someone very important, probably Osama bin Laden himself”. For reasons that still aren’t quite clear, rather than flood the area with 150,000 U.S. troops to ensure the capture of Osama bin Laden, President Bush instead relied on the CIA to “oversee” the Afghan rebels’ efforts in concert with U.S. air support to conquer the compound and capture the fighters holed up inside. Instead, the fighting ended with most of the fighters escaping out the back into the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Whether or not bin Laden was truly there as the CIA suspected has been the subject of debate, but Conservatives have long known that President Bush’s argument for not sending in American ground forces… whether we knew if OBL was there or not… was pretty weak and difficult to justify. The “maybe it wouldn’t have mattered” defense has always been a problem for the “enter with guns blazing” crowd to defend.

While there has been a multitude of evidence from the CIA, TV news reports, magazine articles, and online investigations all concluding that there is little or no doubt that bin Laden was indeed there at Tora Bora that day, Bush supporters have NEVER conceded that as being “fact”.

It is apparent from the video that Tapper doesn’t consider this revelation anything new. The implications seems to be that no one disputes that bin Laden was indeed there in Tora Bora that day and managed to get away. Bush supporters have always been able to dismiss those studies with the “no one knows for sure” defense.

During the 2004 Presidential Debates, John Kerry made the point THREE TIMES to let voters know that “President Bush allowed Osama bin Laden to escape into the hills of Tora Bora,” because, rather than surround the area with American troops, President Bush instead relied on the Afghan militia, allowing the murderer of 3,000 people on 9/11 to slip away. Not once during the three debates did President Bush ever try to “correct” Kerry’s accusation.

Then on October 29th, the Friday before the 2004 election, Osama bin Laden released a video criticizing George Bush. Both candidates quickly condemned the video as an obvious attempt to influence the election. But at his next campaign stop, Kerry pointed out that three years after 9/11, OBL would not still be out taunting the U.S. had Bush of not let OBL get away at Tora Bora.

President Bush countered on his next campaign stop in Columbus, Ohio:

Unfortunately — unfortunately, my opponent, tonight, continued to say things he knows are not true — accusing our military of passing up a chance to get Osama bin Laden in Tora Bora. As the Commander in charge of that operation, Tommy Franks had said, it’s simply not the case. It’s the worst kind of Monday morning quarterbacking. It is especially shameful in the light of a new tape from America’s enemy. Our Commander in Afghanistan, Tommy Franks, recently said — quote — “The Senator’s understanding of events does not square with reality.” General Franks said — General Franks said America’s Special Forces were actively involved in the search for the terrorists in Tora Bora. And intelligence reports at the time placed bin Laden in any of several different countries. As General Franks said, “If we’d ever known where bin Laden was, we would have gotten him.” (Applause.)

President Bush was merely parroting what numerous Right Wing supporters had been saying since Kerry first made the outlandish claim at the first Presidential debate:

From the Wall Street Journal editorial pages:

Tora Bora Baloney
John Kerry tells fish stories about Osama bin Laden.

BY MELANIE KIRKPATRICK
Thursday, October 14, 2004 12:01 a.m. EDT

As John Kerry tells it, Tora Bora is the place where President Bush let Osama bin Laden get away. In the candidate’s oft-repeated formulation, the al Qaeda leader was “surrounded” and escaped only because the president “outsourced” the job of capturing him to Afghan warlords. (…)

The NeoConservative “Power Line” blog:

The Tora Bora slander

Yesterday was the third time in three debates that President Bush failed to address John Kerry’s argument that he let Osama bin Laden escape at Tora Bora because he “outsourced” the job to Afghan war lords. Kerry’s argument is a phony because there is no conclusive evidence…

And Rick Lowry, editor of the “National Review”:

Tora Bora Bull
Don’t buy what Edwards is selling.

(…) Some intelligence indeed suggests that bin Laden was there. But the U.S. commander on the ground, Gen. Tommy Franks, also had reports that bin Laden was in Kashmir, in southern Baluchistan and northwest of Khandahar near a lake.

Most of the Republicans’ defense seems to focus on General Tommy Franks’ belief that there was no proof OBL was in even there during the siege on Tora Bora (so why even try? Was that his message?)

And suddenly, here was this clip on the NBC Nightly News. A young Saudi man in his twenties just happens to mention that “he fought with bin Laden at Tora Bora”, seemingly confirming what Conservatives feared most: first-hand testimony from someone that was actually IN Tora Bora that day, confirming that “Commander Guy” let Osama bin Laden get away.

I wonder what the Neocons will have to say now?
 

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