WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Former President Bill Clinton, angrily defending his efforts to capture Osama bin Laden, accused the Bush administration of doing far less to stop the al Qaeda leader before the September 11 attacks.
In a heated interview to be aired on Sunday on “Fox News Sunday,” the former Democratic president defended the steps he took after al Qaeda’s attack on the USS Cole in 2000 and faulted “right-wingers” for their criticism of his efforts to capture Osama bin Laden.
“But at least I tried. That’s the difference in me and some, including all of the right-wingers who are attacking me now,” Clinton said when asked whether he had failed to fully anticipate bin Laden’s danger. “They had eight months to try, they did not try. I tried. So I tried and failed.”
The September 11 attacks occurred almost eight months after President George W. Bush succeeded Clinton in January 2001.
“I authorized the CIA to get groups together to try to kill him,” Clinton said. He added he had drawn up plans to go into Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban and launch an attack against bin Laden after the attack on the Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden.
“Now if you want to criticize me for one thing, you can criticize me for this: after the Cole, I had battle plans drawn to go into Afghanistan, overthrow the Taliban and launch a full-scale attack search for bin Laden. But we needed basing rights in Uzbekistan — which we got after 9/11,” Clinton said.
The former president complained at the time the CIA and FBI refused to certify bin Laden was responsible for the USS Cole attack.
“While I was there, they refused to certify. So that meant I would have had to send a few hundred special forces in helicopters, refuel at night,” he said.
Earlier this month, Clinton dismissed as “indisputably wrong” a U.S. television show that suggested her was too distracted by the Monica Lewinsky scandal to confront the Islamic militant threat that culminated in the September 11 attacks.