THE BLOG
09/14/2005 02:25 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Did We Let Osama Get Away on Purpose?

The New York Times reported this weekend that we sent in 36 U.S. Special Forces troops to get Osama bin Laden when we knew he was in Tora Bora. By contrast, we sent nearly 150,000 soldiers to get Saddam Hussein. In case you're keeping count at home, we got Saddam and we didn't get Osama. What does that tell you about this administration’s priorities? This goes beyond incompetence. If you send only 36 soldiers to get somebody in the middle of Afghanistan, it means you don’t want to get him.

It gets worse. The piece in the Sunday New York Times Magazine also says there was an American commander with 4,000 marines standing by within striking distance. Brig. Gen. James N. Mattis requested permission to join the fight. He was denied.

Why wouldn’t you want to send in whatever we have at our disposal to get the guy who attacked us on 9/11? Why would you care so little about the person who actually attacked this country and so much about someone like Saddam who had no role in attacking us?

But it gets worse. Osama had about 1,500-2,000 well-armed, well-trained men in the region. 36 guys to get 2,000? Why would we let ourselves be outgunned like that?

Even if you buy into the argument that the local Afghan militia we enlisted for the fight was enough to get the job done (first of all, you would be empirically wrong because they obviously weren’t enough), why wouldn’t we at least cordon off the area with US troops? Why couldn’t we muster ten or twenty thousand troops to make sure we captured him, especially given the fact that we apparently had no compunction about putting ten times that many troops in Iraq? At the very least, why not send in the 4,000 troops that are already in the area?

I am not a conspiracy theorist and I don’t believe in crazy talk about how the administration planned 9/11. You don’t have to believe any of that to understand that our priorities were grossly out of order. And there is an inescapable fact – if you put this little effort into capturing someone, it means you don’t want to capture him.

Your guess is as good as mine as to why they didn’t want to get the man who ordered the deaths of close to 3,000 Americans and took down the World Trade Center. A caller on our radio show posited that if we had caught Osama, then it would have been harder to justify an invasion of Iraq. At that point, it would have seemed like we got our man and the mission was accomplished. That’s the best guess I’ve heard so far.

If people inside the administration actually held back from capturing Osama bin Laden when we had him cornered, it borders on treason. This leads to the next set of questions. Who ordered Brigadier General Mattis to stand down and not send his 4,000 troops in? Who made the decision at the Pentagon that the entire United States military should only use 36 soldiers to try to capture the world's biggest terrorist?

Somebody made those decisions. That person needs to be identified and held accountable. I’m incensed as an American citizen, but if I was a family member of a 9/11 victim, I can’t imagine how furious I would be. I would demand to know who let Osama get away. And what was their purpose?