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Bin Laden 'would have to have been naked and on the ground'

October 19th, 2012
04:56 PM ET

Risks of the 'air option' to kill OBL

Decisions behind the bin Laden raid

by Lucky Gold, CNN

With foreign policy surprisingly front and center in the U.S. presidential election, the Obama administration’s signature foreign policy victory, the killing of Osama bin Laden, could prove a major factor.

Mark Bowden, journalist and author of Black Hawk Down, the blockbuster book and film about America’s debacle in Somalia, has just written The Finish: The Killing of Osama bin Laden. In researching his subject Bowden had unprecedented access to one incomparable source – the man who ordered the attack, President Barack Obama.

Christiane Amanpour asked Bowden what many have wondered ever since the raid in Abbottabad: Were the president’s orders “shoot to kill” or was there ever the possibility of capturing Bin Laden and bringing him to trial?

“He (Obama) said that he assumed that they would probably kill him,” said Bowden. “And as he put it to me, he (bin Laden) would have to have been naked and on the ground for him to even have the possibility of surrendering.”

But Bowden also offered new details, suggesting that the president was actually interested in putting bin Laden on trial: “He felt that if they brought bin Laden back, he might have had the political capital to really do what he would most like to do, which is put him on trial in court.”

Even though bin Laden might have used it to promote jihadist propaganda? “To the contrary, he (Obama) feels that, you know showcasing the American criminal justice system, showcasing our society as one of laws as opposed to one of strictly power, is the most effective way of getting across the message that he feels he wants the United States to convey to the rest of the world.”

Even if they got him, they wouldn’t know who they got

However, there were two other options besides sending in a Navy Seal team to capture or kill the world’s most wanted terrorist. Option one, to bomb bin Laden’s compound and destroy everything and everyone in the vicinity has been well documented. But the second option has, until now, been a secret.

“Well, it was a very small missile about the size of my forearm fired from a small drone,” said Bowden. “It basically functions as a sniper shot. And they had been watching a tall man pacing in the garden outside the compound, or inside the compound walls. And he would come out every day.”

When asked why the president decided against that option, Bowden said, “It’s a new weapon; it’s not tested. If it missed, he (bin Laden) would be gone again. They probably would never find him. And the other piece of it was that, even if they got him, they wouldn’t know who they got.”

I worry the trail has gone cold

Given the political stakes this year, Bowden was asked if President Obama deserves credit for making bin Laden a priority or if it was really the CIA that drove the mission.

“Here’s the deal,” Bowden quotes President Obama as telling his inner circle soon after he came into office. “I want this hunt for Osama bin Laden…to come to the front of the line. I worry the trail has gone cold. This has to be our top priority.”

Bowden then added, “I do give President Obama a lot of credit because I think that when you have the man at the top asking for monthly progress reports, nobody wants to file a monthly progress report with no progress in it.”

CNN’s Meredith Milstein produced the interview with Mark Bowden for television.


Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. B.P. Ames

    Saw your piece with Mark Bowden on the killing of Bin Laden. A very exciting story. But Christiane, you seem to be almost too thrilled and excited about the death and the killing and the execution of a human being. Of course, this particular person was guilty of mass murder, yes he deserved what he got. But are you really so happy and thrilled and triumphant to know the intimate details of the killing of a person? Don't forget, those were the last moments of a human being, and for all eternity everything that he has known of in this life is ended. This will also happen to you Christiane, to you! Are you ready for that? Is your husband or your son ready for that? Bin Laden wasn't ready, anymore than the 3000 in the World Trade Center. So, you could be a bit less enthused in your reporting of death, any death.

    October 20, 2012 at 3:54 am | Reply
    • Cj

      B.P. Ames... are you a Brit by chance? Tut, tut old bean, you are bit of a tight-ass on this Governor!

      November 14, 2012 at 8:40 am | Reply
    • youre an idot Ames

      Damn right he wasn't ready! but he should have been. Did he think we were ever going to stop? please... that extremist piece of shi t deserved much more than that.. Its obvious to me that you haven't lost anyone close to you in the attacks or the war that followed. I won't officially condone any type of torture, but in this case I wouldn't beopposed to dragging out his 'assassanation' by about 6 or seven hours. This way he can have the slightest idea of the suffering that the mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters, cousins, and uncles, husbands, wives, girlfriends on the side... etc – felt and continue to endure. A bullet to the head was too easy and painless. On the other hand that man had a vision, a dream if you will. I can respect any man who follows his dreams and stands up for what he believes in. even though he apparently didn't do too much of that when his wife and kids, (who he most likely spent the most time brainwashing) were actually resisting DEVGRU. He did nothing. unless you count using your wife as a bullet sponge. He took his bullets with a side of honey mustard and ate them with his forehead. hows that for detail? This guys' whole mission in life is to kill Westerners and when he finaly has an opportunity to attempt this first hand, this coward hides behind his wife (apparently). Anyway the guy had a vision. It's just too bad for him it conflicted with ours, America's vision of freedom, and peace, by way of fire supperiority. Myself, I get a hard on just thinking of being on that bird headed to the compound. creating the details. So if you don't like details, if you don't want to know what happened in the most bad ass Special Operation to date, then dont read the f u ckin book. Sit in your house, smoke pot, and dream of butterflies saving the day. Because this is Earth, and if you fu ck up that big on this planet, That's whats gonna happen. SFOD-D on your nuts

      November 14, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Reply
  2. obuzor-bashi, n. g.

    i think killing is not game to repeat. though death is not a good news to any living being we must as human beings consider others and seek peace. the law remains kill by the sword die same.

    October 20, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Reply
  3. blessedgeek

    "when you have the man at the top asking for monthly progress reports, nobody wants to file a monthly progress report with no progress in it.”

    True. Very true.

    November 14, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Reply
  4. Jeff

    The world should hold the USA is high esteem for being so merciful in making his death quick and pretty painless. He was lucky.

    November 14, 2012 at 8:23 pm | Reply
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