Bill Clinton admitted that he had passed up the chance to kill Osama Bin Laden because he was concerned about potential civilian casualties, according to a freshly unearthed audio tape recorded just hours before the 9/11 attacks on the US.
In the recording, the former President can be heard addressing business leaders in Australia on 10 September 2001.
“Osama bin Laden [is] a very smart guy,” Mr Clinton says. “I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about him, and I nearly got him once … I could have killed him, but I would have had to destroy a little town called Kandahar in Afghanistan and kill 300 innocent women and children. And then I would have been no better than him. And so I didn’t do it.”
The tape was released to Sky News Australia this week by Michael Kroger, the former president of Victoria’s Liberal Party, who said he had not deliberately kept its existence a secret, but had simply forgotten about it until now. Mr Kroger added that the recording was made with Mr Clinton’s permission, when he spoke to an audience of around 30 people at the Melbourne offices of the investment banking firm JT Campbell & Co. Mr Clinton was reportedly paid $150,000 (£89,000) for the appearance.
Though Mr Clinton has rarely spoken about the subject in public, it has long been known that the US had several opportunities to target the al-Qa’ida leader prior to the 11 September attacks.