Dead or alive, more or less

George W. Bush on Osama bin Laden.


Tim Grieve
July 7, 2006 11:50PM (UTC)

Sometimes, it's hard to keep up.

Sept. 17, 2001: George W. Bush is asked if he wants Osama bin Laden dead. "I want justice," he says. "There's an old poster out west, as I recall, that said, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive.'"

March 13, 2002: At a press conference, Bush says that he doesn't know if bin Laden is dead or alive. "You know, I just don't spend that much time on him. . . . And I wouldn't necessarily say he's at the center of any command structure. And, again, I don't know where he is. I -- I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him."

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Oct. 13, 2004: "Gosh, I just don't think I ever said I'm not worried about Osama bin Laden. It's kind of one of those exaggerations."

Jan. 31, 2006: "Terrorists like bin Laden are serious about mass murder -- and all of us must take their declared intentions seriously."

May 25, 2006: "I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner -- you know, 'Wanted dead or alive,' that kind of talk. I think in certain parts of the world it was misinterpreted, and so I learned from that."

July 4, 2006: The New York Times reports that the CIA last year disbanded a secret unit assigned to track down bin Laden and his top lieutenants in an effort to focus on "regional trends rather than on specific organizations or individuals."

July 7, 2006: At a press conference in Chicago, Bush calls the Times report "just an incorrect story." "I mean, we got a -- we're -- we got a lot of assets looking for Osama bin Laden. So whatever you want to read in that story, it's just not true, period." Asked if he's still on the hunt for bin Laden, the president says: "Absolutely. No ands, ifs or buts. And in my judgment, it's just a matter of time, unless we stop looking. And we're not going to stop looking so long as I'm the president." Bush said he had announced regret over the "dead or alive" comment only because "my wife got on me for talking that way."


Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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