Mission unaccomplished

Will Osama bin Laden outlast the presidency of George W. Bush?

Published January 24, 2008 7:05PM (EST)

In an interview with Fox News, George W. Bush -- who once talked of capturing Osama bin Laden "dead or alive" -- seems to acknowledge that the United States may not capture the al-Qaida leader before the end of the president's term in office.

"If we could find the cave he is in, I promise you -- he would be brought to justice or wherever he's hiding," Bush tells Fox. "I will have left behind a mechanism -- and a structure for the next president to better protect America."

The president once said -- before he denied saying it -- that he didn't "spend much time" thinking about bin Laden and that he "truly" was "not that concerned about him." Now he says that capturing bin Laden is important for America, at least psychologically.

"For the country, it's a matter of closure in many ways for those who suffered under the attacks," Bush says in the interview, which will air Sunday night as part of a Fox documentary called "George W. Bush: Fighting to the Finish." "He's hiding. He's isolated. He's not out there leading any parades."

By Tim Grieve

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

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