Dem congressman: Bush deliberately let bin Laden go

Rep. Maurice Hinchey says the former president made the decision in order to have reason to attack Iraq

Published December 1, 2009 1:10AM (EST)

According to a new Senate report, the U.S. may have been closer to capturing Osama bin Laden than ever previously known -- only to have an order from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld cause him to slip through our hands. And according to a Democratic congressman, Rep. Maurice Hinchey of New York, that slip-up may not have been accidental.

"Look what happened with regard to our invasion into Afghanistan, how we apparently intentionally let bin Laden get away," Hinchey said on MSNBC on Monday. "How we intentionally did not follow the Taliban and al-Qaeda as they were escaping up into the northeast of Afghanistan, over into the Pakistani border?"

Hinchey had an answer for his own question: "That was done by the previous administration because they knew very well that if they would capture al-Qaeda, there would be no justification for an invasion in Iraq."

That seems far-fetched, at best. Set aside the idea that, whatever else you might think of them, this theory requires you to believe that the previous administration is so callous about American life that it would risk further terror attacks in this way. Just from a political standpoint, it doesn't make sense. Letting the man behind the 9/11 attacks go free, possibly to plan further attacks on U.S. soil, would have been a major risk for the administration. Even if that fact had never become public knowledge, if there were another successful attack, Bush would have been blamed for not keeping the country safe, and he and his fellow Republicans would have suffered at the polls for it.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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