Criticism of Bush Harsh--But True
Ironically, this came on the same day when we saw more evidence of Bush's incompetence as we found out about the the disappearance of 377 tons of high explosives in Iraq.
For those who need a refresher as to how George Bush let Bin Laden escape, here's a quick recap from the Washington Post:
Failure to Send Troops in Pursuit Termed Major Error
The Bush administration has concluded that Osama bin Laden was present during the battle for Tora Bora late last year and that failure to commit U.S. ground troops to hunt him was its gravest error in the war against al Qaeda, according to civilian and military officials with first-hand knowledge.
Intelligence officials have assembled what they believe to be decisive evidence, from contemporary and subsequent interrogations and intercepted communications, that bin Laden began the battle of Tora Bora inside the cave complex along Afghanistan's mountainous eastern border. Though there remains a remote chance that he died there, the intelligence community is persuaded that bin Laden slipped away in the first 10 days of December.
After-action reviews, conducted privately inside and outside the military chain of command, describe the episode as a significant defeat for the United States. A common view among those interviewed outside the U.S. Central Command is that Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the war's operational commander, misjudged the interests of putative Afghan allies and let pass the best chance to capture or kill al Qaeda's leader. Without professing second thoughts about Tora Bora, Franks has changed his approach fundamentally in subsequent battles, using Americans on the ground as first-line combat units.
In the fight for Tora Bora, corrupt local militias did not live up to promises to seal off the mountain redoubt, and some colluded in the escape of fleeing al Qaeda fighters. Franks did not perceive the setbacks soon enough, some officials said, because he ran the war from Tampa with no commander on the scene above the rank of lieutenant colonel. The first Americans did not arrive until three days into the fighting. "No one had the big picture," one defense official said.
The Bush administration has never acknowledged that bin Laden slipped through the cordon ostensibly placed around Tora Bora as U.S. aircraft began bombing on Nov. 30. Until now it was not known publicly whether the al Qaeda leader was present on the battlefield.
But inside the government there is little controversy on the subject. Captured al Qaeda fighters, interviewed separately, gave consistent accounts describing an address by bin Laden around Dec. 3 to mujaheddin, or holy warriors, dug into the warren of caves and tunnels built as a redoubt against Soviet invaders in the 1980s. One official said "we had a good piece of sigint," or signals intelligence, confirming those reports.
The Christian Science Monitor also described:
A day-by-day account of how Osama bin Laden eluded the world's most powerful military machine.
All 1,000 of the regional tribal leaders rose to their feet and shouted "Zindibad, Osama!" ("Long Live Osama!").
The Al Qaeda chief placed his right hand over his heart, the ethnic Pashtun sign for being honored, while 15 of his elite guards flanked him.
In the last public speech given at the Jalalabad Islamic studies center on Nov. 10, Osama bin Laden painted the battle lines black and white. "The Americans had a plan to invade, but if we are united and believe in Allah, we'll teach them a lesson, the same one we taught the Russians," he said, according to two tribal leaders who attended the speech.
Mr. bin Laden, with that speech, was laying his plans to stay a step ahead of the US campaign. He would travel to his favored fortified redoubt in Tora Bora, as the US expected him to, but he would also pave a way out. After his rousing speech, he bestowed cash gifts on key people who could later help him escape.
The US-led war in Afghanistan was going exceedingly well up to that point. The Taliban regime had been pushed from the northern half of the country; the capital of Kabul and much of the rest of Afghanistan would fall within the next few days.
It was a war like no other. In an evolutionary leap powered by Information Age technology, US ground soldiers were mainly employed as observers, liaisons, and spotters for air power - not as direct combatants sent to occupy a foreign land. The success of the US was dazzling, save for the fight for Tora Bora, which may have been this unconventional war's most crucial battle. For the US, Tora Bora wasn't about capturing caverns or destroying fortifications - it was about taking the world's most wanted terrorist "dead or alive."
In retrospect, it becomes clear that the battle's underlying story is of how scant intelligence, poorly chosen allies, and dubious military tactics fumbled a golden opportunity to capture bin Laden as well as many senior Al Qaeda commanders.
In addition to following the links to the full articles, these articles, and many more on George Bush's failures in fighting terrorism, are at the Kerry 2004 Reference Library.