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Ahead of the 15th anniversary of 9/11, former secretary of state and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton said going after al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden into Pakistan was “not an easy choice”.
“I was part of the small group advising President (Barack) Obama whether or not the intelligence we had was good enough to take a chance, to go deep into Pakistan, to try to finally bring Osama bin Laden to justice.
“It was not an easy choice by any means,” Clinton said at an election rally in North Carolina. “These never are.”
“That’s why who sits at the head of that table in the situation room has to be able to sort out fact from opinion, has to be able to ask the hard questions, pursue even the most difficult leads,” she said on Thursday giving an insight into the May 2, 2011 killing of Osama, the 9/11 mastermind, in a US military operation at his hideout in Abbottabad in Pakistan.
Her comments came three days before the 15th anniversary of the al- Qaeda attack on the twin towers in New York that killed more than 3,000 people, resulting in the US invading Afghanistan.
“We went through that hour after hour after hour. And then the president went around the table asking each of us what we advised. And we were split because it was not some kind of easy layup. I believed it was strong enough that we needed to take action and I supported taking action that would determine whether or not we were successful. That meant sending in special forces,” said the 68-year-old former secretary of state.
“Now, you know what happened. I was in that Situation Room watching that day. The most stressful 30 minutes of my life probably. Because you remember one of the helicopters nicked – clicked on – hit its tail on the wall going into the courtyard and became disabled.
“That meant — thank goodness there were good contingency plans, but you had to get another helicopter in to take out the SEALs who would no longer be able to fly out on that one,” she said, describing the event of the day.
“But here’s what I want to tell you because it is a story that, to me, illustrate our values in such a clear, unambiguous way. You’ve heard Donald Trump say he would order our troops to torture. You’ve heard him say he would order our troops to kill family members of terrorists. You would know that he was advocating illegal actions against our own laws, as well as the laws of war.
“Thank goodness there’s a code of honour in our military stronger than the bluster and the bullying of Donald Trump because here is what happened on that night,” she said amid applause.
Meanwhile, Trump, the 70-year-old real estate tycoon, claimed Osama would have been caught long ago had he been in power.
“I would have been tougher on terrorism. Bin Laden would have been caught long ago before he was ultimately caught, prior to the downing of the World Trade Center,” Trump said at a charter school in Cleveland, Ohio.
On Wednesday, Clinton said the US will go after ISIS terror group and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi the same way America had focussed on defeating al-Qaeda and Osama if she is elected as the next president.
In her remarks on Thursday, she said during the US raid on Osama’s hideout, “every second counted”.
“Every single second counted. That helicopter had to be blown up, but before it was — and, remember, the SEALs had gone in. They had taken out the two Kuwaitis, the bodyguards. They had taken out bin Laden’s son, who was there. They took out bin Laden. They had to get his body out. They had to get themselves out,” she said.
“But here’s what they did first. They rounded up all the women and children, members of terrorists’ families. They took them outside as far from the helicopter as they could get them in order that they would not be hurt. That, Donald Trump, is what American honour looks like and that is what we’re going to stand up and defend in the face of your outrageous, disgraceful attacks on the men and women of our armed forces!” she alleged.
In his address, Trump reiterated he was against going into Iraq from the very beginning.
Iraq is one of the biggest differences in this race, he said, alleging that his Democratic rival Clinton supported the move.
Trump alleged that Clinton’s policies produced ruin in Libya, Iraq, and Syria.
“She failed in Russia, in China, in North Korea. Her policies unleashed ISIS, spread terrorism, and put Iran on the path to nuclear weapons – not to mention the ransom payments,” he said.
“On top of it all, Hillary Clinton is trigger-happy. She’s raced to invade, intervene, and topple regimes. She believes in globalism, not Americanism. Last night, she even falsely said no American died in Libya. Then she also falsely said there’s no ground troops in Iraq, even though we have 5,000 military personnel there right now,” he said.
Trump alleged that Clinton emailing about the drone programme – among many other extremely sensitive matters – is yet more evidence that she is unfit to be commander-in-chief.
“By the way, the whole country saw how unfit she was at the Townhall last night, where she refused to take accountability for her failed policies in the Middle East that have produced millions of refugees, unleashed the horror of radical Islamic terrorism, and made us less safe than ever before,” he charged.
“Throughout it all, she put the entire country at risk in order to cover-up her pay-for-play scandals as Secretary of State. These include scandals like giving up our uranium to Russia, doing favours for UBS bank, and selling contracts to friends and family in Haiti.
“It’s all about hiding her criminal enterprise at the Clinton Foundation,” Trump said.