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"Why Can't We Get Osama bin Laden?," Asks 9/11 Commission Vice Chair Lee Hamilton '52

July 10, 2006

lee hamilton color.jpgJuly 10, 2006, Greencastle, Ind. - "Why can't we get Osama bin Laden?," asks Lee H. Hamilton, vice chair of the 9/11 Commission and 1952 graduate of DePauw University. "He is the most wanted man in the world and among the most recognizable. He is unusually tall, reportedly somewhat ill, and occasionally manages to record and distribute audiotapes to the wider world. Yet nearly five years after he masterminded the murder of nearly 3,000 Americans, the United States has come up empty in one of the largest manhunts in history."

Writing in the Indianapolis Star, the former U.S. Congressman continues, "The recent strike against Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian terrorist who became an insurgent leader in Iraq, should give us hope. Among the many positive elements of Zarqawi's death was a demonstration that the U.S. can locate and eliminate an elusive al-Qaida leader. Yet unlike bin Laden and his top lieutenant Ayman al-Zawahiri, Zarqawi was operating in a country occupied by nearly 150,000 U.S. troops."

Lee Hamilton Students 2004-2.jpgHamilton, director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., states that, even though America is "fairly certain of bin Laden's location: somewhere on the Pakistani side of the northwestern Afghan-Pakistani border," apprehending him is a challenge because of the region's terrain and political climate. Trying to remove bin Laden through airstrikes or an invasion of Pakistan would result in "extensive civilian casualties" and likely lead to political upheaval there, Hamilton states.

"The key is better intelligence, and that depends on gradually closing in on the ring of associates who are in some kind of contact with bin Laden. Even though he is cut off, he is still the leader of a network, and is dependent on others for food, shelter, medical care and the distribution of his messages. To put it simply, we have to continue to look for someone who can tell us where he is."

The Democrat urges patience, and an effort that involves cooperation from foreign governments, "particularly Pakistan's. Finding a single individual in a distant land is nearly impossible without help." He asserts, "We will either get bin Laden, or he will die in a remote corner of the world. In the process of getting him, we can strengthen our intelligence gathering in a vital front in the war on terrorism. But we should not givelee hamilton mtp dec 2005.jpg bin Laden the kind of legacy he wants: a clumsy strike on Pakistan that kills innocent Muslims and opens further the chasm between the U.S. and the Islamic world."

Access the complete op-ed by clicking here.

Lee Hamilton and 9/11 Commission co-chair Thomas Kean have been elected 2006 Fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS) and will be inducted in October. In 2005, Hamilton and Kean were honored with the Four Freedoms Medal by the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute.

Hamilton, who was recently called "the Democrats' Mr. Integrity," will return to his alma mater to participate in DePauw Discourse 2006, October 26-27. Learn more in this previous story.

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