Yesterday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that if bin Laden is caught tomorrow, “it is five years too late.” She added, “He has done more damage the longer he has been out there. But in fact, the damage that he has done is done. And even to capture him now, I don’t think makes us any safer.”
Pelosi is now under attack for her statements about bin Laden. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) said Pelosi’s comments “can only have a demoralizing effect on American troops and intelligence personnel who are currently risking their lives in the rugged mountain ranges and deserts of the Middle East in pursuit of Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants.” (More here and here.) Pelosi’s words, however, are no different from what the White House, many foreign policy experts, and the 9–11 Commission have said consistently:
9–11 Commission Said Capturing Bin Laden Would Not End the War on Terror. “The problem is that al Qaeda represents an ideological movement, not a finite group of people. It initiates and inspires, even if it no longer directs. In this way it has transformed itself into a decentralized force. Bin Ladin may be limited in his ability to organize major attacks from his hideouts. Yet killing or capturing him, while extremely important, would not end terror.” [9–11 Commission Report Executive Summary]
Bush Said Bin Laden Was “Not the Issue.” Bush: “We are patient, we’re deliberate. Oh, I know the news media likes to say, ‘Where’s ol’ Osama bin Laden?’ He’s not the issue. The issue is international terror.” [Bush Remarks, 2/5/02]
Cheney Said “You’d Still Have a Problem With al Qaeda” If Bin Laden Were Killed. “He’s not the only source of the problem, obviously, Tim. If you killed him tomorrow, you’d still have a problem with al-Qaeda, with Zawahiri and the others.” [Cheney, 9/10/06]
Rumsfeld War On Terror Was Larger Than Bin Laden. Rumsfeld: “My attitude is if [bin Laden] were gone tomorrow the same problem would exist. He’s got a whole bunch of lieutenants that have been trained and they’ve got bank accounts all over and they’ve got cells in 50 or 60 countries. Would you want to stop him? Sure. Would you want to stop the rest of his lieutenants? You bet. But I don’t get up every morning and say that’s the end, the goal and the end point of this thing. I think that would be a big mistake. Furthermore, the al Qaeda is just one of the networks.” [Rumsfeld, 10/24/01]
Rumsfeld Said Al Qaeda Can Function Without Bin Laden. Rumsfeld: “He could walk in here tomorrow and Al Qaeda would go on functioning.” [Christian Science Monitor, 3/1/02]
Other prominent conservatives have also said that capturing bin Laden will not end the terror threat.