White House Briefing: Dan Froomkin

Bush and bin Laden - Supplemental Material

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, August 12, 2004; 11:00 AM

This is the supporting material for my Thursday, Aug. 12 column: The Unnamed Enemy.

By the Numbers

So far in 2004, Bush has mentioned Osama bin Laden by name on eight occasions -- and he once answered a question about bin Laden without himself using bin Laden's name.

(By contrast, he has mentioned Saddam Hussein's name on about 125 occasions during the same period.)

In 2003, Bush mentioned bin Laden on two occasions, and three times answered questions about bin Laden without himself using bin Laden's name. (By contrast, he mentioned Saddam Hussein about 190 times.)

Special thanks to Mike Snyder of washingtonpost.com, who contributed to the research. Here are the database "hits" for bin Laden:


July 22, 2004 speech in Glenview, Ill.: Mentions him in passing.

"Here in Illinois, we convicted a man with a longstanding ties to bin Laden, who had been using a Chicago-area charity called the 'Benevolence International Foundation' to channel money to Islamic militants."

July 14, 2004, remarks in Fond du Lac, Wis.: Does not use bin Laden's name in response to the question from a woman in the audience: "Do you have an updates on the whereabouts or possible capture of Osama bin Laden?"

"Thank you for bringing that up. I tell you, if I knew, I wouldn't tell you. [Laughter] I'd be telling our forces which are stationed over there. He's on the run. He is, best guess, in the remote regions of Pakistan or Afghanistan, up there in kind of the--in the mountainous regions there, best guess. I really don't know. I do know that the organization is--got the ability to kind of exist without his physical presence...."

June 17, 2004, remarks after a cabinet meeting: Briefly mentions bin Laden in response to a question about the administration's continued insistence that Saddam Hussein had a relationship with Al Qaeda.

"For example, Iraqi intelligence officers met with bin Laden, the head of Al Qaeda, in the Sudan. There's numerous contacts between the two."

June 14, 2004, news conference with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan: Mentions bin Laden in his opening statement, in the context of Afghanistan.

"Three years ago, the Taliban had granted Osama bin Laden and his terrorist Al Qaeda organization a safe refuge. Today, the Taliban has been deposed; Al Qaeda is in hiding; and coalition forces continue to hunt down the remnants and holdouts."

June 2, 2004, commencement address at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs: Mentions bin Laden in passing during a speech about the war on terror.

"The vast majority of men and women in Muslim societies reject the domination of extremists like Osama bin Laden."

April 13, 2004, press conference: Mentions bin Laden in response to questions about how bin Laden was not a central focus of the administration in the months before Sept. 11th.

"[T]he truth of the matter is, most in the country never felt that we'd be vulnerable to an attack such as the one that Osama bin Laden unleashed on us... The person responsible for the attacks was Osama bin Laden. That's who's responsible for killing Americans. And that's why we will stay on the offense until we bring people to justice."

April 12, 2004, news conference with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt in Crawford, Tex.: Mentions bin Laden briefly in response to a question about the August 6, 2001, president's daily briefing entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike Inside U.S."

"And I read it and, obviously, was discomforted by the fact that Osama bin Laden hated America. But as I mentioned yesterday, we already knew that..."

April 11, 2004, remarks with reporters at Fort Hood, Tex.: Mentions bin Laden in response to a question about whether the CIA sufficiently warned of a possible terrorist attack.

"I am satisfied that I never saw any intelligence that indicated there was going to be an attack on America--at a time and a place, an attack. Of course we knew that America was hated by Osama bin Laden. That was obvious. The question was, who was going to attack us, when and where and with what."

Feb. 21, 2004, radio address: Mentions bin Laden in an address about the progress in the war on terror and attacks on troops in Iraq.

"Recently we intercepted a letter sent by a senior Al Qaeda associate named Zarqawi to one of Osama bin Laden's top lieutenants."


Nov. 14, 2003, interview with British journalists: Does not mention his name, but asserts that bin Laden will be found, in response to a question.

"Q: Is it really--it's inconceivable that you could consider pulling out----

"The President: It is inconceivable.

"Q: However, bin Laden is at large, and Saddam Hussein. How close are you to finding these people?

"The President: No, first of all, I wouldn't--I think that your--let me answer your question this way. We will find them. Okay? Yes, we're not pulling out until the job is done. Period.

"Q: And that includes finding those two?

"The President: Yes, that's part of it. But even bigger is a free and democratic society. That is the mission."

Oct. 19, 2003, photo op with Prime Minister Thaksin Chinnawat of Thailand: Responds to a question about bin Laden threatening new attacks on a videotape.

"I think that the bin Laden tape should say to everybody the war on terror goes on, that there's still a danger for free nations and that free nations need to work together more than ever to share intelligence, cut off money, and bring these potential killers or killers to justice. And we've got to find them."

Sept. 11, 2003, remarks on the second anniversary of the attacks: Does not mention his name in his response to a question about a new bin Laden videotape.

"We are at war because of what he and his fellow killers decided to do 2 years ago today. And we will stay at war until we have achieved our objective, the dismantlement of terrorist organizations."

July 3, 2003, interview with African journalists: Responds to the assertion that 44 percent of Nigerians believe that bin Laden would do the right thing in world affairs.

"Well, I would have to say obviously there needs to be an education program, because Osama bin Laden is nothing but a killer who has hijacked a great religion. And he doesn't care about innocent life. And so I would be glad to have that debate with anybody, anywhere. And I would be glad to take those who believe that he is of some kind of remedial value, to his point of view, to the World Trade Center and introduce them to families who lost life for no reason other than the fact that he is a killer."

Most Recent Protracted Comments on bin Laden

March 13, 2002, news conference.

Q: Mr. President, in your speeches now you rarely talk or mention Osama bin Laden. Why is that? Also, can you tell the American people if you have any more information, if you know if he is dead or alive? Final part, deep in your heart, don't you truly believe that until you find out if he is dead or alive, you won't really eliminate the threat of----

"The President: Well, deep in my heart, I know the man is on the run if he's alive at all. Who knows if he's hiding in some cave or not? We haven't heard from him in a long time. And the idea of focusing on one person is--really indicates to me people don't understand the scope of the mission.

"Terror is bigger than one person. And he's just--he's a person who's now been marginalized. His network is--his host government has been destroyed. He's the ultimate parasite who found weakness, exploited it, and met his match. He is--as I've mentioned in my speeches, I do mention the fact that this is a fellow who is willing to commit youngsters to their death, and he himself tries to hide--if, in fact, he's hiding at all.

"So I don't know where he is. You know, I just don't spend that much time on him, Kelly [Kelly Wallace, Cable News Network], to be honest with you. I'm more worried about making sure that our soldiers are well supplied, that the strategy is clear, that the coalition is strong, that when we find enemy bunched up like we did in Shahi-Kot Mountains, that the military has all the support it needs to go in and do the job, which they did.

"And there will be other battles in Afghanistan. There's going to be other struggles like Shahi-Kot, and I'm just as confident about the outcome of those future battles as I was about Shahi-Kot, where our soldiers are performing brilliantly. We're tough; we're strong; they're well equipped. We have a good strategy. We are showing the world we know how to fight a guerrilla war with conventional means.

"Q: But don't you believe that the threat that bin Laden posed won't truly be eliminated until he is found either dead or alive?

"The President: Well, as I say, we haven't heard much from him. And I wouldn't necessarily say he's at the center of any command structure. And again, I don't know where he is. I--I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him. I know he is on the run. I was concerned about him when he had taken over a country. I was concerned about the fact that he was basically running Afghanistan and calling the shots for the Taliban.

"But once we set out the policy and started executing the plan, he became--we shoved him out more and more on the margins. He has no place to train his Al Qaeda killers anymore. And if we--excuse me for a minute--and if we find a training camp, we'll take care of it. Either we will, or our friends will. That's one of the things--part of the new phase that's becoming apparent to the American people is that we're working closely with other governments to deny sanctuary or training or a place to hide or a place to raise money."

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