General Plays Down Value Of Capturing Bin Laden

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Saturday, February 24, 2007

FORT WORTH, Feb. 23 -- The Army's highest-ranking officer said Friday that he was unsure whether the U.S. military would capture or kill Osama bin Laden, adding, "I don't know that it's all that important, frankly."

"So we get him, and then what?" asked Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the outgoing Army chief of staff, at a Rotary Club of Fort Worth luncheon. "There's a temporary feeling of goodness, but in the long run, we may make him bigger than he is today.

"He's hiding, and he knows we're looking for him. We know he's not particularly effective. I'm not sure there's that great of a return" on capturing or killing bin Laden.

Schoomaker pointed to the capture of Saddam Hussein, the killings of his sons, Uday and Qusay, and the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as evidence that the capture or death of al-Qaeda's leader would have little effect on threats to the United States.

Days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, President Bush said he wanted bin Laden "dead or alive," and then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said, "It is not enough to get one individual, although we'll start with that one individual."

Bush reaffirmed the goal last September in a prime-time speech, warning bin Laden: "No matter how long it takes, America will find you, and we will bring you to justice."

But Schoomaker's remarks echoed comments last year by Vice President Cheney, who seemed to play down the value of capturing or killing bin Laden days before the Bush speech. "He's not the only source of the problem, obviously. . . . If you killed him tomorrow, you'd still have a problem with al-Qaeda," the vice president said.

Schoomaker, who is due to be replaced as chief of staff in April by Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commanded the U.S. Special Operations Command before becoming chief of staff. Special operations personnel have been leading the hunt for bin Laden along the mountainous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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