Center for American Progress

Where’s Osama? The Bush Administration Has No Idea

Where’s Osama? The Bush Administration Has No Idea

After 9/11, America wanted Osama bin Laden dead or alive. President Bush missed his mark, but it's not too late to finish the job.

“I’ll tell you what,” crowed rockabilly legend Larry Gatlin at a rally for President Bush during a congressional campaign swing through Missouri this past weekend. “We’re gonna git Osama.”

The conservative crowd went wild, even though it’s over five years and counting since Osama bin Laden orchestrated the 9/11 assault on America—and still the terrorist leader remains at large. The reaction of Bush’s core supporters to Gatlin’s odd bit of cheerleading is puzzling. After all, shouldn’t the president have orchestrated the death or capture of bin Laden years ago?

President Bush had our full support and the support of the world when we and our allies invaded Afghanistan in the wake of the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Yet since then, by any measure, the president has failed to win the war against Osama’s al-Qaeda terrorist group or the related networks that have metastasized in Iraq, Somalia, and elsewhere around the world in the wake of the Bush administration’s misguided and ineptly managed war in Iraq.

The facts are clearcut. Five years after the invasion of Afghanistan, America and its NATO allies are battling a resurgent Taliban and Al Qaeda, whose leaders bin Laden and Mullah Muhammad Omar are still at large and orchestrating the renewed attacks. And Iraq stands today between civil war and utter chaos. With fewer than three months remaining in 2006, the Third Quarter Report Card on Progress in Iraq by our sister organization, the Center for American Progress Action Fund, finds Iraq on the brink of collapse with growing violence, increased sectarian tensions, divisions in the Iraqi national government, and few significant advances in Iraq’s economic reconstruction.

All indicators point to the utter failure of President Bush’s strategy for Iraq. Staying the course in Iraq will only boost the growth of terrorism around the globe. But the United States has other alternatives to win the war against Osama bin Laden and those inspired by his radical Islamist rhetoric. The first step is to redeploy our troops in Iraq, a policy the Center for American Progress has developed and championed for well over a year. The next step is to reconfigure our military, national security, diplomatic, and economic development strategies to take control of the fight against terrorists.

These are realistic, pragmatic solutions to the failures of the president’s “war on terror.” When a new Congress returns to Washington early next year its new and returning members need to redirect our military and economic might so that we can actually defeat the terrorists and capture or kill bin Laden. And we need to reengage with our allies abroad to help us in this critical struggle not just in Afghanistan but around the world.

For more details on the Center’s policy prescriptions on Iraq and America’s global war against terrorist networks, please see the following reports and analyses:

For more on these issues from our sister organization, the Center for American Progress Action Fund, please see the following reports and analyses:

To contact one of our experts please call/e-mail Sean Gibbons, Director of Media Strategy, at 202-682-1611 or

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