President-elect Joe Biden has a long history of recasting his accounts of the 2011 raid that killed al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, giving conflicting recounts that contradicts his original story that he advised President Obama “don’t go,” to overtime morphing his version of the accounts by saying now that he privately told Obama to “go ahead.”
In a new documentary from CNN, “President in Waiting,” that aired over the weekend, Biden once again backtracked his original version of the story of the accounts he told the President privately regarding the May 2011 mission on raiding bin Laden hideaway.
The former Vice President recalled the details of the decision-making process leading up to the raid of bin Laden compound, in which Biden is now claiming that he urged Obama to “follow your instinct” with moving forward on the raid.
Biden began the accounts of Obama’s top advisers debating whether they had strong enough intelligence to launch the raid as bin Laden was hiding in a secret compound located on Pakistan’s sovereignty.
“When it came time to go or not go, the president went around the room. I think there were 17 people around the table … and [he] said, ‘what do you think we should do?'” Biden said in the documentary. “Two said go, and one said don’t go, and I’m the last person in the room. And again, this is a place where I gotta reserve space for the president.”
The former Vice President recalled wanting to hold off on the raid, stating “there was one option remaining,” regarding a final flyover of bin Laden’s compound, suggested doing “one more pass” to ensure the target was secure. Despite his hesitance, Biden recalled the private conversation he had with Obama in the Oval Office where he advises the president to give the green light and “follow your instincts on this one.”
“Had this decision been wrong, had he not been there or had it failed, I doubt the 17 people around that table would’ve said, ‘I told him he should go,'” he said.
However, the accounts given over the weekend totally conflicts with the original statement he recounted months later after the raid, declaring that he suggested Obama “don’t go.”
During remarks at a Democratic congressional retreat in January 2012, Biden recounted when it came time to make the final decision, he had some lingering uncertainties, suggesting without clarification of “two more things” needed to be done before conducting the raid.
“He got to me. He said, ‘Joe, what do you think?’ And I said, ‘You know, I didn’t know we had so many economists around the table.’ I said, ‘We owe the man a direct answer. Mr. President, my suggestion is, don’t go. We have to do two more things to see if he’s there,'” Biden said, recalling senior officials “hedged their bet” except CIA Director Leon Panetta, who said “go.”
Months later during an exclusive interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, Biden was asked on his “judgment” regarding the raid operation, in which he replied that he wanted to wait a day but he told Obama to “follow your instincts.”
“We walked up toward the residence, toward his office and I knew he was going to go,” Biden said. “And what I always tell him, I said, ‘Follow your instincts, Mr. President. Your instincts have been close to unerring. Follow your instincts.’ I wanted him to take one more day to do one more test to see if he was there. But he did it for one reason. He had 100% confidence in the SEALs that even if bin Laden wasn’t there, there’d be no collateral damage and they’d be able to get back.”
But two years later, Biden would start to sidestep the question on whether he advised against the raid. In an interview with New York Times magazine, the former Vice President gave a vague response when he was asked specifically on whether he had advised against the raid.
“I remember walking up to his office and saying: ‘Look, follow your instincts. Follow your instincts,'” Biden said in the January 2013 interview. “Let me put it this way: My advice was, follow your instincts, knowing what his instinct was.”
By 2015, Biden’s evolution on his accounts of the events along with what he told the president continued.
At an event honoring former Vice President Walter Mondale in Oct 2015, Biden said he told Obama in a private conversation, “I thought he should go but to follow his own instincts. Following the event, mainstream media back when they were actually reporting the news began to fact check Biden’s past remarks showing that the former Vice President had revised his account from 2012 when he said he told Obama “don’t go.”
The former Vice President told CBS News on Oct. 26, 2015, to explain the contradictions. Biden claimed that “everything I said was completely accurate, I just never, until last Tuesday night, told the whole story.”
When Biden was pressed on his response, he replied, “The reporting was accurate when I said ‘I didn’t say go.’ And I didn’t. What I said was, ‘Mr. President, try one more thing.'”
Years later in January 2020, Biden would then deny that he advised Obama “not to go after bin Laden.”
During a brief interview exchange with Fox News reporter, Biden was asked a hypothetical question in the wake of President Trump’s decision to target Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike at Baghdad’s airport. The exchange led to Biden telling Fox News Peter Doocey that it wasn’t true that he advised Obama against the operation.
“Didn’t you tell President Obama not to go after bin Laden that day?” Doocey asked in a follow up to which Biden said, “No, I didn’t.”
Joe Biden is now trying to cover up his opposition to the Osama bin Laden raid.— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) January 3, 2020
Moments ago, Biden says, “No I didn’t” when confronted by Peter Doocy for being against the raid.
8 years ago, Biden said he opposed raid and told Obama, “Mr. President, my suggestion is don’t go.” pic.twitter.com/zAWhMf38MU
Biden’s most recent iteration of the accounts contradicts Obama’s version he wrote in his new memoir ‘A Promised Land,’ and even what Hillary Clinton wrote in her own memoir ‘Hard Choices.’
Clinton wrote that Biden opposed the raid, as she supported it, writing, “I respected Bob [Gates] and Joe [Biden]’s concerns about the risks of a raid, but I came to the conclusion that the intelligence was convincing and the risks were outweighed by the benefits of success.”
Obama in his new memoir that was released last month recalled how Biden “weighed in against the raid” and was concerned about “the enormous consequences of failure” if the raid was unsuccessful and failed. He didn’t make any mention of any private conversation with his Vice President that stated he said to go for it.
“Joe also weighed in against the raid, arguing that given the enormous consequences of failure, I should defer any decision until the intelligence community was more certain that bin Laden was in the compound. As had been true in every major decision I’d made as president, I appreciated Joe’s willingness to buck the prevailing mood and ask tough questions, often in the interest of giving me the space I needed for my own internal deliberations,” Obama wrote.
Despite Biden’s long history of changing his tune on the bin Laden raid, the mission ended up being a success with the Navy Seal team killing bin Laden on May 2, 2011.