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Bin Laden sparks latest clash in US campaign

29 april 2012, 16:25
Osama Bin Laden. Photo courtesy of longwarjournal.org
Osama Bin Laden. Photo courtesy of longwarjournal.org
Former US commander-in-chief Bill Clinton appeared in a campaign video Friday in which he hailed President Barack Obama for ordering the risky military operation that killed Osama bin Laden one year ago, AFP reports.

White House challenger Mitt Romney, in turn, rapped the Democrats for politicizing the mission in the run up to its anniversary, with surrogates saying it was "unbecoming" of Obama to reduce the historic moment to a campaign slogan.

"He had to decide. And that's what you hire a president to do. You hire the president to make the calls when no one else can do it," Clinton said in the video, which sought to contrast Obama with the presumptive Republican nominee.

Entitled "One Chance," the ad used news footage including quotes from Romney during the 2008 election in which the former Massachusetts governor appeared ambivalent about going after the elusive Al-Qaeda leader.

Clinton saluted Obama for greenlighting the clandestine raid in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad despite knowing that if it went wrong the consequences would be disastrous.

"Suppose the Navy SEALs had gone in there, and it hadn't been bin Laden," Clinton said in the 90-second video.

"Suppose they'd been captured or killed. The downside would have been horrible for him.

"But he reasoned, 'I can not in good conscience do nothing.' He took the harder and the more honorable path, and the one that produced, in my opinion, the best result."

Bin Laden was killed May 2, 2011 in a raid that outraged the Pakistani government and Islamabad's powerful military who Washington chose to keep in the dark throughout.

The operation plunged US-Pakistani ties to an all-time low but it was seen as a huge strategic and popular success for Obama given the decade-long hunt for the terror mastermind.

The campaign video featured a screen grab highlighting Romney's doubts about the merits of searching for bin Laden.

"It's not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person," Romney was quoted as saying in a news report shown on CNN from when he was a Republican candidate four years ago.

Vice President Joe Biden had seized on the same remarks Thursday in a foreign policy speech.

He said Obama has a "ramrod" backbone while Romney showed "profound misunderstanding" of presidential responsibility.

"If you're looking for a bumper sticker to sum up how President Obama has handled what we inherited, it's pretty simple: Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive," Biden said.

Romney's campaign argued that while Romney congratulated the president and military on that day last year, a "desperate" Obama was seizing on the achievement to distract voters "from the failures of his administration."

"Killing Osama bin Laden was a momentous day for all Americans and we all give the president credit," former defense secretary Frank Carlucci and former navy secretary John Lehman, who both served under president Ronald Reagan, said in a Romney campaign statement.

"But we are saddened to see the president of the United States politicize that event, even reducing it to a campaign slogan. This is unbecoming of the commander-in-chief."

Romney's campaign attacked Obama's "remarkably flailing" reelection bid, saying the president is refusing to run on his record.

"The Obama campaign is like one of those gyrating, intermittent lawn sprinklers, spewing out attacks in seemingly random directions, hoping... to talk about anything but the unemployment rate, federal debt, gas prices, or rising health insurance premiums," campaign manager Matt Rhoades said.

By Tangi Quemener

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