Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard


SIX YEARS removed from 9/11, I'm appalled that no one seems to care whether we find and kill Osama bin Laden.

SIX YEARS removed from 9/11, I'm appalled that no one seems to care whether we find and kill Osama bin Laden.

How else to explain that there have been seven presidential debates so far - four for the D's, three for the R's - and only one question has been asked that touched on the subject of finding bin Laden in Pakistan.

We're talking close to 15 hours of debate, covering everything from family values to favorite teachers, and only one question - from an audience member, mind you - that even broached the topic of Pakistan.

Monday night's CNN/YouTube experiment was just the latest setting where the issue was invisible. But it was no doubt the most shocking given recent news on the bin Laden/Pakistan front.


On July 10, Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf had troops storm the so-called Red Mosque in Islamabad, confronting radical Islamists and resulting in at least 80 deaths.

In response to Musharraf's handling of the Red Mosque, tribal warlords with whom he had established a truce called off the accord.

On July 20, Musharraf was forced to reinstate Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, Pakistan's chief justice, whom he had ousted from the court for alleged misconduct and corruption.

Bin Laden surfaced via videotape on July 14, and intelligence officials believe he is still alive and hiding in the tribal areas.

Consider that just last Sunday, National Intelligence Director Adm. Mike McConnell appeared on "Meet the Press" and said he believes bin Laden is hiding in Pakistan - specifically, in the very tribal region Musharraf ceded to those warlords last fall.

On July 17, a two-page National Intelligence Estimate was released, which concludes that al Qaeda has reconstituted itself in Pakistan, a direct result of Musharraf's failed pact with the tribal warlords.

And still, despite all of these pressing developments, not a single inquiry about bin Laden or Pakistan was included on Monday night.

And there's been only one to date in any of the various debates and forums. To the extent that this is blamed on the media only, I have to ask - where is the public outrage?

The only time the subject has remotely come up in a debate was when an audience member asked the candidates: "How do you reconcile our security interests in Pakistan with our interest in promoting liberal democracy if Pakistan is not a democratic country?"

That's not even about finding and killing bin Laden! (Wolf Blitzer did follow that up with a hypothetical scenario in which candidates weighed killing bin Laden in Pakistan with a missile if it meant killing innocent civilians in the process. Again, not truly a question as to whether our current approach is correct.)

Please - somebody running for president - engage the nation on this important subject!

Start the ball rolling by opening dialogue on any of the following questions:

Should we disregard sovereignty and send our special forces into Pakistan?

Should we engage in tactical strikes against al Qaeda in Pakistan?

Should we initiate a full-scale ground offensive across the Afghan border?

Should we continue to support Musharraf? (Is the devil we know in this case really better than the devil we don't?)

I don't profess to have the answer to how we find and kill bin Laden. Then again, I'm not running to be commander in chief.

But those who are should state their views. The only thing I know for sure is that whatever we have been doing to find and kill bin Laden has failed.

Actually, I know something else. This failure is costing us a fortune. We are giving Pakistan $1 billion annually for military reimbursements for the non-hunt for bin Laden.

This is an outrage on so many levels, not the least of which is that every day the question isn't raised, it dishonors the 3,000 Americans who died on 9/11. *

Listen to Michael Smerconish weekdays 5:30-9 a.m. on the Big Talker, 1210/AM. Read him Sundays in the Inquirer. Contact him via the Web at