As we near the 20-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks—which spurred two wars, including the one in Afghanistan that is currently causing so much pain and trauma for Americans and their Afghan allies—former President Donald Trump took the opportunity to downplay the significance of Osama bin Laden’s role in terrorism. On Thursday, Trump made the bizarre claim in several interviews with conservative radio and TV hosts that late al-Qaeda leader—killed during a 2011 raid on his Pakistan hideout by Navy SEALs—was basically a B-lister as far as terrorists go.
The claim is odd coming from Trump, a native New Yorker, who claimed to have witnessed the attacks firsthand and sought from the very first moments of the tragedy to insert himself in the media narrative. In classic Trump form, he gave a live television interview the morning of the attacks claiming that his 40 Wall Street office building was then the tallest building in Manhattan after the World Trade Center collapsed (it was not). The idea that Bin Laden, who directed the 9/11 attacks that killed more than 3,000 Americans, is not a big deal is simply an anathema to…well, everyone really.
Trump made his statements seemingly in an effort to burnish his own credibility. Calling into conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt’s show on Thursday, Trump complained that his administration’s targeted assassinations of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the commander of the Iranian Quds Force Qasem Soleimani were bigger deals than the killing of Osama bin Laden, under president Barack Obama’s administration:
And we took out the founder of ISIS, al-Baghdadi, and then of course Soleimani. Now just so you understand, Soleimani is bigger by many, many times than Osama bin Laden. The founder of ISIS is bigger by many, many times, al-Baghdadi, than Osama bin Laden.
Osama bin Laden had one hit, and it was a bad one, in New York City, the World Trade Center. But these other two guys were monsters. They were monsters.
Besides being offensive, Trump’s second claim that Bin Laden had only “one hit” is also not true—among other deadly plots, he masterminded attacks on US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998 and the deadly attack on the USS Cole warship that killed 17 US sailors in 2000.