Almost two years before the Sept. 11 terror attacks, Donald Trump says he urged the United States to eliminate Osama bin Laden.
"Remember that in ‘The America We Deserve,’ I wrote that book in 2000, I wrote about Osama bin Laden: ‘We’ve got to take him out,’" Trump said during a Dec. 2 rally for his presidential campaign in Manassas.
Trump rarely leaves a rally without saying that well before the Sept. 11 attacks, he was among the first to recognize bin Laden’s danger. We wondered whether his claim about the warning in his book is accurate.
"The America We Deserve" was published in January 2000. Trump was considering a presidential bid that year, and the book laid out his views on an array of issues, including terrorism.
Bin Laden is mentioned once in the 304-page book, in a passage criticizing then-President Bill Clinton for having an unfocused national security policy during an era when the U.S. no longer faced one central threat, such as the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Here’s what Trump wrote:
"Instead of one looming crisis hanging over us, we face a bewildering series of smaller crises, flash points, stand offs, and hot spots. We’re not playing the chess game to end all chess games anymore. We’re playing tournament chess - one master against many rivals. One day we’re assured that Iraq is under control, the UN inspectors have done their work, everything’s fine, not to worry. The next day the bombing begins. One day we’re told that a shadowy figure named Osama bin Laden is public enemy number one, and U.S. jet fighters lay waste to his camp in Afghanistan. He escapes back under some rock, and a few news cycles later, it’s on to a new enemy and a new crisis."
The reference to bin Laden relates to the Aug. 20, 1998, U.S. bombing of his camps in Afghanistan and Sudan. Clinton said they were in retaliation for terrorist bombings earlier that month on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Clinton said the goal of the U.S. strikes was to "disrupt bin Laden’s terror network."
In the next paragraph of his book, Trump wrote that the U.S. also was "haphazard" in early 1999 when it intervened with NATO in the Kosovo War.
Again, Trump mentioned bin Laden only once in his book. He did not call on the U.S. to target the terrorist leader individually, or to wage a unilateral war against his al-Qaida terror network.
In many of his speeches this year, Trump has gone a step further and said that he "predicted" bin Laden in his 2000 book. Trump didn’t make that claim in Manassas, where he was diverted by demonstrators in the midst of his comments about bin Laden and did not return to the subject after the protesters had been removed.
Trump, in his book, described China’s emergence as an economic power as "the greatest long-term challenge" facing the U.S. and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions as biggest short-term "menace."
He devoted a chapter to terrorism. Trump wrote that the U.S. "must prepare for the real possibility that somewhere, sometime, a weapon of mass destruction will be carried into a major American city and detonated." He acknowledged that this was not an original thought, noting that ABC-TV’s "Nightline" had aired a series of shows about the threat. Trump wrote that such an attack likely would be carried out through germ warfare.
We tried to contact Trump’s campaign for this fact-check, but did not get a response.
Trump claims that in early 2000, almost two years before the Sept. 11 attacks, "I wrote about Osama bin Laden: ‘We’ve got to take him out.’"
Trump’s book did not contain those words or their clear likeness. Bin Laden’s name appears once in the book, when the author was criticizing the Clinton administration for having an unfocused national security policy. He complained that the U.S. kept shifting its military focus between Iraq, bin Laden’s organization and Kosovo without strong results.
The book says that if bin Laden was "public enemy number one" in 1998, then the U.S. should have spent more than one day that year on a retaliatory bombing mission against his camps that bin Laden escaped. But Trump, never known for mincing words, did not call for future efforts to exterminate bin Laden or strike against al-Qaida.
So we rate Trump’s hyperbolic statement Mostly False.