Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was briefed by a top civil servant that Osama Bin Laden, then one of the FBI’s most wanted for a string of terror attacks but before the 9/11 atrocity, should be ‘whacked’, declassified memos have revealed.
Speaking with the Prime Minister before he met with then-President Bill Clinton in December 2000, ‘Downing Street official’ Sir John Sawyers told Prime Minister Tony Blair that “We’re all in favour of whacking UBL but we need a bit of notice and a chance to influence the timing”. ‘UBL’ was then the UK government shorthand for Osama Bin Laden, The Times reports.
The revelation that the British government was in favour of executing Bin Laden “with a US airstrike” months before the 9/11 attack took place comes in declassified papers now released by the British National Archives in Kew, London. They reveal, the report notes, Sir John’s anxiety over the timing of a theoretical strike against Bin Laden, coming as it did so close to the inauguration of a new U.S. President, and also during a visit to the Persian Gulf by Tony Blair.
The message by Sawyers, who would later become the head of the United Kingdom’s CIA equivalent, MI6, and then an oil director came just months after al-Qaeda launched a suicide bombing attack against United States Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Cole. Sawyers said the American government would not sanction a strike against Bin Laden for the USS Cole attack until they had a “smoking gun” as they did not at that time have “proof that UBL was responsible for the attack”.
The document releases also underline some of the thinking between the United Kingdom and the United States in the aftermath of the 9/11 attack which saw the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. A note by the British Ambassador to Washington Sir Christopher Meyer claimed the United States had “learned the lessons” from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan 20 years before and consequently there would not be “too many muddy boots on the ground”, The Guardian reported. In the event, over 3,500 coalition troops were killed in action in Afghanistan.