Ben Carson: We could have caught bin Laden sooner

Story highlights

  • Ben Carson says Arab states would have turned over Osama bin Laden if oil revenues were threatened
  • "Well, you may not think that they had any loyalty to him, but I believe otherwise," Carson said

Washington (CNN)Ben Carson repeated on Sunday his claim that President George W. Bush could have used oil as leverage to capture Osama bin Laden.

The United States could have pressured moderate Arab states to turn over bin Laden without military intervention, Carson told George Stephanopoulos in an interview with ABC's "This Week."
"I think they would have been extremely concerned if we had declared -- and we were serious about it -- that we were going to become petroleum independent, because it would have had a major impact on their finances," Carson said. "And I think that probably would have trumped any loyalty that they had to people like Osama bin Laden."
    When Stephanopoulos noted that moderate Middle Eastern countries had no loyalty to bin Laden, and Saudi Arabia had expelled him, Carson said: "Well, you may not think that they had any loyalty to him, but I believe otherwise."
    "I think they would have known where he was," Carson said. "You know, there were indications, for instance, during the Clinton administration that -- that they knew exactly where he was but didn't necessarily pull the trigger. If we could tell where he was, I'm certain that they knew where he was."
    Stephanopoulos responded: "But at that point, we had some idea but we didn't know for sure. I simply don't understand how you think this would have worked."
    Then, Carson brought up Iraq.
    "Well here's the point -- here's my point. My point is, we we had other ways that we could have done things. I personally don't believe that invading Iraq was an existential threat to us. I don't think Saddam Hussein was an existential threat to us. It's a very different situation right now. Now, we have global jihadists who want to destroy us and our way of life," he said.
    Stephanopoulos noted that he'd been asking about invading Afghanistan, not Iraq.
    "Well, I was primarily talking about Iraq," Carson said.
    The United States launched military attacks in Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11 in an effort to track down bin Laden and destroy his al Qaeda organization. The war in Iraq was not related to those terror attacks; it came as a result of (ultimately inaccurate) expectations that the country had weapons of mass destruction.