Gates and Nelson Discuss Terrorist "Powerball"
One of the strangest tangents of the day came when Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE), who specializes in voting with Republicans the vast majority of the time, suggested that, given the total failure of the Bush administration to catch Osama bin Laden in five years, we should essentially hold a lottery and simply make the person rolling over on Osama very rich.
"If our goal is to ultimately nab or find Osama bin Laden, some sort of a net approach is necessary to do it," said Nelson during his time questioning Gates. "And I agree with you finding out where he's going would be advisable if we had the intelligence to be able to do that -- with a capital 'I.'"
And then Nelson floated the idea of catching bin Laden by flat-out buying him at whatever the prevailing asking price might be:
"The other approach that we seem to have started but we haven't really completed is that we put a $25 million reward for his capture, a bounty if you will. That, obviously, hasn't been enough money to get somebody to turn him in -- as you say, one of his own forces to turn him in."A sort of terrorist 'Powerball,'" quipped Gates.
"What would you think about increasing the amount of that reward or that bounty by $1 million a week -- it certainly is a small number compared to the cost of our conflict -- until it reaches a breaking point where somebody says, 'That's enough, and I'll give him up for $35 million or $40 million,' just keep adding it? Because the cost of the war are so significant and yet the symbolism of this individual is still significant in that part of the world."
"Yes," replied Nelson.
"Somebody always wins the lottery," said Gates. "It's just a question of when and how much it is at the time."
So there you have it… When macho threats from the White House won’t get the person actually responsible for what happened in 2001, let's sell Osama scratch-off tickets at the Kabul 7-11.
"I would hope that you would consider what it would take to increase the bounty or the reward," said Nelson. "Because I do think that money talks. And at some point somebody will say, 'That's enough,' and they'll take the risk of turning him in."