President Bill Clinton’s Non-War on Terror – Khobar Towers 10 Year’s Later
It has been 10 years from today, the Khobar Towers Military complex in Dhahran, Saudia Arabia was bombed by terrorists killing 19. Let us never forget the 19 American Air Force airmen killed that day.
I have often mentioned the Clinton Presidency and its Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell policy dealing with terrorism during his tenure. We experienced 6 major Al Qaeda/ Hezbollah terrorist attacks during his leadership and not one of those attacks was received as an Act of War against the people of the United States. Six Major Terrorist attacks against the United States and not ONE IMMEDIATE RETALIATION or MILITARY RESPONSE!!! Rather, each terrorist attack was treated as if Inspector Jacques Clouseau were investigating a behm (bomb) going off in a hotel rheum (room). Let’s analyze each attack and each response or shall I say non-response of the Clinton Administration:
1993 WORLD TRADE CENTER BOMBING
February 26, 1993: Six people killed and about a thousand injured after a truck bomb explodes in the basement of the World Trade Center towers in New York.
CLINTON RESPONSE: President Clinton didn’t even visit New York City nor address the nation the day of this terrorist attack. Not until the following day, did he mention the attacks in his weekly radio address. President Clinton spent all of 70 seconds discussing the attack and then launched into his tax hike economic plan.
The purported mastermind of the plot, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, wasn’t captured until two years after the attacks on February 7, 1995 and was arrested by Pakistani intelligence not by Clinton’s CIA or FBI. Yousef was extradited and finally convicted of the bombing in November 1997, and also sentenced to life in prison. In court, Yousef said, "I am a terrorist, and I am proud of it.” In 1997, Osama bin Laden said during an interview that he did not know Yousef. Yousef's uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed allegedly took part in launching the September 11 Terrorist Attacks.
1993 SOMALIA BLACKHAWK DOWN
President Bush 41 had sent U.S. forces into Somalia in December 1992 to aid the United Nations in relieving a massive famine. On May 5th, 1993, just 4 months into his presidency, Bill Clinton declared “Mission Accomplished” in a speech declaring: “On behalf of all the American people, I say to you, General, and to all whom you brought with you: Welcome home, and thank you for a job very, very well done.” Shortly thereafter, with no U.S. deterrent, Somalia's warlords began fighting again and initiated a series of bloody attacks on U.N. peacekeepers.
October 3, 4 1993: President Clinton launched a new mission and sent in a force of Rangers and Special Forces units to capture the brutal warlord Mohammad Farrah Aidid and restore order. That force asked for heavy armor--in the form of Abrams tanks and Bradley armored vehicles--as well as the AC-130 gunship, but the Clinton Administration denied those requests. On October 3 on a mission to pick up Aidid, two Black Hawks were unexpectedly shot down. Eighteen American soldiers are attacked and killed in Mogadishu, Somalia. A U.S. indictment later charged bin Laden and his followers with training the attackers. This is the incident described in the movie Black Hawk Down.
CLINTON RESPONSE: President Clinton aborted the mission. The U.S. released the criminals it had captured that same day at such great cost, and the U.N., lacking U.S. support, was powerless to keep order.
In a 1997 interview with CNN’s Peter Arnet, Osama Bin Laden went on to explain the Mogadishu uprising as a key turning point for his movement and the defeat of Americans: “We learned from those who fought there, that they were surprised to see the low spiritual morale of the American fighters in comparison with the experience they had with the Russian fighters. The Americans ran away from those fighters who fought and killed them, while the latter were still there. If the U.S. still thinks and brags that it still has this kind of power even after all these successive defeats in Vietnam, Beirut, Aden, and Somalia, then let them go back to those who are awaiting its return.
1995 RIYADH U.S. MILITARY HEADQUARTERS BOMBING
November 13, 1995: Five US soldiers and two Indian nationals are killed and more than 60 people wounded when a car bomb explodes in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
CLINTON RESPONSE: NONE!! He gave this 2 sentence remark later that afternoon after hearing of the attacks.
1996 KHOBAR TOWER BOMBING
June 25, 1996: Nineteen killed and 386 wounded when a truck bomb explodes at the US military base of Khobar near the town of Dhahran in Saudi Arabia.
(HAT TIP: firstname.lastname@example.org )
CLINTON RESPONSE: I’ll let President Clinton’s own FBI Director Louis Freeh explain this one: On June 25, 1996, Iran again attacked America at Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, exploding a huge truck bomb that devastated Khobar Towers and murdered 19 U.S. airmen as they rested in their dormitory. These young heroes spent every day risking their lives enforcing the no-fly zone over southern Iraq; that is, protecting Iraqi Shiites from their own murderous tyrant. When I visited this horrific scene soon after the attack, I watched dozens of dedicated FBI agents combing through the wreckage in 120-degree heat, reverently handling the human remains of our brave young men. More than 400 of our Air Force men and women were wounded in this well-planned attack, and I was humbled by their courage and spirit. I later met with the families of our lost Khobar heroes and promised that we would do whatever was necessary to bring these terrorists to American justice. The courage and dignity these wonderful families have consistently exemplified has been one of the most powerful experiences of my 26 years of public service.
The FBI's investigation of the Khobar attack was extraordinarily persistent, indeed relentless. Our fallen heroes and their families deserve nothing less. Working in close cooperation with the White House, State Department, CIA and Department of Defense, I made a series of trips to Saudi Arabia beginning in 1996. FBI agents opened an office in Riyadh and aligned themselves closely with the Mabaheth, the kingdom's antiterrorist police. Over the course of our investigation the evidence became clear that while the attack was staged by Saudi Hezbollah members, the entire operation was planned, funded and coordinated by Iran's security services, the IRGC and MOIS, acting on orders from the highest levels of the regime in Tehran.
In order to return an indictment and bring these terrorists to American justice, it became essential that FBI agents be permitted to interview several of the participating Hezbollah terrorists who were detained in Saudi Arabia. The purpose of the interviews was to confirm--with usable, co-conspirator testimonial evidence--the Iranian complicity that Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan and the Mabaheth had already relayed to us. (For the record, the FBI's investigation only succeeded because of the real cooperation provided by Prince Bandar and our colleagues in the Mabaheth.) FBI agents had never before been permitted to interview firsthand Saudis detained in the kingdom.
Unfortunately, the White House was unable or unwilling to help the FBI gain access to these critical witnesses. The only direction from the Clinton administration regarding Iran was to order the FBI to stop photographing and fingerprinting official Iranian delegations entering the U.S. because it was adversely impacting our "relationship" with Tehran. We had argued that the MOIS was using these groups to infiltrate its agents into the U.S.
After months of inaction, I finally turned to the former President Bush, who immediately interceded with Crown Prince Abdullah on the FBI's behalf. Mr. Bush personally asked the Saudis to let the FBI do one-on-one interviews of the detained Khobar bombers. The Saudis immediately acceded. After Mr. Bush's Saturday meeting with the Crown Prince in Washington, Ambassador Wyche Fowler, Dale Watson, the FBI's excellent counterterrorism chief, and I were summoned to a Monday meeting where the crown prince directed that the FBI be given direct access to the Saudi detainees. This was the investigative breakthrough for which we had been waiting for several years.
Mr. Bush typically disclaimed any credit for his critical intervention but he earned the gratitude of many FBI agents and the Khobar families. I quickly dispatched the FBI case agents back to Saudi Arabia, where they interviewed, one-on-one, six of the Hezbollah members who actually carried out the attack. All of them directly implicated the IRGC, MOIS and senior Iranian government officials in the planning and execution of this attack. Armed with this evidence, the FBI recommended a criminal indictment that would identify Iran as the sponsor of the Khobar bombing. Finding a problem for every solution, the Clinton administration refused to support a prosecution.
The prosecution and criminal indictment for these murders had to wait for a new administration. In February 2001, working with exactly the same evidence but with a talented new prosecutor, James B. Comey Jr. (now U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York), Attorney General John Ashcroft's personal intervention, and White House support, the case was presented to a grand jury. On June 21, 2001, only four days before some of the terrorist charges would have become barred by the five-year statute of limitations, the grand jury indicted 13 Hezbollah terrorists for the Khobar attack and identified Iran as the sponsor.
Nonetheless, the terrorists who murdered 19 U.S. airmen and wounded hundreds more have yet to be brought to American justice. Whenever U.S. diplomats hold talks with representatives of Iran's Islamic government, Khobar Towers should be the top item on their agenda. The arrest and turnover to U.S. authorities of Ahmad Ibrahim Al-Mughassil and Ali Saed bin Ali Al-Houri, two of the indicted Hezbollah leaders of the Khobar attack believed to be in Iran, should be part of any "normalization" discussion. Furthermore, access and accountability by IRGC, MOIS and other senior Iranian government leaders for their complicity in the attack should be nonnegotiable.
2 U.S. Embassies in Africa Bombed
August 7, 1998: 224 people killed and over 5000 injured, mostly Africans, when US embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam in east Africa are bombed.
CLINTON RESPONSE: The comparatively restrained response of the Clinton Administration, at the time embroiled in the Lewinsky scandal, was twofold: militarily and economically. To retaliate on an economic level, President Clinton signed Executive Order 13099 on August 20, 1998 that prohibited transactions with terrorists who threatened to disrupt the Middle East peace process. 13099 further alleged that bin Laden and the Islamic Army Organization were the perpetrators of the attacks on the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The executive order attempted to freeze assets owned by bin Laden and al Qaeda and stipulated that U.S. citizens and firms could not do business with them. President Clinton ordered Operation Infinite Reach, a series of cruise missile strikes on terrorist targets in Sudan and Afghanistan on August 20, 1998, announcing the planned strike in a primetime address on American television. Within days of Operation Infinite Reach, Western engineers who had visited or been associated with the plant, as well as Sudanese officials, doctors, lawyers and plant employees insisted that Al Shifa was a working pharmaceutical plant and not a terrorist operational site.
NOTE: I guess President Clinton decided to kill Al Qaeda terrorists with massive migraine headaches since he bombed an Aspirin Factory and by taking their money away to buy pharmaceuticals elsewhere!
2000 U.S.S. Cole Bombing
October 12, 2000: 17 US sailors killed and 38 injured when a suicide attack on USS Cole in Aden is carried out. In any ordinary administration, this would have been considered an act of war. After all, America entered the Spanish-American war and World War I when our ships were attacked.
CLINTON RESPONSE: NONE!! Counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke had ordered his staff to review existing intelligence in relation to the bombing of the USS Cole. After that review, he and Michael Sheehan, the State Department's counterterrorism coordinator, were convinced it was the work of Osama bin Laden. The Pentagon had on-the-shelf, regularly updated and detailed strike plans for bin Laden's training camps and strongholds in Afghanistan.At a meeting with Secretary of Defense William Cohen, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Attorney General Janet Reno, and other staffers, Clarke was the only one in favor of retaliation against bin Laden. Reno thought retaliation might violate international law and was therefore against it. Tenet wanted to more definitive proof that bin Laden was behind the attack, although he personally thought he was. Albright was concerned about the reaction of world opinion to a retaliation against Muslims, and the impact it would have in the final days of the Clinton Middle East peace process. Cohen, according to Clarke, did not consider the Cole attack "sufficient provocation" for a military retaliation. Michael Sheehan was particularly surprised that the Pentagon did not want to act. He told Clarke: "What's it going to take to get them to hit al Qaeda in Afghanistan? Does al Qaeda have to attack the Pentagon?" Instead of destroying bin Laden's terrorist infrastructure and capabilities, President Clinton twice phoned the president of Yemen demanding better cooperation between the FBI and the Yemeni security services. If Clarke's plan had been implemented, al Qaeda's infrastructure would have been demolished and Bin Laden might well have been killed. Sept. 11, 2001 might have been just another sunny day.