Many (friends & foes) are asking the question of Bill Clinton: Were the missile strikes at terrorist encampments merely a political show to offset the Lewinsky affair? The answer is a definite Yes & No. Should the President have ordered a strike on terrorists who were implicated in the bombings that killed 257 people, including 12 Americans - and who declared that they planned to kill more? The answer is absolutely Yes!
Countering that, the record of Clinton and his predecessor, George Bush is very clear in not, I repeat, NOT, conducting reprisal actions against known terrorists who killed Americans. That was true from Reagan/Weinberger through Bush/Baker and now Clinton/Albright. Clinton's Attorney-General, Janet Reno, has been asked by the Congress and begged by the families of US citizens murdered by Arab terrorists to issue a warrant for their arrest and extradition to bring them to justice. Eleven Americans have been murdered by Palestinian terrorists known to be running free in the "Palestinian Authority". Reno has consistently refused to request their extradition - which is mandated by US law.. Leon Klinghoffer was murdered by Abul Abbas who is now advising Arafat. Our President is content to allow this terrorist his freedom in Gaza and even protection.
Why then did Clinton change his foreign policy now and shot 45 cruise missiles on terrorist camps? Several journalists have asked if Clinton is following the plot of a movie called "Wag the Dog". The story line is of a President caught in a sexual relationship with a young girl. His fixers or damage control managers stage a war in Albania by video and news manipulation to distract his detractors. As in the movie, Clinton now looks "Presidential" and can act the military role as Commander-in-Chief.
The general answer to our first question is Yes & Yes. Yes, he should have attacked terrorists who killed Americans. And, Yes, he is using bombing of American Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya as the reason for the reprisal to distract the media and the people from the Lewinsky fiasco.
Now, let's look a little deeper. The following lists a few prior attacks on Americans which brought NO response with the exception of the President making threatening speeches. Note that on order from Casper Weinberger, the US never hit Syria for its involvement in blowing up our Embassy in Beirut killing 16 Americans and the Marine Barracks in Lebanon which killed 241 Americans. These present bombings are similar to our choice of targets when President Bush hit Libya, while the real targets should have been Syria and Iran for their involvement in the Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie. Libya was not very important to other Arab nations. Moammar Kaddafi was viewed as erratic and irrelevant by them.
In the same way Afghanistan and Sudan are viewed as insignificant Third World nations who can be attacked with impunity. After all, these are Arab countries who do NOT have oil. While other Arab nations complain that Islam is under attack by the great Satan (America) - according to the radicals, it won't raise much interest. We can safely assume that, If the terrorist planners came from Syria, Iran, Egypt, US Intelligence wouldn't be able to identify the perpetrators nor would our esteemed President issue real orders to find and kill them. As for Osama Bin Ladin, he is a minor figure, a straw man to knock down and claim victory.
While Sudan and Afghanistan have been well known as safe havens for terrorists and terror organizations, they did not begin to compare with Syria and Iran who host numerous terrorist groups. These nations not only provide safe haven but also supply money, weapons and collaborate in planning the attacks. This, of course, is all well known by our President, our numerous Intelligence Agencies and the media. However, foreign policy is such that these nations are protected by an almost invisible safe barrier erected by US corporations connected to Arab oil and implemented by the State Department. In other words, there is very little by way of terrorism that these Arab nations can do which will bring an adequate and effective US response. Certainly, at least for American Presidents, killing Americans is no excuse to attack any terrorist.
As for the cruise missile attacks on encampments of terrorists in Sudan and Afghanistan, we must wait and see if they did any actual damage to the terrorist mechanism. These strikes seemed to have been timed so that only a few of the terrorists would actually be in the buildings targeted, given the lateness of the hour. In a way this is somewhat reminiscent of George Bush's attempt to rebuild his failing approval ratings just before the election by firing 41 cruise missiles at an empty manufacturing complex in Iraq. That political gesture cost $41 million dollars while Clinton's gesture cost $67 million. In effect, we were making one of those diplomatic statements that is supposed to send a message. We don't usually blow up terrorists, we talk them to death.
During the Gulf War so-called "Smart Weapons" like the cruise missiles, blew a lot of very expensive holes in the sand. The few that hit actual targets were videoed and replayed ad nauseam on CNN News. Smart weapons are, of course, useful but, usually do not carry enough conventional explosive in their warheads to do the same job as a 2000 pound dumb iron bomb. Well, it's good business for the missile manufacturers and their fireworks made a good display for the military, the TV and an even better distracting show for the Clintons.
So, now what?! The coalition of terrorist groups and those nations who support them are delighted with this American pin prick. Since US policy has been virtually a non-response to attacks by Arab terrorists, they (the terrorists) have no reason to look over their shoulders. Further, before they had no reasonable excuse to feed their aberrant rage with the thrust of radical religious fervor. Now, with a certain self-righteous glee, they can attack Americans, Israelis, everyone as if now they have rational justification to do what they have always done - kill people.
As for Clinton, he is still the same amoral, shallow man as he was when he made his Monica confession. He might have acted Presidential by this long overdue show retaliation against terrorism. But, what's next? I would estimate that the Arab sleeper teams allowed into this country by the State Department will now ramp up their activities. We will probably see a spate of bombings in the US and elsewhere. The terrorists' mission was merely to await a time to commence action on selected targets. After the next predictable attacks, our vaunted FBI will run around hysterically; the local police will not know what to do and the State Department will plead with Syria, Iran, Iraq to intervene and call back the terrorists. The American public will likely attack Arabs on the street and burn their mosques in frustration and rage. This would, of course, be as unfair as when the US interred Japanese families during World War II. But, as frequently demonstrated in Israel, the local Arabs often act in concert with the terrorists by offering safe havens, allowing them to mix and be hidden among the population.
Meanwhile, reports coming out of the politicized Pentagon and the White House will brag about the evidence they collected on terrorists. At the same time they will be admitting that they had hard information on terrorism accumulated for years which they chose not to use. Even when Americans were killed, their first concern was protecting their investments in the Arab world. Our Presidents, our State Department and Intelligence Agencies' professionals and their executives move in and out of top posts to and from the multi-national corporations to which they are beholden. They always had the evidence on World Terrorism but remained silent and quiescent for the cash flow it would bring.
Remember Khartoum, Sudan in 1973? Yasir Arafat's Force 17 had captured and held hostage the American Ambassador Cleo Noel, Jr, his aide and the French charges d'affaires. In phone contact with Arafat, awaiting instructions, the leader finally received the order from Arafat to execute them. According to Gen. Ariel Sharon, Arafat's execution order was recorded and the tape sent to the CIA. How poignant, after 25 years a few buildings in Khartoum, Sudan that showed signs of chemical weapons' manufacture were hit, while Arafat continues to run through the world, free to threaten Jihad (Holy War) on Israel, the Little Satan and Death to the American Great Satan.
As for the Presidential threat to attack terrorism? Don't count on it. When American lives are in the balance scales, weighed against Arab good will and cash flow - guess who will be sacrifice - You!
Emanuel A. Winston is a Middle East analyst and commentator and a research associate of the Freeman Center For Strategic Studies. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org