CLINTON'S REVENGE: But was his real target the Arab terrorists or Lewinsky's testimony?
Ian Cobain Aug 21, 1998
PRESIDENT Clinton unleashed up to 100 cruise missiles against Sudan and Afghanistan yesterday to avert what he claimed was 'an immediate threat' of terrorist attack.
He said he had 'compelling evidence' that fanatical Islamic terrorist leaders were holding a summit to plan further atrocities against the U.S. in the wake of the embassy bombings two weeks ago.
'Our target was terror. Our mission was clear,' he told the American people in a televised address last night.
But there was massive cynicism about the timing, at the end of the toughest week of his career, and announced just as Monica Lewinsky emerged from giving more evidence about their affair to the Grand Jury.
His Defence Secretary William Cohen even faced accusations that the attacks were inspired by the recent Hollywood comedy Wag The Dog, in which an embattled President launches a 'pretend war' to distract attention from a sex scandal. The scenario echoed events in the New Year, just as the Lewinsky story was first breaking, when Clinton ordered a massive build-up of forces in the Gulf against Saddam Hussein.
It was unclear last night whether the strikes, launched from warships in the Gulf and and the Red Sea, would save him from political ruin or simply add to his troubles. While many key political figures, including some of his severest critics, backed his action, others questioned his 'diversionary tactics'.
But the main target, terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, was reported to have survived unscathed.
The hugely wealthy Saudi Arabian is widely suspected of bankrolling the embassy attacks two weeks ago in Tanzania and Kenya in which 300 died, including 12 Americans, and thousands were injured.
Clinton accused bin Laden of having previously plotted to kill the Pope, assassinate Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, and blow up American airliners.
His followers, an estimated 5,000 throughout the Middle East, are strongly suspected to have been responsible for two recent bomb attacks on U.S. military bases in Saudi Arabia in which more than 20 servicemen died.
Bin Laden is believed to have a huge arsenal of weapons in Afghanistan, including antiaircraft missiles and tanks.
'We had compelling evidence the bin Laden group was planning other attacks against Americans and other freedom-loving people,' said Clinton.
At 6.30pm British time, the first strike was launched against the Saudi exile's HQ in a remote mountainous region in the south of Afghanistan.
Targets included his main supply depot, a nearby training camp, and three other sites which the Tal-iban militia which controls most of the country had allowed him to establish. But Israeli technicians who have been monitoring the Afghan airwaves for more than a week heard his voice - shocked, fearful, but apparently still promising vengeance against his enemies - hours after the bombers had gone home.
The raids were timed to coincide with another in Sudan on a suspected chemical weapons plant on the Khartoum outskirts, which Mr Cohen said was run by 'bin Laden's terrorist organisations'.
But interior minister Abdul Rahim said the plant was a privately- owned pharmaceuticals factory and insisted: 'There are no chemical weapons plants in my country - none. This is a disgraceful attack.' British teacher Paul Bartlett, who drove by after the attack, said: 'We saw big flames which were out of control. ' Seven people were reported injured. Shortly afterwards television reports showed angry crowds thronging the site with riot police holding them back.
Pentagon officials refused to disclose details of the strikes but said that between 75 and 100 missiles were involved.
Clinton broke off his holiday in Martha's Vineyard to announce the action, saying: 'Today we have struck back.
'These groups have executed terrorist attacks against Americans in the past. We have convincing evidence these groups played the key role in the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Terrorists must have no doubt that in the face of their threat, America will protect its citizens,' he said before flying to Washington to address the nation.' U.S. politicians traditionally rally behind their president in such a crisis, but in an extraordinary break with Congressional tradition, some urged him to quit.
Dan Coats, a Republican senator from Indiana, said: 'I think the timing is extraordinary. The reaction of the President is so uncharacteristic of anything he has done in the six years of his presidency that it raises legitimate questions.
'He has broken the bond of trust that is necessary for any president to be effective as leader of the free world, and I think that places the United States in a dangerous situation.
'Was there a diversionary motive here? The President has obvious problems and I want know why this was done now. This is a question that will be asked around the world.' But House speaker Newt Gingrich backed the air raids, and said he had been expecting the action for several days.
Defence Secretary William Cohen insisted: 'The only motivation behind this was our absolute obligation to protect the American people from terrorist activities.
'We are engaged in a very difficult confrontation with the forces of international terrorism. The strike was designed to attack bin Laden's infrastructure and that's precisely what we have done.
'We have taken these actions to reduce the ability of these terrorist organisations to train and equip their misguided followers.
'Those who attack our people will find no safe place, no refuge from the long arm of justice.' Nevertheless, it seemed like an incredible coincidence that the strikes should take place on the very day that Miss Lewinsky was called back to testify again before the Grand Jury, just days after Clinton's humiliating admission that he had lied about their affair.
She was just leaving the court when the TV networks suddenly interrupted programmes to broadcast Clinton's dramatic announcement.
But officials were saying that planning for the attacks began seven days ago.
It took a week to get the warships in place and once there it was considered imperative to act immediately before word leaked out to the terrorists.
Remarkably, this is the second time Clinton has been able to push his sex scandal off the front pages with a foreign policy action.
In January and February of this year he ordered a massive buildup of forces in the Gulf in response to a refusal by Saddam Hussein to let U.N. weapons inspectors investigate suspected nuclear and chemical weapons sites.
'She Was Fighting to the Death'; Details Emerging of W. Va. Soldier's Capture and Rescue:[FINAL Edition]
Susan Schmidt and Vernon Loeb. The Washington Post. Washington, D.C.: Apr 3, 2003. pg. A.01
Pfc. Jessica Lynch, rescued Tuesday from an Iraqi hospital, fought fiercely and shot several enemy soldiers after Iraqi forces ambushed the Army's 507th Ordnance Maintenance Company, firing her weapon until she ran out of ammunition, U.S. officials said yesterday.
Lynch, a 19-year-old supply clerk, continued firing at the Iraqis even after she sustained multiple gunshot wounds and watched several other soldiers in her unit die around her in fighting March 23, one official said. The ambush took place after a 507th convoy, supporting the advancing 3rd Infantry Division, took a wrong turn near the southern city of Nasiriyah.
"She was fighting to the death," the official said. "She did not want to be taken alive."
Lynch was also stabbed when Iraqi forces closed in on her position, the official said, noting that initial intelligence reports indicated that she had been stabbed to death. No official gave any indication yesterday, however, that Lynch's wounds had been life-threatening.
Several officials cautioned that the precise sequence of events is still being determined, and that further information will emerge as Lynch is debriefed. Reports thus far are based on battlefield intelligence, they said, which comes from monitored communications and from Iraqi sources in Nasiriyah whose reliability has yet to be assessed. Pentagon officials said they had heard "rumors" of Lynch's heroics but had no confirmation.
Saving Private Lynch story 'flawed'
By John Kampfner
Private Jessica Lynch became an icon of the war, and the story of her capture by the Iraqis and her rescue by US special forces became one of the great patriotic moments of the conflict.
But her story is one of the most stunning pieces of news management ever conceived.
Private Lynch, a 19-year-old army clerk from Palestine, West Virginia, was captured when her company took a wrong turning just outside Nasiriya and was ambushed.
Nine of her comrades were killed and Private Lynch was taken to the local hospital, which at the time was swarming with Fedayeen. Eight days later US special forces stormed the hospital, capturing the "dramatic" events on a night vision camera.
They were said to have come under fire from inside and outside the building, but they made it to Lynch and whisked her away by helicopter.
There was no [sign of] shooting, no bullet inside her body, no stab wound
Dr Harith a-Houssona Reports claimed that she had stab and bullet wounds and that she had been slapped about on her hospital bed and interrogated.
But Iraqi doctors in Nasiriya say they provided the best treatment they could for the soldier in the midst of war. She was assigned the only specialist bed in the hospital and one of only two nurses on the floor.
"I examined her, I saw she had a broken arm, a broken thigh and a dislocated ankle," said Dr Harith a-Houssona, who looked after her.
"There was no [sign of] shooting, no bullet inside her body, no stab wound - only road traffic accident. They want to distort the picture. I don't know why they think there is some benefit in saying she has a bullet injury."
Witnesses told us that the special forces knew that the Iraqi military had fled a day before they swooped on the hospital.
"We were surprised. Why do this? There was no military, there were no soldiers in the hospital," said Dr Anmar Uday, who worked at the hospital.
"It was like a Hollywood film. They cried 'go, go, go', with guns and blanks without bullets, blanks and the sound of explosions. They made a show for the American attack on the hospital - action movies like Sylvester Stallone or Jackie Chan."
There was one more twist. Two days before the snatch squad arrived, Harith had arranged to deliver Jessica to the Americans in an ambulance.
But as the ambulance, with Private Lynch inside, approached a checkpoint American troops opened fire, forcing it to flee back to the hospital. The Americans had almost killed their prize catch.
When footage of the rescue was released, General Vincent Brooks, US spokesman in Doha, said: "Some brave souls put their lives on the line to make this happen, loyal to a creed that they know that they'll never leave a fallen comrade."
The American strategy was to ensure the right television footage by using embedded reporters and images from their own cameras, editing the film themselves.
The Pentagon had been influenced by Hollywood producers of reality TV and action movies, notably the man behind Black Hawk Down, Jerry Bruckheimer.
Bruckheimer advised the Pentagon on the primetime television series "Profiles from the Front Line", that followed US forces in Afghanistan in 2001. That approached was taken on and developed on the field of battle in Iraq.
As for Private Lynch, her status as cult hero is stronger than ever. Internet auction sites list Jessica Lynch items, from an oil painting with an opening bid of $200 to a $5 "America Loves Jessica Lynch" fridge magnet.
But doctors now say she has no recollection of the whole episode and probably never will.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2003/05/15 08:50:39 GMT
ABC News Primetime Thursday, November 6, 2003
Jessica Lynch Interview: I'm No Hero
In the interview, Lynch also clears up conflicting stories about her actions during the March 23 ambush in which Lynch was taken prisoner. Initial reports portrayed the Army supply clerk, then 19, as a hero who was wounded by Iraqi gunfire but kept firing until her ammunition ran out, shooting several Iraqis.
But Lynch confirms that was not the case. She tells Sawyer she was just a soldier in the wrong place at the wrong time, whose gun jammed during the chaos. "I'm not about to take credit for something I didn't do," she tells Sawyer in the interview, airing Tuesday, Nov. 11.
"I did not shoot, not a round, nothing," she tells Sawyer. "When we were told to lock and load, that's when my weapon jammed É I did not shoot a single round É I went down praying to my knees. And that's the last I remember."
Lynch, now 20, says she feels hurt to have received praise she says her colleagues deserved. "It hurt in a way that people would make up stories that they had no truth about. They did not know whether I did that or not. Only I would have been able to know that, because the other four people on my vehicle aren't here to tell that story. So I would have been the only one able to say, 'Yeah, I went down shooting.' But I didn't. I did not."
Lynch described the moments of the ambush as terror and confusion. "Once it started, it was just chaos," she said, adding, "You could hear them [bullets] bouncing off our vehicle. You could hear people screaming. It was scary, so scary."
She said her convoy was surrounded by Iraqi attackers: "They were coming from everywhere. We had vehicles getting stuck, vehicles running out of gas É our weapons were jamming."
Her unit was ambushed after missing a turn and becoming separated from the convoy they were traveling in. "We weren't thinking quickly. We were so tired, we were hungry É it was just a mistake," Lynch said.
Tillman Killed by 'Friendly Fire'; Probe Cites Error Platoon Mates:[FINAL Edition]
Josh White. The Washington Post. Washington, D.C.: May 30, 2004. pg. A.01
Pat Tillman, the former pro football player, was killed by other American troops in a "friendly fire" episode in Afghanistan last month and not by enemy bullets, according to a U.S. investigation of the incident.
New details released yesterday about Tillman's death indicate that he was gunned down by members of his elite Army Ranger platoon who mistakenly shot in his direction when the unit was ambushed. According to a summary of the Army investigation, a Ranger squad leader mistook an allied Afghan Militia Force soldier standing near Tillman as the enemy, and he and other U.S. soldiers opened fire, killing both men.
That Tillman, 27, wasn't killed by enemy fire in a heroic rescue attempt was a major revelation by the U.S. military more than a month after the April 22 incident, which the Pentagon and members of Congress had hailed as an example of combat bravery. Tillman's sacrifice of millions of dollars when he left the National Football League's Arizona Cardinals to become a soldier has been held up as a stark contrast to the prison scandal in Iraq.
Shortly after his death, Army officials awarded Tillman a Silver Star for combat valor and a Purple Heart. He also was promoted from specialist to corporal. They said Tillman was killed while charging at the enemy up a hill, allowing the rest of his platoon to escape alive.
First, a vehicle with Tillman's unit broke down and the platoon mechanic could not fix it. Then, without air resources to lift the vehicle out of the area, the soldiers decided to tow the vehicle as they moved to their next assignment. On April 22, the soldiers split the platoon, sending a working vehicle ahead while Tillman's unit towed the disabled one, slowing it down, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command in Florida.
"Approximately 30 minutes after the platoon split off in their separate directions, the section with the non-mission capable vehicle was ambushed by anti-coalition forces," the summary said. "Hearing the engagement, the other section of the platoon maneuvered to the location of the ambush and engaged in the fight."
It was then that the Afghan soldier was mistaken for the enemy and was killed when the other half of the platoon returned. Tillman, who was by his side, also was shot, the report said.
Military officials could not explain the discrepancy between earlier reports and the releases yesterday, saying that a month- long investigation into the attack helped clarify the events. The investigation reports that Tillman was killed after he got out of his vehicle and fought about a dozen insurgents in restricted terrain and in poor light conditions.
CounterPunchDecember 28, 2002
How Bush Sr. Sold the Bombing of Iraqby MITCHEL COHEN
"The U.S. has a new credibility. What we say goes."
President George Bush, NBC Nightly News, Feb. 2, 1991
In October, 1990, a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl, identified only as Nayirah, appeared in Washington before the House of Representatives' Human Rights Caucus. She testified that Iraqi soldiers who had invaded Kuwait on August 2nd tore hundreds of babies from hospital incubators and killed them.
Television flashed her testimony around the world. It electrified opposition to Iraq's president, Saddam Hussein, who was now portrayed by U.S. president George Bush not only as "the Butcher of Baghdad" but -- so much for old friends -- "a tyrant worse than Hitler."
Bush quoted Nayirah at every opportunity. Six times in one month he referred to "312 premature babies at Kuwait City's maternity hospital who died after Iraqi soldiers stole their incubators and left the infants on the floor,"(1) and of "babies pulled from incubators and scattered like firewood across the floor." Bush used Nayirah's testimony to lambaste Senate Democrats still supporting "only" sanctions against Iraq -- the blockade of trade which alone would cause hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to die of hunger and disease -- but who waffled on endorsing the policy Bush wanted to implement: outright bombardment. Republicans and pro-war Democrats used Nayirah's tale to hammer their fellow politicians into line behind Bush's war in the Persian Gulf.(2)
Nayirah, though, was no impartial eyewitness, a fact carefully concealed by her handlers. She was the daughter of one Saud Nasir Al-Sabah, Kuwait's ambassador to the United States. A few key Congressional leaders and reporters knew who Nayirah was, but none of them thought of sharing that minor detail with Congress, let alone the American people.
Everything Nayirah said, as it turned out, was a lie. There were, in actuality, only a handful of incubators in all of Kuwait, certainly not the "hundreds" she claimed. According to Dr. Mohammed Matar, director of Kuwait's primary care system, and his wife, Dr. Fayeza Youssef, who ran the obstetrics unit at the maternity hospital, there were few if any babies in the incubators at the time of the Iraqi invasion. Nayirah's charges, they said, were totally false. "I think it was just something for propaganda," Dr. Matar said. In an ABC-TV News account after the war, John Martin reported that although "patients, including premature babies, did die," this occurred "when many of Kuwait's nurses and doctors stopped working or fled the country" -- a far cry from Bush's original assertion that hundreds of babies were murdered by Iraqi troops.(3) Subsequent investigations, including one by Amnesty International, found no evidence for the incubator claims.
It is likely that Nayirah was not even in Kuwait, let alone at the hospital, at that time; the Kuwaiti aristocracy and their families had fled the country weeks before the anticipated invasion. Some defended their country at the gaming tables in Monte Carlo, where at least one member of the ruling family was reported to have gambled away more than $10 million as his fellow rulers called for economic and military assistance from abroad.
As invasions go, Iraq's invasion of Kuwait was relatively -- I stress the word "relatively" -- bloodless. Despite the heart-rending testimonies TV viewers in the U.S. were subjected to night after night, fewer than 200 Kuwaitis were killed. Compare that to such "peaceful" ventures as the U.S. invasion of Panama the year before, which killed an estimated 7,500 Panamanians; or, a year after the Gulf war, the 10,000 Somalis killed by
How did Nayirah first come to the attention of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, which put her before the world's cameras? It was arranged by Hill & Knowlton, a public relations firm hired to rally the U.S. populace behind Bush's policy of going to war. And it worked!
Hill & Knowlton's yellow ribbon campaign to whip up support for "our" troops, which followed their orchestration of Nayirah's phony "incubator" testimony, was a public relations masterpiece. The claim that satellite photos revealed that Iraq had troops poised to strike Saudi Arabia was also fabricated by the PR firm. Hill & Knowlton was paid between $12 million (as reported two years later on "60 Minutes") and $20 million (as reported on "20/20") for "services rendered." The group fronting the money? Citizens for a Free Kuwait, a phony "human rights agency" set up and funded entirely by Kuwait's emirocracy to promote its interests in the U.S.
"When Hill & Knowlton masterminded the Kuwaiti campaign to sell the Gulf War to the American public, the owners of this highly effective propaganda machine were residing in another country" -- the United Kingdom -- writes Sharon Beder and Richard Gosden in PR Watch. "Should this give pause for thought? Does it demonstrate a certain potential for the future exercise of global political power -- the power to manipulate democratic political processes through managing public opinion," which Hill and Knowlton demonstrated 10 years ago?(5)
All of this is concealed in a new HBO "behind-the-scenes true story" of the Gulf War, which is being released at this crucial political moment. As Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting writes, "HBO's version of history never makes clear that the incubator story was fraudulent, and in fact had been managed by an American PR firm, not Iraq. Curiously, however, the truth seems to have been clear to Robert Wiener, the former CNN producer who co-wrote 'Live from Baghdad.'As he explained to CNN's Wolf Blitzer (11/21/02), 'that story turned out to be false because those accusations were made by the daughter of the Kuwaiti minister of information and were never proven.' Unfortunately, HBO viewers won't know that when they see the film."(6)
In 1998, Hill and Knowlton found a new client -- President Clinton -- who hired them to advise him and to polish his image. The last time they were involved, by the time their lies were exposed TV newscasters were waxing ecstatic over the rockets' red glare, computerized "smart-bombs" bursting in air, and 250,000 people were dead.
Mitchel Cohen is the co-editor of Green Politix, the national newspaper of the Greens/Green Party USA. He can be reached at: email@example.com
1. Doug Ireland, Village Voice, March 26, 1991.
2. The use of the Big Lie to manipulate public opinion and neutralize opposition to a particular war was not invented by Bush. See, for instance, James Laxer, "Iraq: US has match, seeks kindle: American leaders have often falsified reasons to attack other countries," (ActionGreens, Mar. 31, 2001). Laxer is a Political Science Professor at York University, Toronto.
3. ABC World News Tonight, 3/15/91.
4. In actuality, people in only certain areas of Somalia were starving -- those that had been subjected to IMF structural adjustment programs. See, Mitchel Cohen, "Somalia & the Cynical Manipulation of Hunger," Red Balloon Collective, 1994.
5. Sharon Beder and Richard Gosden, "PR Watch," Volume 8, No. 2, 2nd Quarter 2001. The PR firm has since been working at the behest of the pharmaceutical industry to ban over-the-counter vitamin and nutritional supplement sales in Europe.
6. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, "HBO Recycling Gulf War Hoax?" December 4, 2002.
Reagan on Grenada Excerpt
President Reagan spoke to the nation on live television on October 27th, 1983 regarding the bombing in Lebanon and the liberation of Grenada.
The Grenada portion of the speech below came after the part on barracks bombing in Lebanon that killed over 200 Marines, the greatest one day loss of US troops since World War II. The excerpt below is the end of the speech.
May I share something with you I think you'd like to know? It's something that happened to the Commandant of our Marine Corps, General Paul Kelley, while he was visiting our critically injured marines in an Air Force hospital. It says more than any of us could ever hope to say about the gallantry and heroism of these young men, young men who serve so willingly so that others might have a chance at peace and freedom in their own lives and in the life of their country.
I'll let General Kelley's words describe the incident. He spoke of a "young marine with more tubes going in and out of his body than I have ever seen in one body."
"He couldn't see very well. He reached up and grabbed my four stars, just to make sure I was who I said I was. He held my hand with a firm grip. He was making signals, and we realized he wanted to tell me something. We put a pad of paper in his hand—and he wrote Semper Fi."
Well, if you've been a marine or if, like myself, you're an admirer of the marines, you know those words are a battle cry, a greeting, and a legend in the Marine Corps. They're marine shorthand for the motto of the Corps—Semper Fidelis—"always faithful."
General Kelley has a reputation for being a very sophisticated general and a very tough marine. But he cried when he saw those words, and who can blame him? That marine and all those others like him living and dead, have been faithful to their ideals. They've given willingly of them selves so that a nearly defenseless people in a region of great strategic importance to the free world will have a chance someday to live lives free of murder and mayhem and terrorism. I think that young marine and all of his comrades have given every one of us something to live up to.
They were not afraid to stand up for their country or, no matter how difficult and slow the journey might be, to give to others that last, best hope of a better future. We cannot and will not dishonor them now and the sacrifices they've made by failing to remain as faithful to the cause of freedom and the pursuit of peace as they have been.
I will not ask you to pray for the dead, because they're safe in God's loving arms and beyond need of our prayers. I would like to ask you all—wherever you may be in this blessed land—to pray for these wounded young men and to pray for the bereaved families of those who gave their lives for our freedom.
God bless you, and God bless America.