Saudi Gall and Clintonian malfeasance

Posted: Jun 06, 2002 12:00 AM
On June 25, 1996, a massive blast shook Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. The explosion, caused by a truck bomb, tore through a military compound housing American, British, French and Saudi troops, leaving devastation in its wake. Nineteen American airmen were murdered, and 64 more people were wounded. President Bill Clinton vowed, "We will pursue this. America takes care of our own. Those who did it must not go unpunished." He then expressed thanks and praise "for the professionalism shown by the Saudi authorities and their reaction to this emergency. We are ready to work with them to make sure those responsible are brought to justice." At the eulogy of seven of the murdered airmen, one grieving parent said to Clinton: "You need to think about this every day when you see your daughter, Chelsea: One day your children are there, and the next day they're not, and it's hard to know why." Clinton nodded understandingly. The era of President Clinton ended two years ago, and still nothing had been done. The Saudi police force acted more like the Arab version of lazy, overweight Keystone Cops than they did like "professionals." No one was in prison; no one had even been indicted. Only after President George W. Bush had been in office for six months were 14 people indicted -- 13 Saudis, one Lebanese. Our good friends the Saudis refused to extradite them, and last week announced that the prisoners had been tried and sentenced under Islamic law. Just one problem: Prince Ahmed, brother to King Fahd and otherwise known as "The Fresh Prince of Saudi Arabia," refused to make the sentences public. Rather, he said, the sentences "must be announced at the right time." This whole episode makes two points very clear. First, our good friends the Saudis are not very good friends. And second, Bill Clinton was a detriment to the national security of the United States. The Saudis already feel the pressure cooker of American public opinion quickly ratcheting upward. To that specific purpose, they have spent millions to create and market a pro-American image in the public eye, running commercials essentially stating: "We love America! And you love us too!" In this quest for American approval, nothing would ring stronger than harsh sentencing for Saudi terrorists targeting American military personnel. So if the sentences were harsh, why bother keeping it a secret? And that's exactly the point: the Saudis are planning to let their terrorist brothers off the hook. And Bill Clinton deserves a big, heaping portion of shame. For four years after the bombing in Dhahran, Clinton did absolutely nothing. After publicly announcing the day of the bombing that "the cowards who committed this murderous act must not go unpunished," Clinton sat on his hands. This was no isolated incident of Clintonian malfeasance in the area of national security; this was another calculated usage of that old Clintonian political adage, "Speak loudly and carry a toothpick." In response to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing that killed six and wounded over 1,000, Clinton boldly proclaimed that his administration was "absolutely determined to oppose the cowardly cruelty of terrorists, wherever we can." After al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden bombed the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, killing 252 people, including 12 U.S. citizens, and wounding over 5,000, Clinton once again vowed to "use all the means at our disposal to bring those responsible to justice, no matter what or how long it takes." On Oct. 12, 2000, following the al Qaeda bombing of the USS Cole, which killed 17 U.S. servicemen, Clinton averred: "We will find out who was responsible, and hold them accountable." In each of these cases, Clinton did virtually nothing. With this history of American presidential inaction in the face of national security threats, is it any wonder that Islamic terrorists felt on September 11 that the United States was a "weak power"? And with both the past and the current administrations calling the Saudis American allies, is it any wonder that the Kings of the Sand feel comfortable letting terrorists off the hook?