by Spencer Graves

This article does two things: 

  1. Documents the claim that if the Clinton administration had treated the bomings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania as law enforcement issues, Osama bin Laden and many involved in planning those attacks would likely have been swiftly tried and convicted, and al-Qaeda and Islamic terrorism would likely have withered and died shortly thereafter.  
  2. Describes how interested readers can ask their elected officials for relevant documentation while also asking for 100 percent traceability of all arms and munitions currently going to Ukraine, because much of what the US is sending to the Ukraine may be disappearing into the international black market for arms, where they could be used against us in the future, and some Europeans are suggesting that the US is pushing this war for the money being made from selling military supplies.  The arms merchants and the media are making money, while everyone else suffers.  

This article uses ISO 8601 dates except for “September 11, 2001”. In the author’s experience, this seems to make it easier to compute differences between dates and to remember dates.  

Attacks on US embassies in 1998, the USS Cole in 1999, and September 11

How might the world be different if US President Bill Clinton had treated the 1998 United States embassy bombings as a law enforcement issue?  

Before the bombing, the Afghan government had reportedly already agreed to extradite bin Laden to Saudi Arabia for treason, where he would almost certainly have been executed.  After the bombing, Muslim clerics around the world were condemning bin Laden and al-Qaeda for their unjustified taking of human lives and defiling the name of Islam in the eyes of the world.1

That reportedly turned 180 degrees when the US bombed a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan and al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan 13 days later on 1998-08-20 in “Operation Infinite Reach“:  Bin Laden suddenly became a Muslim hero, challenging what seemed to them to be an evil empire, the US, which was supporting corrupt governments oppressing Muslims around the world, especially in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Israel.  “Donations to bin Laden, which had been falling off for several years, increased markedly. … [Saudi businessmen] transferred millions of dollars through Islamic charities to bank accounts linked to bin Laden”.2 When the Saudis came for bin Laden in September, as previously agreed, the Afghan government refused to extradite him.3 

A little over a year later, on 1999-11-19, an America West flight made an emergency landing when two Saudis tried to break into the cockpit. Investigations by the FBI determined that those and other actions by Saudis in the US appeared to be preparing for something like the suicide mass murders of September 11, 2001, supported by the Saudi embassy and consulates in the US.4 

If the US had treated the 1998 embassy bombings as law enforcement issues, bin Laden would likely have been extradited to Saudi Arabia in September, tried for treason and executed — without having achieved the high profile he gained after Operation Infinite Reach and without the explosive growth in Islamic terrorism that has followed.  In particular, without that Operation, neither the 1999 emergency landing nor the suicide mass murders of September 11, 2001, would likely have occurred:  Fewer Muslims, especially employees of the Saudi embassy and consulates in the US, would likely have been willing to support such a violent conspiracy against the US.  Chomsky (2001, p. 21) wrote, “a massive assault on a Muslim population would be the answer to the prayers of bin Laden and associates, and would lead the U.S. and its allies into a diabolical trap, as the French foreign minister put it.” This is an application of a general principle that ‘‘when people are killed and property destroyed, the apparent perpetrators often make enemies’‘. This is blindingly obvious to anyone — except the perpetrators, who believe they are simply defending themselves.5  

After the USS Cole was bombed in Aden, Yemen, 2000-10-12, the Afghan government reportedly concluded that they needed to get rid of bin Laden and started working with the US Government to do so. Without Operation Infinite Reach, the USS Cole likely also would not have been bombed.  After the November US election, the Afghan government and the Clinton administration allegedly agreed on extradition, but passed it to the G. W. Bush administration for implementation, where it stalled.6 After September 11, the Afghan government refused to hand over bin Laden unconditionally but offered, e.g., to try him if the US provided evidence.  The US refused7 and invaded instead.   

St. Clair and Cockburn (2004) reported that an Afghan-American, Kabir Mohabbat, had provided documentation they found credible that by late 1999 the Taliban government of Afghanistan had agreed to get bin Laden and the al-Qaeda training camps eliminated from their territory.  This might be done by extraditing bin Laden to the World Criminal Court in the Hague.  Alternatively, bin Laden and all his lieutenants might be gathered “in one location and the US would send one or two Cruise missiles.” Mohabbat claimed that the 9/11 attacks were NOT due to intelligence failures “but criminal negligence by the Bush administration.” 

A compatible narrative was provided by McChrystal, from his time as “vice director of operations” of the Joint Staff in the Pentagon between 2002-07 and 2003-09, as “the forceful secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, or the highly ideological proponents of action against Iraq—most notably Rumsfeld’s deputy Paul Wolfowitz” insisted “that Saddam Hussein was willing to tolerate the presence of al-Qaeda in Iraq”, when the expert consensus “knew at the time that al-Qaeda targeted regimes like Saddam Hussein’s Ba‘ath Party.  But … preparations for war continued unabated through 2002 and into 2003.”8 

What did the Clinton administration know or suspect before Operation Infinite Reach? 

Early in 1998 Bill Richardson, US Ambassador to the UN, reportedly talked with President Clinton about asking the Taliban about extraditing bin Laden.  Clinton encouraged him, suggesting other administration officials to brief about this.9 It would be useful to know what Richardson knew or suspected about the negotiations between the Taliban and the Saudis on extraditing bin Laden.  However, it is documented that Richardson was not included in the “Small Group” who decided how to respond to the embassy bombings.  It would be valuable to know the extent to which this “Small Group” did or did not consider extradition and the likely impact of “Operation Infinite Reach” on such:  Did they just not consider it?  Or did they intentionally work to prevent bin Laden from being extradited?  

We need answers to these questions to help us evaluate what the Biden administration might be doing today.  

For more discussion of research relevant to these questions, see the “Analysis” section of the Wikiversity article on “1998 Embassy bombings and September 11“.

Contacting Congress

Below please find a draft of an email I sent to my elected officials in the US Congress  asking about this.  Among other things, I am asking for meetings between members of PeaceWorks Kansas City and member(s) of their staff to discuss these questions.  If others send similar emails, it should increase our chances of more positive responses.  

** I sent emails like this to Rep. Cleaver via house.gov and Senators Blunt and Hawley via senate.gov.  On or shortly after 2022-01-03 I plan to send a similar email to Senator-elect Schmitt.

Might we have an appointment where members of PeaceWorks Kansas City can meet via Zoom with member(s) of your staff to discuss the Clinton administration’s response to the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and how that relates to the September 11 attacks, the War on Terror, and the current Ukraine war?  

There is a substantial body of evidence indicating that if the US had treated the bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania 1998-08-07 as a law enforcement issue, Osama bin Laden would likely have been extradited to Saudi Arabia and tried for treason the following month, other conspirators in those crimes would likely have been brought to justice in Kenya or Tanzania, and Islamic terrorism would likely have largely disappeared thereafter.[1] The bombings of the USS Cole in 1999 and the suicide mass murders of September 11, 2001, likely would not have occurred.  

Similarly, the biases in the major media in the US have made it extremely difficult for people to get an honest assessment of anything that might threaten the people who control the money for the media.[2] With European officials saying that the US is profiting from the Ukraine war[3] and reports that substantial portions of the arms the US is supplying Ukraine could be used against us later,[4] we need 100 percent traceability of arms and munitions.[5]

Thanks, 

Spencer Graves, PhD

Secretary, PeaceWorks Kansas City (PeaceWorksKC.org)

and 

Founder, EffectiveDefense.org

4550 Warwick Blvd 508

Kansas City, MO 64111

m:  408-655-4567 

[1] See the Wikiversity article on “1998 Embassy bombings and September 11” and references cited therein.  

[2] See the Wikiversity articles on “Confirmation bias and conflict” and Benjamin and Davies (2022) War in Ukraine: Making sense of senseless conflict (OR Books, ch. 5. Information Warfare).  

[3] Chris Pandolfo (2022-11-26) “European officials say US profiting from Ukraine war, call Inflation Reduction Act ‘very worrying’“, Fox News (https://www.foxnews.com/world/european-officials-says-us-profiting-ukraine-war-call-inflation-reduction-act-very-worrying)

[4] Adam Yamaguchi and Alex Pena (2022-08-07) “Why military aid in Ukraine may not always get to the front lines“, CBS News (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/ukraine-military-aid-weapons-front-lines/)

[5] Giacomo Persi Paoli (2016) “Tracing Firearms and Ammunition“, The RAND Blog (https://www.rand.org/blog/2016/09/tracing-firearms-and-ammunition.html)

NOTE TO READERS:  If you’d like to join this campaign, I suggest you do the following:  

  1. To find your Representative, go to “house.gov” and “Enter your zip code”.  To find your Senators, go to “senate.gov” and enter your state.  
  2. From there, I look for a way to “contact” the elected official.  I typically find a webmail form.  I make a local copy of what I do for my records, then copy and paste it into the boxes in the form, because the office of the elected official may not send me a copy of what they receive from me, and I need to be able to check later exactly what I said. 
  3. Roughly 4 working days later, if I have not heard a reply, I call a phone number for the closest local office of the elected official and ask about the issue.  I suggest you say you are calling on behalf of PeaceWorks Kansas City, you sent an email, and give the date on which you sent it, and ask for a meeting with whomever handles national security and foreign policy. If you can talk to a human and that person does not seem to find your email, you can ask if you can resend that email to what email address.  
  4. If you get a date for the meeting, try to find others represented by the same elected official to accompany you in a Zoom meeting.  If you’d like, I’d be happy to help try to find others affiliated with PeaceWorks to accompany you in that meeting.  In planning for such a meeting, I think it’s best to have as many people as possible — even hundreds if we could arrange that — though if it’s more than one or two, it would be wise to plan ahead and agree on who will ask what questions, who will take notes, and who will just silently listen.  

AND please update me, Spencer Graves <spencer.graves@effectivedefense.org> on what you’ve done when and what were the results.  

Bibliography

* Jason Burke (2003) Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror (I.B. Tauris).

* Noam Chomsky (2001) 9-11 (Seven Stories Press).

* Steve Coll (2004-12-28) Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 (Penguin). 

* Audrey DeAnda (1999-11-30). “UA student outraged at America West“, Arizona Daily Wildcat.

* Spencer Graves (2005-02-26) “The Impact of Violent and Nonviolent Action on Constructed Realities and Conflict” (prodsyse.com).

* Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001/Part 4 (Declassified) [Wikisource.org].

* Stanley A. McChrystal and Anna Butrico (2021) RISK: A User’s Guide (Penguin).

* John Mueller (2021a) The Stupidity of War: American Foreign Policy and the Case for Complacency (Cambridge U. Pr.).

* John Mueller (2021b) “What if the US Didn’t Go to War in Afghanistan after 9/11?“, Cato Institute.

* Nic Robertson and Kelly Wallace (2001-10-07) “U.S. rejects Taliban offer to try bin Laden“, CNN.

* Paul Sperry (2017-09-09) “Saudi government allegedly funded a ‘dry run’ for 9/11“. New York Post.

* Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn (2004-11-01) “How Bush Was Offered Bin Laden and Blew It“. CounterPunch.

___________

  1. Burke (2003, p. 167). See also Mueller (2021a, b).
  2.  Burke (2003, ch. 12, esp. p. 163).

  3.  Burke (2003, p. 167). See also Mueller (2021a, b).

  4. Sperry (2017).  Joint US Senate & House Committee investigating intelligence failures before and after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 (2016, pp. 419, 433). The exact date and the location of the emergency landing are documented in DeAnda (1999).
  5.  Graves (2005).

  6. St. Clair and Cockburn (2004).  Beyond this, it seems unlikely that the USS Cole would have been bombed 2000-10-12 if the US had treated the 1998 embassy bombings as a law enforcement issue.  Many people all over the world would have been eager to support a law enforcement effort to provide evidence against those who supported, planned and executed the embassy bombings.  Osama bin Laden would likely have been extradited to Saudi Arabia, as previously planned, tried, convicted and executed.  Meanwhile, the US could almost certainly have gotten cooperation from Afghanistan, Kenya, Tanzania, and elsewhere in identifying co-conspirators and getting them extradited to Kenya and Tanzania.  The sentences may not have included death, because the most recent executions in Kenya and Tanzania were in 1987 and 1994, respectively.  However, pursuing rule of law would not have allowed the US to showcase its military might.
  7.  Robertson and Wallace (2001).

  8.  McChrystal and Butrico (2021, p. 131-132). 

  9.  Coll (2005, p. 384).

Images copyright: US embassy public domain.  Twin Tower: Michael Foran CC BY 2.0. map: “Michael Foran” CC BY-SA 4.0 International license.  

Text copyright: 2022 Spencer Graves, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) 4.0 International license