Press Release/Commentary by ESPAC posted on April 20, 2002 at 07:06:02: EST (-5 GMT)
CONTINUING DISHONESTY ON SUDAN BY MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, SUSAN RICE et al
The European-Sudanese Public Affairs Council
Date of Publication: 17 April, 2002
In December 2001, 'Vanity Fair' published a devastating expose of the
Clinton Administration's mishandling of repeated offers by the Sudanese
government, some dating back to 1996, to provide Washington intelligence
on terrorism - particularly with regard to the al-Qaeda terrorist
network.(1) Part of what was offered to the Clinton Administration were
several hundred Sudanese files on al-Qaeda and its members.(2) The
Administration also passed up the opportunity of interrogating two al-
Qaeda members who had clearly been involved in the 1998 bombings of the
U.S. embassies in east Africa. In keeping with its very questionable
Sudan policy (3), the Clinton Administration rejected all of Sudan's
repeated offers. The implications of this studied indifference are
clear. As 'Vanity Fair' stated: "September 11 might have been prevented
if the U.S. had accepted Sudan's offers to share its intelligence files
on Osama bin Laden and the growing al-Qaeda files." It had also earlier
been revealed that in addition to offering the Clinton Administration
intelligence on al-Qaeda, the Sudanese government had in 1996 also
offered to extradite Osama bin-Laden - just as Khartoum had extradited
the international terrorism known as "Carlos the Jackal" to France.(4)
This offer was also rejected by the Clinton Administration.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, prominent members of the Clinton
Administration's foreign policy and national security team rejected the
conclusions of the 'Vanity Fair' article, denying the sincerity of the
offers. Madeleine Albright, the former US Secretary of State; Samuel
Berger, the former national security adviser; Thomas Pickering, former
undersecretary of state for political affairs; and Susan Rice, former
assistant secretary of state for African affairs claimed that Osama bin
Laden had been involved in an attempted attack on U.S. forces in Yemen
in 1992; had assisted with attacks on U.S. forces in Mogadishu in 1993;
had "financed" the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993; and
had "planned and prepared a car-bomb attack on U.S. soldiers in Saudi
Arabia" in 1995. (5) Susan Rice has also attempted to address her badly
damaged reputation in, of all places, the May 2002 edition of 'Elle'
There are three points that should be made.
Firstly, the Clinton Administration, and its officials, have long shown
remarkable dishonesty with regard to Sudan, especially regarding its
claims of Sudanese involvement in terrorism. Former US President Jimmy
Carter was able to ascertain that the Clinton Administration's 1993
listing of Sudan as a "state sponsor of terrorism" was not based, as it
should have been, on strict legal criteria but rather on the basis of
"allegations".(6) This set the tone for all future Clinton
Administration claims about Sudan and terrorism. Albright, Berger,
Pickering and Rice also accepted at face value over one hundred
intelligence reports alleging Sudanese involvement in terrorism which
were subsequently discarded as having been false.(7) It is unclear how
many of their subsequent claims about Sudan are similarly muddled or
just deliberately dishonest.
Secondly, when challenged as to why the Clinton Administration passed up
on the offer of bin Laden's extradition, Samuel Berger stated: "In the
United States, we have this thing called the Constitution, so to bring
him here is to bring him into the justice system. I don't think that was
our first choice." (8) Surely, if any of their subsequent claims about
bin Laden's involvement in terrorism against American interests from
1992 through to 1995, as laid out in their response to the 'Vanity Fair'
article, were true why did the Clinton Administration not jump at the
chance of his extradition in 1996?
Thirdly, for all the attempts by his advisers to downplay the sincerity
of the Sudanese offers, the simple fact is that former President Clinton
displayed considerable courage in describing the refusal to accept
Sudan's 1996 offer as "the biggest mistake" of his presidency.(9) Rather
than desperately trying to distance themselves from their role in
Clinton's "biggest mistake", his national security and foreign affairs
team should have the courage to admit that their advice to the president
was simply wrong. Those who advised him to ignore Sudan's offers,
Albright, Berger, Pickering and Rice, are ultimately responsible for
putting their deeply questionable Sudan policy and spin before the
national security of their own country. They were all party to one of
the most serious foreign policy failures in American history. Had they
not put spin before truth the events of 11 September may well not have
1 "The Osama Files", 'Vanity Fair', December 2001, pp 50-55.
2 These offers had also been documented in "Resentful West Spurned
Sudan's Key Terror Files", 'The Observer' (London), 30 September 2001,
and "US Rejected Sudanese Files on al-Qaeda", 'The Financial Times'
(London), 30 November 2001.
3 For a critique of the Clinton Administration's Sudan policy, see
David Hoile, 'Farce Majeure: The Clinton Administration's Sudan Policy
1993-2000', The European-Sudanese Public Affairs Council, London, 2000
(available at www.espac.org
4 See, for example, "In '96, Sudan Offered to Arrest bin Laden",
'International Herald Tribune', 4 October 2001.
5 "Desperately Seeking Sudan", 'Vanity Fair', March 2002, p.34-35.
6 'The Independent' (London), 17 September 1993.
7 See, "Decision to Strike Factory in Sudan Based Partly on
Surmise", 'The Washington Post', 21 September 1998; and "Sudan Attack
Blamed on US Blunders", 'The Times' (London), 22 September 1998.
8 See, "'96, Sudan Offered to Arrest bin Laden", 'International
Herald Tribune', 4 October 2001.
9 "US Missed Three Chances to Seize Bin Laden", 'The Sunday Times
(London), 6 January 2002.