Monday, October 10, 2005

How Clinton caved on Khobar

One of the more controversial passages in the new book by former FBI director Louis Freeh details the former President's "confrontation" with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah in 1998 over the bombing of the Khobar Towers. According to Freeh, Clinton not only soft-pedaled the issue, he actually expressed sympathy for Saudi Arabia's position and then proceeded to ask for a donation to his future Presidential Library. NewsMax is now reporting that two more sources are validating the claims that Clinton sidestepped the Khobar issue, noting the President's pre-occupation with the Monica Lewinsky scandal:

According to two sources close to former Saudi ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan, ex-president Bill Clinton was on the verge of tears over legal woes brought on by the Monica Lewinsky scandal during a Sept. 1998 meeting with Crown Prince Adbullah - and spent almost no time discussing the Khobar Towers bombing case.

The Saudi account backs claims by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, who told CBS's "60 Minutes" last night that Clinton failed to press Abdullah during the meeting for cooperation in the Khobar case.

Interviewed by the New Yorker in May 2001, two Saudi officials noted that Prince Bandar was present during the meeting. And Bandar's version, according to those same Saudi sources, contradicts the claim by former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger that his old boss vigorously pursued Khobar during the meeting.

"Clinton, by many accounts, was almost crying," the New Yorker said, based on interviews with the Saudis.

Bandar "remembered the crown prince consoling Clinton about his legal troubles. At one point, the crown prince, who was wearing a black robe, said to Clinton, 'All those who attack you and are making such a big issue out of this' - the Lewinsky affair - 'should be like the lint on my robes. One should just throw them off.'"

Addullah promised Clinton that he would "talk to people on the Hill and tell them they should respect the Presidency and not wipe the floor with it" over the Lewinsky case.

The Saudi sources said that while Clinton did eventually mention Khobar, "It was along the line of 'Would you be kind enough to continue cooperation?' "

Abdullah was stunned that Clinton had demonstrated so little interest about a bombing that had killed 19 U.S. airmen.

Bandar had warned him to expect some "very important questions" about Khobar, but Clinton had not raised them.

"What's going on?" the bewildered Saudi leader asked his U.S. ambassador.

The effect of this meeting, Bandar's associates told the New Yorker, "was to persuade the crown prince that the [Khobar] case was no longer of great importance to the United States."

This rings true of a President who always put his own legacy above all other issues. Lewinsky was what was hurting him at the time, so that took top priority in his mind. Terrorism, on the other hand, was an issue that Clinton skirted whenever possible due to fear that a serious military offensive might bring down his poll numbers. He knew that bin Laden was was getting bolder but instead of acting he chose to ride out the last few years of his presidency with his fingers crossed hoping that the much anticipated "super attack" would not take place under his watch.

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