Bombs awry

The United States has every legal and moral right to retaliate militarily against those responsible for terrorist attacks such as the August 7 bombings of American embassies in Nairobi, Kenya (see, "The Bomb Next Door," page 10), and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, that killed more than 250 people. In exercising that right to self-defense the United States also has a legal and moral duty to make sure that any military action is proportionate to the crime and to identify properly the guilty parties before it acts.

In justifying the August 20 U.S. cruise-missile attacks against the Afghanistan training camps of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan, the Clinton administration claimed that it had compelling evidence linking bin Laden to the embassy bombings as well as to the Sudanese plant, which allegedly produced a rudimentary component for VX nerve gas. Moreover, the United States claimed that the missile attacks were necessary to forestall yet another terrorist action by bin Laden, a millionaire Islamic fundamentalist who is financing a holy war against the United States and its Middle East allies.

Some critics suggested that the resort to force was intended to divert attention from Bill Clinton’s ongoing legal and political problems. Those charges have not subsequently been substantiated, and the resolute but circumscribed nature of the U.S. military response earned...

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