Gosh, this is getting exhausting. Aren’t you getting tired of Rice clogging up your feed? And she has not even been nominated yet.
Frontpage.com has this screaming headline: How Susan Rice Covered Up the Kenya Embassy Bombings 14 Years Before Benghazigate
Investors.com has this one: For Susan Rice, Benghazi Was Kenya 1998 Deja Vu
Over at HuffPo, a tamer one: Susan Rice Role In Lead-Up To Africa Embassy Bombings Recalled As Minimal
The 1998 East Africa bombings in Kenya and Tanzania were pulled out of a hat by GOP Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) who recently said:
Those bombings in 1998 resulted in the loss of life of 12 Americans as well as many other foreign nationals, and 4,000 people were injured. And what troubles me so much is the Benghazi attack in many ways echoes the attacks on those embassies in 1998 when Susan Rice was head of the African region for our State Department.
In both cases, the ambassador begged for additional security. The ambassador to Kenya sent repeated messages to the State Department requesting a stronger facility because of the increased threat, and those requests, as in the case of Benghazi, were turned down by the State Department.
I asked Ambassador Rice what her role was. She said that she would have to refresh her memory, but that she was not involved directly in turning down the requests, but surely given her position as the assistant secretary for African affairs she had to be aware of the general threat assessment and of the ambassador’s repeated requests for more security.
Susan Rice was the 12th Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (AF) at the State Department. She held that post from October 9, 1997 – January 20, 2001. The East Africa embassy bombings which killed 223 people and injured over 4,000 people occurred on August 7, 1998.
The Accountability Review Board (ARB) chaired by Admiral Crowe faulted what it called “systemic and institutional failures in Washington” and concluded that “no employee of the U.S. government” had “breached his or her responsibility.” You may read it here.
Some members of the Crowe Commission were interviewed recently by the Huffington Post here. The report says that Ambassador Bushnell did not respond to multiple requests for comment. She was reported as having sent “an emotional plea” to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright about the security situation prior to the bombing.
While Ambassador Bushnell did not return request for comments, her 2005 interview with Charles Stuart Kennedy for the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training‘s Oral History Project has an extensive account about her life in the Foreign Service including the embassy bombing.
Susan Rice appeared twice by name in the transcript of her interview. First, when Ambassador Bushnell talked about President Clinton, who had just taken office and nominated George Moose as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs:
“George had made the decision to bring in experienced ambassadors as Office Directors. He delegated to them the bulk of the responsibilities and decision-making authorities. The Front Office would exercise a light hand. It was a great idea that did not work because the structure and culture of the Department emphasizes centralized control. George’s successor, Susan Rice, who came from the NSC changed the structure back. I am sorry no one gave this experiment greater time to work because we are wasting an enormous amount of effectiveness and talent by continuing a 19th century, hierarchical model of organization.”
Second, when Ambassador Bushnell was asked: What about the role of the NSC during this whole thing?
BUSHNELL: Richard Clark was the head of Global Affairs and Peace Keeping of the NSC. Susan Rice, his deputy was to take over in the second term of Clinton Administration as assistant secretary for African Affairs. Dick Clark is the one person to this day who will look you in the eye and say, “We did exactly the right thing in Rwanda.” On the other hand, Tony Lake the National Security Advisor at the time talks at length about his regrets.
She also discussed her bureaucratic battles which should be acutely familiar to some folks reading this:
BUSHNELL: I remember that in early 1998 a delegation of counter-terrorist types visited. I met with them in the secure conference room, and when they ended with the pro-forma , “Is there anything we can do for you”? I angrily declared they could answer the god-damn mail. The cursing was intentional because I wanted them to see how frustrated and annoyed I was.I also continued to send cables about our vulnerability, which only became more apparent as we dealt with these threats.
When I reviewed them before meeting with the Accountability Review Board after the bombing, I was astounded by their frequency. General Tony Zinni, Head of Central Command, the military theater under which Kenya fell, understood force protection and agreed with me about the vulnerability of the embassy. With my enthusiastic concurrence he cabled Washington offering one of his own vulnerability assessment teams. That got a reply — not just “no,” but mind your own business.
Q: This team that eventually came out was, I take it, a basically a routine thing from Diplomatic Security?
BUSHNELL: No, it was not a routine thing. I think Tony’s cable, along with continuing concerns we were voicing, finally provoked a response in the form of an assessment team. Meanwhile, when I returned to Washington on consultations in December of ’97, I was told point blank by the AF Executive Office to stop sending cables because people were getting very irritated with me. That really pushed up my blood pressure. Later, in the spring of ’98, for the first time in my career I was not asked for input into the “Needs Improvement” section of my performance evaluation. That’s always a sign! When I read the criticism that “she tends to overload the bureaucratic circuits,” I knew exactly what it referred to. Yes, the cables had been read, they just weren’t appreciated.
Q: Was anything happening at this time from Tanzania from Dar es Salaam? Was there concern there or any of the other?
BUSHNELL: [...] In May ’98, the Director General visited Nairobi, and was exposed to the concerns of the community. While he thought we were on the verge of becoming obsessed over security, offered to take a letter back to Secretary Albright. So, I penned a letter suggesting that, when next defending the State Department budget before Congress, she use our vulnerability as an example of why we needed more security funding. I also wrote to the Undersecretary for Management. I received a highly bureaucratic response from the undersecretary’s office – sorry, greater needs elsewhere and no money – but none from the Secretary. That, frankly, didn’t surprise me. To my knowledge, no one in the media has seen the letter to the Secretary so why it has been described as “highly emotional” or a “plea” is beyond me. Actually, it’s not. Stereotyping is alive and well even if wrong.
A side note here – the current Undersecretary for Management or “M” is Patrick Kennedy who had been before several committee hearings up in Congress. This same position was encumbered by Bonnie R. Cohen from 1997 to 2001.
Below is part of Ambassador Bushnell’s account of the immediate aftermath of the US Embassy Kenya bombing and her telephone calls with Susan Rice, then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and then President Clinton:
I had lost total track of time, but at some point early on the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs called. I had barely said hello, when the Secretary of State called on the other line. Both voiced shock about the bombing and about the vulnerability of the building. When I told the Secretary, “Madame Secretary, I wrote you a letter,” there was silence. She had not seen it, she said. I wasn’t about to quibble.
Not much later President Clinton called. When he called me “Pru” I knew someone was passing him cue cards because there’s no reason he would know that’s what I call myself.” Anyway, he instructed me to secure the perimeter of the chancery. He may have said “I’m sorry,” I don’t remember because I was so astounded by the importance of security now that we’d been blown up. This is supposed to be the guy who feels our pain.
Once I confirmed that the building next door had collapsed, he ordered me to secure the perimeter there, as well. “But people are still trying to get others out from under the rubble,” I explained. “Oh,” he replied. “Well, then secure the perimeter.” To this day that’s the only interaction I ever had with the President about the bombing!
Ambassador Bushnell also talked about what worked and what did not in honoring the victims of the attack. She did not mention Susan Rice by name in the transcript but the later was the A/S at the AF Bureau at that time:
BUSHNELL: …Washington had given us a general Mission Award for Heroism but that was it. It was up to us to take care of whatever individual or other group awards we wanted to give. I asked one of the political officers, poor guy, to do nothing but talk to people and write up awards. Another lesson learned. It was absolutely the wrong thing to do and turned into a mess. The process opened all sorts of wounds, anger and finger-pointing; it pulled people apart rather than bringing them together. So, we focused on commemorating the memorial fountain that day rather than the awards.
The Assistant Secretary for African Affairs came and, to our surprise, so did many of the family members of the Americans who had been killed. Unlike the family members of our deceased Kenyan colleagues, the Americans were very open in their anger — at the way they had been treated by the Department, at the fact that their loved ones had died, at the tragedy imposed so suddenly. It was so painful to witness and even more so, to absorb during a tense meeting after the ceremony.
And then there’s this question about the inner circle of the SoS:
Q: Well, we’re going to have to continue this, but I’ve heard people who dealt with the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright at that time, she was surrounded by a group of people for the most part who were very protective of her and you know, almost vengeful on anybody who might hurt her reputation. Did you feel that at all or at least did you feel that there was a cocoon around her?
BUSHNELL: Very much so. I know they were very mad at me for not allowing the Secretary to visit in the immediate aftermath of the bombing — they made that very clear to me. But, I really didn’t see them as that vengeful. I had traveled with Madeleine Albright and her team when she was at USUN. So, I knew a couple of the people and we had gotten along all right. That said, there was no doubt in my mind as to where their loyalties lay.
The interview is 147-pages long but it is quite a read (PDF).
Now about that moon landing …
Pardon me? This is a training mockup? … and Susan Rice did what … that footprint on the moon mockup? But … but … she was only five years old then … that was her on Meet the Press, too? You heard it where?
Holy screaming goats! What’s next?