Compensating the Victims of the August 7, 1998 Embassy Bombings Would Set a Precedent? Goddammit, So What?

Fourteen years ago today, between 10:30 am and 10:40 am local time (3:30–3:40 am Washington time), suicide bombers in trucks laden with explosives parked outside our embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya and almost simultaneously detonated themselves. In Nairobi, approximately 218 people were killed, and an estimated 5,000 wounded; in Dar es Salaam, the attack killed at least 11 (including 7 FSNs) and wounded 72.  Twelve Americans were killed. (see our post R E M E M B E R – August 7, 1998; also Courting Remembrance).

August 1998: The U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in the aftermath of the August 7, 1998, al-Qaida suicide bombing. Eleven Tanzanians, including 7 Foreign Service Nationals, died in the blast, and 72 others were wounded. The same day, al-Qaida suicide bombers launched another near-simultaneous attack on the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, which killed 218 and wounded nearly 5,000 others. (Source:Diplomatic Security)

The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation reports that the victims of the August 1998 bomb blast at the American embassy in Nairobi are still demanding compensation saying the US government has turned a deaf ear to their suffering.

The victims also claimed that Kenya’s leadership has not shown commitment in ensuring that they lead a normal life fourteen years after the explosion that claimed over 200 lives.

Led by the 1998 bomb blast association chair Ali Mwadame, the victims said they will present a memorandum to parliament and the office of the Prime Minister.

Speaking to KBC on phone on Tuesday, Mwadame said a majority of victims who were maimed during the tragedy have died while others cannot even afford medication.

Back here at home, the families of 12 Americans killed in the attack are still fighting for federal compensation that has been granted to other terrorism victims — a struggle that has left many feeling betrayed and forgotten.

The Baltimore Sun reported back in June that the families have turned to Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, for help.

The effort by the families, including two from Maryland, has raised difficult questions about who is entitled to federal support when relatives are killed by an act of terrorism directed at the United States, and how much money is fair. Congress has been unwilling to answer those questions.
“Because it happened to our embassy, many people don’t think about it as American soil, but that is American property,” said Edith Bartley, a Prince George’s County resident whose father and brother were killed in the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. “Those families, that embassy, our nation were targeted in Kenya. It was the same as 9/11.”

Past legislation would have set aside nearly $1 million for each family. Mikulski’s approach is less direct: Rather than specifying an amount of money, the proposal would require the State Department to develop policies for how to compensate survivors when employees are killed at work. Supporters hope the back-door approach will lead to the same result.

The amendment was added to a bill to fund the State Department. That spending legislation was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee on a 29-1 vote May 24.

Families of Foreign Service workers killed in the line of duty receive up to $10,000 in death gratuity and one year’s salary.
Those who lost kin in the Nairobi bombing say the comparison to the Oklahoma City attack is not analogous; the link to al-Qaida, they say, makes the East Africa bombings more similar to the Sept. 11 attacks. They say the State Department’s current policy unfairly treats Foreign Service workers killed in a car accident, for example, the same as those who died in a major terrorist attack.
That argument has won bipartisan support among some lawmakers. Language similar to Mikulski’s is being carried in the House of Representatives by Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, and Florida Rep. Allen West, who is among the more conservative Republicans in Congress.
Mikulski said objections by the State Department have stymied past efforts.

This is certainly not the first time that somebody in Congress waded in on this issue.  Roy Blunt, the chief deputy Republican whip in the House in 2001 introduced legislation to make the families of the Americans killed or injured in two American Embassy bombings in Africa in 1998 eligible for the federal compensation fund set up for victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

Since we’re still talking about this, nothing obviously happened to that effort eleven years ago.  At that time, Mr. Blunt in the NYT also said:

”The State Department had been reluctant to approve compensation in any way that involved establishing blame or proving negligence,” he explained. But the new federal fund, he added, is a no-fault fund that does not require any finding of blame.

This is where it does not/not get better. Again. Because who do you think is blocking this effort? More from the Baltimore Sun:

“What we get is not a compassionate response but a lawyer response that if we do this, we’re going to set a precedent,” Mikulski said of her efforts to negotiate with department officials. “But we’re establishing a precedent by not doing anything, even though these people died on American soil, died at their duty stations.”

A State Department spokeswoman declined to comment on Mikulski’s effort or negotiations. Asked about the issue during a House subcommittee hearing last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — who was the first lady at the time of the East Africa attacks — was noncommittal.

“I can’t make any promises,” Clinton told Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr., an Illinois Democrat. “But I will certainly work with you on that.”

Whisky-Tango-Foxtrot! So what if it sets a precedent, goddammit! They were KIA in the service of their country! Excuse me for sounding mad, I am growwwling 😡

Now — since Secretary Clinton has been trying to win a world record as the most -traveled Secretary of State ever, when does she get time to work with him on that? And now that Representative Jackson Jr., is receiving treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for depression and gastrointestinal issues, and she’s sailing out the doors of Foggy Bottom, they obviously will have lots of time to work on this before long.

There is certainly a precedent to this taking care of your people business in the State Department. In May this year, the NYT reported that the Supreme Court rejected the last legal appeal for former American hostages seeking compensation for their captivity in Iran three decades ago, leaving legislation newly introduced in Congress as the last chance to resolve their longstanding grievance.  A lower court, acting at the request of the State Department (not/not Iran), previously blocked the hostages’ effort to win compensation from Iran, holding that the agreement under which they were released barred such claims.

Yes, yes, go ahead and stop at the vomitorium, there are tons of buckets there.

Domani Spero

Related posts:


US Embassy Libya: Another Attack on Embassy Personnel

On June 6, there was an IED attack on the USG office in Benghazi:

U.S. citizens are advised that there was an improvised explosive device (IED) attack on the U.S. Office in Benghazi during the early morning hours of June 6. There were no casualties. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. This incident is a reminder of the fluid security situation in Libya.

About a week later, there was an armed attack on a UK diplomatic convoy in Benghazi where two individuals sustained injuries.

Yesterday, there was another armed attacked on a US embassy vehicle:

In the early morning of August 6, U.S. Embassy personnel were attacked by armed assailants in a possible carjacking. The personnel evaded the attack and arrived safely at their destination. This event underscores the uncertain security environment in Tripoli. U.S. citizens are reminded to maintain vigilance at all times. The U.S. Embassy remains open for business.

Ambassador Stevens on a visit to Misrata, Libya, July 2012
(Photo via US Embassy Tripoli/FB)

Above is a photo of US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens visiting Misrata in northwestern Libya, situated 187 km (116 mi) to the east of Tripoli.  Misrata is the third largest city in Libya and has been called the business capital of Libya. During the Libyan civil war, the city was shelled by artillery, tanks, and snipers, and for over 40 days and had its water supply shut off by Gaddafi’s forces (read more about the Battle of Misrata here).

Hard to say how many of the U.S. citizens who resided in Libya before the civil war are back in the country. While the US Embassy in Tripoli has been pretty good at posting their emergency messages to U.S. citizens online, like other U.S. missions there seems to be a wall between these emergency messages and the embassy’s social media digs.  Perhaps the wall is unintentional, but there is a lack of cohesiveness in the information stream; what gets on the official website, does not always gets amplified in its official Facebook or Twitter pages.

We should note that the US Embassy in Tripoli is looking to hire a bi-lingual Multimedia Specialist in its Public Affairs Office. That individual will be responsible for the analysis of social media sites and reports on trends in Post’s media summary. He/she will also manage the mission’s social media sites including engagement with “followers and coordinating with Washington-based colleagues.”

Which means, one day soon somebody will be able to deal with one of the embassy’s regular fans and fan of OBL who seems to write only one thing on the embassy’s FB wall repeatedly in poor chalk marks:

Selibya Libya We rule and we are all Osama bin Laden and the West knows that we are proud of pigs Qadatna death because they were martyrs, and that death increases our strength and determination to win the battle with al-Qaeda has not yet primitive, but these skirmishes

Well, provided, of course, that State’s Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs has a social media strategy for “engagement” with those on the other lane in this …. ongoing war of ideas, is it? Unless ignoring the “we are proud of pigs Qadatna” or letting him/her have a run of the FB wall is all part of that strategy. Or unless, posts are expected to come up with their own social media strategeries for the non-fans masquerading as fans.

Domani Spero


US Mission Pakistan Gets New Consul Generals for Karachi and for Peshawar

On July 22, USCG Karachi announced the arrival of the new Consul General Michael Dodman to Karachi:

CG Dodman’s prior State Department assignments include Economic Counselor at the U.S. Mission to the European Union in Brussels, Economic Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and Political and Economic Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Prague. He has also served in Ankara and Warsaw, as well as in Washington, DC.

“I am very pleased to be here in Karachi,” CG Dodman said. “I look forward to getting to know this vibrant city and the people of Sindh and Balochistan provinces as I work to strengthen the relationship between our two countries.”

CG Dodman graduated from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and has Masters degrees from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School and Boston University.

William Martin, the previous Consul General, recently departed Karachi after a successful two year posting and is en route to his next diplomatic assignment.

Here is CG Dodman asking, “What should I know about Pakistani culture?”

USCG Peshawar, still considered the most dangerous assignment in the Foreign Service is also undergoing change. No announcement was made of the departure of Dr. Marie Richards, who was the Consul General since last year. But she did pin this note on FB last June.

As many of you know, I will be leaving Peshawar very soon.  My time here was always meant to be for only one year due to family responsibilities back home.  The people I have met here in the past year have impressed me deeply with their openness, generosity, and commitment to making Peshawar and KP/FATA what it should once again be: a crossroads of civilizations marked by tolerance, trade and respect for diversity of cultures.  I am grateful for the kindness shown to me by our many contacts and friends, and am confident that my successor will enjoy a similar welcome.

Outgoing USCG Peshawar Consul General Marie Richards visited Khyber Pakhtunkhwa industrial estate in Peshawar, touring Frontier Foundry (Pvt) Ltd and Khyber Match (Pvt) Ltd.
(Photo via USCG Peshawar)

And her successor the interim Consul General has released a Ramadan message via YouTube on July 18, 2012. Below is a video message from Consul General Stephen Engelken who was formerly DCM at the US Mission to UNESCO.

It’s summer so we will see a lot more rotation and staffing changes particularly in the AIP posts where assignments are mostly one year rotations (although sometimes two years for senior folks).

Correction: US Mission Pakistan tells me that Steve Engleken is the interim CG in Peshawar.  The new Consul General assigned to Peshawar is Robert Reed who is scheduled to arrive shortly.
Domani Spero