Accuracy in Media

Immediately after American embassies in Africa were bombed, the media went to the usual assortment of talking heads. Gerald Seib, deputy Washington bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal, suddenly emerged as a terrorism expert, telling CNBC that the explosions had the earmarks of a Middle Eastern operation. That seemed rather obvious. But he also said that the terrorists responsible for these bombings had reason to believe the U.S. would track them down. After all, he said, the U.S. has been working for 10 years to nail those responsible for the destruction of Pan Am flight 103, which went down over Lockerbie, Scotland. That incident claimed the lives of 270 people.

President Clinton did sound tough when he denounced this “terrorist violence” against U.S. embassies in Africa and vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice. But Gerald Seib seemed completely unaware of the significant number of similar incidents which have occurred during this administration, some of which have gone unsolved or even unacknowledged as terrorist-related.

The World Trade Center bombing; the Oklahoma City bombing; the bombing of the U.S. military complex, Khobar Towers, in Saudi Arabia; and the destruction of TWA Flight 800. Two of them, Oklahoma City and TWA flight 800 may have had no foreign or terrorist connection, but there is enough uncertainty about both of them that nothing can really be ruled out.

Immediately after the Oklahoma City bombings, there were reports of a Middle Eastern connection to the event, and “John Doe Number Two,” a suspect in the case, has never been located. There is much evidence that missiles brought down TWA Flight 800, and some evidence that Middle Eastern terrorists may have done it. The FBI has admitted that foreign groups claimed responsibility for destroying the plane but refuses to tell the public who they were.

Seib’s comment about Pan Am 103 shows how out-of-touch he really is. In that case, agents of the terrorist regime of Libya have been blamed. The U.S. had been demanding for years that the Libyans be handed over for trial in the United States or Britain. But in a decision made only a few weeks ago, the Clinton Administration decided to agree to Libya’s demand that they be tried in a third country. This would be a forum in which it is more likely the Libyans could go free. In any case, foreign policy analyst Laurie Mylroie points out that a trial of two Libyans doesn’t solve the main problem, which is Libya’s leader, Muammar Gadafi. What about him?

Mylroie, who publishes regular updates on events in the Middle East, reports that just two days before the Africa bombings, a top Iraqi official had given a major speech warning that “Iraq’s leadership and people will not stand idle before the U.S. policy.” This official “affirmed that the Iraqi leadership and people will take measures to protect Iraq’s legitimate national interests…” That preceded not only the anti-American bombings in Africa but Iraq’s decision not to cooperate with international officials seeking the destruction of the regime’s weapons of mass destruction. Mylroie doesn’t put much stock in Clinton’s threat to go after the perpetrators. Neither should the media.

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