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"Blowback": Sanctions and the Embassy Bombings

"Blowback" is a term coined by the CIA and popularized in a book of the same 
name by Chalmers Johnson.  It refers to the unintended consequences of 
Empirical foreign policy.

"What goes around, comes around", in other words.

This week in New York, the "embassy bombing trial" entered its penalty phase 
with one of the defendants facing death.  His lawyers have used what can 
only be described as the "Blowback" defense, and have cited sanctions 
against Iraq as a motivator for their client.

The defense team's lawyers:
>Played the "60 Minutes" segment in which Madeleine Albright made her 
>infamous "worth it" comment
>Played a videotaped statement by Denis Halliday
>Interviewed Ramsey Clark, and Read the DoD's "Iraqi Water Treatment 
>Vulnerabilities" document (found by CASI contributor Tom Nagy) into the 

The defendant, Mr. Al-'Owhali, 24, of Saudi Arabia, was convicted of killing 
213 people in a blast at the U.S. embassy in Kenya, an act of indiscriminate 
violence that I'm certain weighed heavily on all who testified.  But actions 
breed reactions, and the bombing didn't occur in a political vacuum.

When we write of sanctions we focus, properly I think, on the consequences 
they pose for Iraqi civilians and the moral danger they pose to Britain and 
the U.S.  But the risks to the West may be political, and tragically 
physical as well.  To paraphrase George Galloway, 'we live in a world where 
blind, eccentric monks can direct the delivery of sarin to the subways of 
Tokyo'.  And as Galloway, Halliday, and others have warned, there are 
political elements in sanctioned Iraq that make Saddam look moderate by 

It's a morally repellent mess we've made.  It is dangerous, also.

As embassy blast survivor Joanne Huskey wrote in Newsweek this week: "When I 
traveled around Europe at 20, I felt wonderful being an American. Many 
people wanted to talk with me and most said ours was a great country.  It is 
different today; most people do not love our country."

Below are reports from the Chicago Tribune, CNN, the New York Times, and the 
Washington Post.  This Times article contains, I believe, the most complete 
coverage of Albright's interview yet to appear in 'the paper of record'.

Drew Hamre
Golden Valley, MN USA

Bombers cite Iraq sanctions
Hatred of U.S. tied to embassy blasts

By Lisa Anderson
Tribune staff reporter
June 5, 2001
NEW YORK -- Seeking to avoid the death sentence for a man convicted in the 
1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Kenya, defense attorneys Monday cited a 
decade of U.S.-led sanctions against Iraq as a source of deep hatred of 
America across the Muslim world and as a motivation for the bomber.

Lawyers for Mohamed Rashed Daoud Al-'Owhali, convicted last week of 
conspiracy and the killing of 213 people in the attack on the embassy in 
Nairobi, called human-rights activist and former Atty. Gen. Ramsey Clark to 
testify in the federal trial's penalty phase about the scope of suffering 
imposed by the sanctions on the Iraqi people.

A frequent visitor to Iraq over the last 10 years, Clark, 73, also told the 
jury that he believed that anyone associated with alleged Saudi terrorist 
Osama bin Laden has "little or no chance of getting a fair trial" in the 
United States.

Clark testified that on his annual visits to Iraq he had seen a worsening of 
conditions among civilians, including an increase of illnesses and deaths 
among children and the elderly due to shortages of food, medicine and clean 
water. Under questioning from Al-'Owhali attorney David Baugh, Clark said he 
blamed Iraq's misery on international sanctions imposed in August 1990.

Al-'Owhali, 24, of Saudi Arabia, was one of four men convicted May 29 of 
conspiring with bin Laden in a global campaign to kill Americans. That 
campaign included the near-simultaneous bombings of the U.S. Embassies in 
Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Aug. 7, 1998, that killed 224 people, 
including 12 Americans, and injured 4,000 others.

Al-'Owhali and Khalfan Khamis Mohamed of Tanzania, who delivered the bombs 
to the Kenyan and Tanzanian embassies respectively, face the death penalty. 
Wadih El-Hage of Arlington, Texas, and Mohamed Sadeek Odeh of Jordan, who 
were convicted of conspiracy, face the possibility of life in prison without 

During his testimony, Clark said he met with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in 
a futile attempt to avert the Persian Gulf war and then returned to Iraq 
during the American-led bombing in 1991. Clark later provided legal 
representation in the trial of Egyptian extremist Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, 
who was convicted of conspiracy in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and 
is serving a life sentence in prison.

Most recently, Clark told the jury, he filed an affidavit in a British court 
in the case of Khalid Al Fawwaz, an associate of bin Laden charged in the 
bombings, who is fighting extradition to the U.S.

In that affidavit, Clark said, he told the British court that he felt there 
was insufficient probing for prejudice among prospective jurors in the 
Rahman trial and that "20 years of anti-Arab sentiment" in the U.S. 
precluded the possibility of a fair trial for such defendants.

Asst. U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald, who also prosecuted the World Trade 
Center bombing case, vigorously challenged Clark's depiction of the 
questioning of prospective jurors in the Rahman case. Fitzgerald recently 
was named by Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.) as his choice to be the next 
U.S. attorney in the Chicago area.

When asked by Baugh if he had had occasion to criticize the U.S. government 
over the years, Clark acknowledged that he had. "I believe if you love your 
country, that's your duty," said Clark, who served as attorney general under 
President Lyndon Johnson.

Al-'Owhali's proceeding, which is expected to go to the jury later this 
week, is the first death penalty case to be heard in a Manhattan federal 
court since 1957.

Bomber's defense focuses on U.S. policy on Iraq
June 4, 2001 Posted: 5:39 PM EDT (2139 GMT)

Former Attorney General Ramsey Clark testified on what he called "extensive 
destruction ... of civilian life" in Iraq.

>From Phil Hirschkorn
CNN New York Bureau

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Mohamed al-'Owhali, convicted in the 1998 bombing of the 
U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, relied on the words of two former U.S. 
Cabinet officials Monday in mounting his defense against the death penalty.

Al-'Owhali's lawyers played a television interview with former Secretary of 
State Madeleine Albright and produced former Attorney General Ramsey Clark 
as a witness, both attesting to the detrimental impact sanctions and 
bombings have had on Iraqi civilians during and since the Gulf War.

Al-'Owhali's attorneys have argued U.S. policy toward Iraq was a motivating 
factor for militant Muslims such as al-'Owhali, a 24-year-old Saudi, and his 
leader, Saudi exile Osama bin Laden, whom the United States accuses of 
leading a decade-long terrorist conspiracy to kill Americans and destroy 
U.S. property.

Defense attorney David Baugh has told jurors --- the same panel that 
convicted al-'Owhali last week in the August 1998 bombing and the murder of 
all 213 people it killed -- that he would offer an explanation, not a 
justification, for al-'Owhali's actions, and that he would argue the United 
States also put innocent people's lives "at grave risk."

First, Baugh played a CBS-TV "60 Minutes" segment from May 1996 that 
reported an estimated 500,000 Iraqi children had died from the economic 
sanctions imposed on August 6, 1990, days after Saddam Hussein's troops 
invaded Kuwait. Since the war ended with Iraqi's withdrawal in 1991, the 
number of Iraqi civilian casualties has more than doubled, according to 
various international aid groups.

"I think this is a very hard choice, but the price -- we think the price is 
worth it," said Albright, who was then U.S. ambassador to the United 
Nations, which imposed and still maintains the sanctions. Hussein 
subsequently recognized Kuwait and allowed weapons inspectors into Iraq.

"It is hard for me to say this because I am humane person, but my first 
responsibility is to make sure that United States forces do not have to go 
and re-fight the Gulf War," Albright said.

She blamed Hussein for spending $1.5 billion building new palaces, for using 
water pumps to build lakes with fountains instead of sewage systems, and for 
applying spare parts for agricultural equipment to military gear.

"His priorities are wrong," Albright said in the interview.

Then Clark, 73, attorney general under President Lyndon Johnson and 
assistant attorney general under President John F. Kennedy, testified about 
what he called "extensive destruction ... of civilian life" in Iraq, a 
country he has visited nearly a dozen times during and since the Gulf War.

Clark worked on historic civil rights cases while in the Justice Department 
and has spent most of the past 30 years working on international human 
rights. He was an outspoken critic of the Gulf War and is a long-time death 
penalty opponent who called for the abolition of capital punishment in 1965.

"The number of deaths have increased every year," Clark said about Iraqi 
civilians. "About half the deaths are children under five." A quarter of the 
country's newborns have a low birth weight, he said.

"We've had 10 years of malnutrition and sickness," Clark said.

Clark said the U.S-led bombings demolished the country's water system and 
U.N. sanctions devastated agriculture. Increases in cancer and miscarriages 
have occurred, and medicines are not widely available. It is not uncommon 
for diabetics to go blind due to the lack of insulin, he said.

A declassified Pentagon document read to the jury by Baugh candidly assessed 
the vulnerability of Iraq's water purification system and revealed that the 
United States knew it.

"Unless water is purified with chlorine, epidemics such as hepatitis, 
typhoid, and cholera could occur," said the 1991 memo. "Locally produced 
food and medicine could become contaminated."

Madeleine Albright was U.S. ambassador to the U.N. when she said in a 1996 
interview shown at trial that Saddam Hussein is to blame for Iraq's 
problems, not U.N. sanctions.

Chlorine was among the Iraqi imports banned under the sanctions.

Baugh also read to the jury an article of the Geneva Conventions that states 
it is illegal for one country to destroy civilian supplies such as drinking 
water and foodstuffs.

When asked outside the courtroom why he appeared, Clark said, "I didn't 
volunteer; they asked me. I felt a duty to testify."

He said U.S. troop presence in the Gulf region is unpopular: "Muslims feel 
the United States government is destroying their lives, at least in Iraq and 
other places."

The jury also heard from Dennis Halliday, who until 1997 had administered 
the U.N.'s "oil for food" program that permits Iraq to sell limited amounts 
of oil for export and earmarks the proceeds for food and medicine purchases.

"I was being associated with a program that I considered genocidal," 
Halliday said in a videotaped statement.

He said nations on the U.N. Security Council knew supplies Iraq received 
were inadequate. UNICEF found as many as 10,000 Iraqis died every month from 
shortages and that Iraqi's infant mortality rate quadrupled, he said.

"They continued the sanctions even when they knew the consequences," 
Halliday said.

Al-'Owhali's lawyers cast a wide net seeking activists and academics to 
testify about U.S. policy flaws and perceptions about the United States in 
the Middle East. None besides Clark or Halliday would cooperate, Baugh told 
the court, because potential witnesses feared an association with 

"I don't think you really appreciate how hated Osama bin Laden is -- well, 
maybe you do. He is the bogeyman," he told the judge last week.

Baugh said he even sent a query via fax to the Dalai Lama in Tibet to no 

None of al-'Owhali's family members will appear on his behalf. The defense 
will rest on Tuesday with jury deliberations likely to begin on Wednesday.

If the jury does not unanimously decide to sentence al-'Owhali to death, 
U.S. District Judge Leonard Sand will sentence him to life in prison without 
the possibility of parole.

Once the al-'Owhali punishment is resolved, the jury will hear death penalty 
arguments on convicted Tanzania embassy bomber Khalfan Mohamed, 27, of 
Tanzania, who was found guilty of killing 11 people in that coordinated 

Two codefendants, Wadih el Hage and Mohamed Odeh, face a maximum life in 
prison for their roles in the terror conspiracy and the Kenya embassy 
bombing, respectively.


June 5, 2001

Defense in Terror Trial Cites U.S. Sanctions Against Iraq

Lawyers for a man convicted in the 1998 bombing of the American Embassy in 
Nairobi, Kenya, sought yesterday to save their client from execution by 
telling a jury in Federal District Court in Manhattan that the United States 
government was also involved in the killing of innocents, through its 
actions against Iraq.

The defense assertions were offered through videotapes, documents and 
testimony from Ramsey Clark, the former United States attorney general, who 
said sanctions and military actions against Iraq had devastated its 
agricultural systems, the purity of its water supply and the quality of its 
medical care.

The testimony of Mr. Clark, a prominent champion of unpopular causes in 
courtrooms and in international forums, was part of a broad defense effort 
that included attempts to humanize the defendant, Mohamed Rashed Daoud 
al-'Owhali, 24.

Mr. al-'Owhali was convicted of 213 counts of murder in the Nairobi attack 
and of conspiring with the Saudi exile Osama bin Laden in a global terrorism 
conspiracy to kill Americans anywhere in the world.

David P. Baugh, a lawyer for Mr. al-'Owhali, has conceded to the jury that 
his client was guilty in the Aug. 7, 1998, attack and that there was no 
justification for his actions, but that there was an explanation for his 

To help explain Mr. Al-'Owhali's motivation, the defense lawyers told the 
jury that he had been instilled with hate for the United States from the 
time he was a teenager.

They noted, for example, that Mr. al-'Owhali had told the Federal Bureau of 
Investigation after his arrest "that his mother had a profound effect on his 
strong religious upbringing."

When he was 14, they said, "he began to be indoctrinated in conservative 
Islamic teachings and read magazines which promoted his religious beliefs 
and which detailed Muslim men who died fighting and went to paradise."

They said Mr. al-'Owhali also told the F.B.I. that he was prepared to die as 
a martyr to "wipe away the tears of the mothers whose children have been 
murdered from American policy around the world."

During yesterday's hearing, Mr. al-'Owhali seemed actively engaged in his 
defense, whispering to Mr. Baugh and appearing to suggest at least one 
question for his lawyer to ask Mr. Clark.

After the jury has finished hearing from the defense, it will be asked to 
weigh aggravating factors, like the prosecution's contention that he would 
be a serious and continuing threat to others in the future, against 
mitigating factors offered by the defense, like his young age, 21, at the 
time of the attack.

The defense lawyers also cited Mr. al-'Owhali's admission that he had 
suggested that the bomb be placed in front of the American Embassy in 
Nairobi or underneath it, "so that there would be significant damage to the 
embassy and the Americans, but less damage to the Kenyans."

Mr. al-'Owhali's lawyers have said that he felt remorse, but only because so 
many Kenyans died in the embassy attack.

Prosecutors strongly objected yesterday out of the presence of the jury that 
some of the defense exhibits were irrelevant and inflammatory.

A prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, also sought to undermine Mr. Clark's 
credibility. During cross- examination, Mr. Fitzgerald asked Mr. Clark about 
his pretrial statements that "there will not be a real effort to choose a 
jury free of preconceptions and prejudice."

Mr. Clark had cited widespread prejudice against Mr. bin Laden, "hostility 
of the media" and New York's large Jewish population.

"That was my opinion, yes," Mr. Clark replied to Mr. Fitzgerald.

The prosecutor appeared to be trying to show the jurors that Mr. Clark felt 
that they could not be fair.

The defense continued its defiant strategy, in which it appears to be 
putting the United States on trial, by also playing a videotape of a "60 
Minutes" program broadcast on May 12, 1996, on the effect of sanctions in 
Iraq, which included graphic scenes of starving and ill babies and polluted 
water supplies.

The program also includes an interview with Secretary of State Madeleine K. 
Albright, who is confronted with the estimate that 500,000 children had died 
since the imposition of sanctions in Iraq, and is asked whether the price 
was worth it.

"I think this is a very hard choice, but the price, we think the price is 
worth it," she replied.

A spokeswoman for the former secretary of state said that "it would be 
inappropriate for Secretary Albright to comment on this while the trial is 
still going on."

Former Attorney General Clark Testifies for Convicted Bomber

By Christine Haughney
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 5, 2001; Page A02

NEW YORK, June 4 -- A defense lawyer tried today to explain the motivation 
of one of four men convicted of bombing U.S. embassies in East Africa, 
calling a former U.S. attorney general to testify that children are dying in 
Iraqi hospitals for lack of basic medical supplies.

Ramsey Clark, who headed the Justice Department under President Lyndon B. 
Johnson and has since taken on many controversial causes, appeared as the 
sole defense witness before a 12-member jury in U.S. District Court in 
Manhattan that must decide whether to impose the death penalty on Mohamed 
Rashed Daoud Owhali, 24, of Saudi Arabia.

Owhali and three others were convicted last week of conspiring to bomb the 
U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on Aug. 7, 1998, killing 224 people and 
wounding 4,600. He will be the first to be sentenced.

Seeking to avoid the death penalty, defense attorney David P. Baugh has 
argued that Owhali was enraged at the United States for maintaining economic 
sanctions on Iraq, which he believed were responsible for the deaths of many 
innocent people.

To demonstrate the suffering of Iraqi civilians, Baugh showed television 
footage of sewage in Iraqi streets, referred to reports on infant mortality 
and called Clark to describe visits to Iraqi hospitals.

"Every time you see [Iraqi] children, you wonder how they're still alive," 
Clark said. "They are wasted. The hospitals can't offer much help." On one 
trip, he added, he watched an 11-year-old girl have her leg amputated 
without anesthesia because the hospital had run out of medicine.

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