The August 20 US missile strikes on a Pharmaceutical factory in Sudan and alleged camps of Islamic activists in Afghanistan have underscored one point clearly: Washington is an international outlaw. While allegedly fighting terrorism, it continues to indulge in the worst kinds of atrocities against innocent civilians and weak States. Scores of people were killed in the twin attacks in which some 75 cruise missiles were fired from US ships in the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea (Indian Ocean).
The attack on Al-Shifa Pharmeceutical factory in Khartoum was the most dastardly. Producing nearly 50 percent of all antibiotics and pills for malaria and tuberculosis, the factory was vital to Sudan’s health needs. Its destruction will cause immense suffering to ordinary people.
The twin missile strikes were viewed by most observers as cowardly acts by a beleaguered American president, Bill Clinton, who is mired in sex scandals. It was a desperate attempt to divert attention from his personal travails. One Arab commentator dubbed the attacks ‘Operation Monica,’ referring to the white house intern with whom Clinton had had a long sexual liaison. Last January he had denied any affair with the woman which he has now been forced to admit.
The manner in which American officials - US national security adviser Sandy Berger and secretary of State Madeleine Albright - took to the television screen to make unsubstantiated allegations was evidence of the conspiracy afoot. The two - both zionists - tried to outbid each other in making hysterical statements, clearly hoping to arouse the jingoistic sentiment of the American public.
The Cable News Network (CNN), ever eager to pounce on every bit of sensational cant, took the bait and suspending regular programmes, concentrated on the press conference. The two officials alleged that those who had bombed the American embassies in Nairobi (Kenya) and Dar es Salam (Tanzania) on August 7 were linked to Sudan and were trained at camps run by Osama bin Laden (pronounced Laa-din).
A Saudi millionaire and scion of the Bin Laden family, Osama has been living in Afghanistan since the early eighties when he abandoned his luxurious lifestyle in Saudi Arabia to join the jihad against Soviet forces.
American allegations against Bin Laden do not stand up to scrutiny. Their most important ‘evidence’ comes from Mohammed Siddiq Odeh, an Arab who is alleged to have confessed to his involvement in the embassy bombings and that he and his group were linked to Osama. Odeh was arrested when he presented a false Pakistani passport at Karachi airport upon arrival from Nairobi on August 7. Newspapers in Pakistan reported that he denied any links with the bombers.
Odeh was extradited to Kenya despite the fact that the only crime he is alleged to have committed was carrying a false Pakistani passport. He should have been tried in Pakistan.
Even in Kenya and Tanzania, where a number of people were arrested, the authorities have not been able to say categorically who the alleged perpetrators of the crime were despite American FBI agents swarming the place like flies. The Israelis were also there with their dogs, allegedly trying to help in the rescue effort. Some informed observers are of the view that the Israeli Mossad agents may have perpetrated the embassy bombings. They would have much to gain from it.
Fourteen people arrested in Tanzania - six Sudanese, six Iraqis, a Somali and a Turk - were all released within a day or two. Their only crime was being in the country without proper documents. Yet their identity was eagerly flashed by the western, especially American media and wild allegations made against them. Similarly, in Kenya, Muslims protested when president Daniel arap Moi hinted that Muslims may have been responsible for the embassy attacks.
Despite no specific proof, the Americans decided to launch missile strikes. In Afghanistan, the town of Khost was hit by a number of missiles where some 30 mujahideen of the Harkat ul-Mujahideen group were killed. Their leader, Fazlur Rahman Khalil, denounced the US attack at a press conference in Islamabad on August 23. The group changed its name last year from Harkatul Ansar because of US allegations that it was involved in ‘terrorist’ activities in Kashmir. It is one of several groups fighting against Indian occupation forces in Kashmir. It has never been known to have indulged in any activities against the US.
The Pharmeceutical factory in Khartoum which Berger alleged was producing a compound to manufacture ‘V series nerve gas,’ has been dismissed by those familiar with the facility. Two Britons - Belfast independent film-maker Irwin Armstrong and engineer Tom Carnaffin of Rexham in Northumberland - both rejected US allegations.
Armstrong who was filming in Sudan last year was quoted by the London-based Observer newspaper (August 23) as saying, ‘the Americans have got this completely wrong.’ Carnaffin, who worked as technical manager at the factory from 1992 to 1996 told the paper: ‘I have intimate knowledge of that factory and it just does not lend itself to the manufacture of chemical weapons.’ He condemned the US attack and loss of life at the factory. Carnaffin also stated that if the factory was producing nerve gas, it would ‘need things like airlocks but this factory just has doors leading into the streets.’
The Sudanese government on August 22 invited Khartoum-based foreign diplomats to visit the bombed-out factory and see for themselves what it was producing. They saw no traces of any nerve gas production.
The Observer also reported on August 23 that US reconnaissance planes had already confirmed prior to the missile strikes that no chemical or any other weapons were being produced at the factory. Yet Clinton ordered the strikes. Sudan lodged a complaint with the UN security council on August 22 and requested a fact-finding mission be sent to investigate. The US, however, opposed the request saying it had already ‘confirmed’ the factory was producing compounds for nerve gas!
Even the Pakistani government, ever eager to please Uncle Sam, lodged a complaint with the UN security council on August 24 about the violation of its airspace. The missiles that struck Afghanistan traversed Pakistani territory. One missile fell at Shatingar in Baluchistan’s Kharan district barely 10 kms from the site of Pakistan’s May 28 nuclear tests. Was a message being delivered by the US to Pakistan about its nuclear capability?
In the aftermath of the missile attack on Afghanistan, there were reports that one missile had landed inside Pakistani territory near Khost, the Afghan border post. According to these accounts, five or six villagers were killed. Following a telephone conversation between prime minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan and US president Bill Clinton, the Pakistani statement was retracted. The six dead persons somehow miraculously came to life. Far from pressing its case, Islamabad dismissed the two officials - director of intelligence bureau, Chaudhry Zahoor Ahmed, and chief secretary of the NWFP, Rustam Khan Mahmond - who had allegedly given false information. The Pakistani government shot the messengers!
Despite denials, there is mounting evidence that Islamabad was privy to US strikes against mujahideen bases in Afghanistan. Two days before the missile strikes, US under-secretary of State for South Asia, Karl Inderfurth, had met and conferred with Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, younger brother of the Pakistani prime minister. There was also an exodus of American citizens from Pakistan, following warnings from Washington to leave the country immediately.
On the day of the missile attacks, the American general, Joseph Ralston, vice chairman joint chiefs of staff, was also in Islamabad, according to the American newspaper, Wall Street Journal on August 24. In fact, while US missiles were violating Pakistani airspace, the American general was conferring with Pakistani military and political leaders. What was he telling them and what were American helicopters stationed in Peshawar and Islamabad doing at the time?
Their mission appeared to have been to rush into Afghanistan to snatch Osama bin Laden had he been wounded and whisk him to the US. This opinion gained credence when it was reported on August 23 that a New York jury had handed down a sealed indictment against Osama for his alleged involvement in the June 1996 bombing of al-Khobar army barracks housing US troops in Saudi Arabia.
While denying involvement in that attack, Osama has repeatedly demanded that US troops be immediately pulled out of Saudi Arabia. This is a demand that is likely to gain more adherents throughout the Muslim world as American behaviour becomes even more outrageous.
Muslimedia: September 1-15, 1998