Assault on terrorism amid climate of distrust

August 23, 1998

Excerpts from an editorial that appeared in the Orlando Sentinel on Friday:

U.S. airstrikes against presumed terrorist sites in Afghanistan and Sudan on Thursday may well have been warranted and necessary.

Unfortunately, coming as they did on the heels of President Clinton's admission of having lied about an inappropriate relationship with a former White House intern, the attacks inevitably raised questions.

The administration insists that it took the action to strike back at terrorists thought to be behind the recent bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Afghanistan and Sudan have been known to turn a blind eye to terrorists operating within their territories.

In a televised address from the White House, Mr. Clinton linked the targets of the attacks to exiled Saudi Arabian millionaire Osama bin Laden, whom U.S. officials termed a financier of terrorism and leader of the group that masterminded the bombings.

The U.S. airstrikes came uncharacteristically quickly for a nation that, in the past, sometimes has taken years to track down terrorists. That history, however, shouldn't preclude precipitate action if, as the Clinton administration insisted was the case, sufficient evidence exists to tie the embassy bombings to the terrorist sites in Afghanistan and Sudan.

One reason the Clinton administration may have felt it necessary to act quickly was a statement by Islamic extremists that was published Wednesday in al-Hayat, a London-based Arabic newspaper.

That threat promised to rain mayhem upon American interests. Such a threat, of course, can't be ignored.

There is no goal -- religious, political or otherwise -- that can justify the horrors that terrorists perpetrate.

Fortunately, most nations and most people condemn terrorism. To the extent that they work more closely together to combat it, they will be more successful.

It's also important to take to task nations that support terrorism, such as Afghanistan and Sudan.

Subsequent information may show conclusively that the U.S. airstrikes there were warranted, perhaps made immediately necessary by the threats to Americans cited by the president.

It's unfortunate, though, that Americans must judge such a decision in a climate of political distrust.

Pub Date: 8/23/98

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