MOST OF THE harm in the exchange of explosives between terrorists and the United States was to neither of the above. It was, to use the euphemism of the military, collateral damage. Unintended victims. The innocent.
This was notably true of the terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Although 12 U.S. citizens were murdered in the Nairobi attack, so were 247 Kenyans.
More than 5,000 people were treated in Kenya's under-equipped hospitals and 542 hospitalized. The physical damage to the capital, for such a poor country, was huge. This must not be forgotten, as much as Osama bin Laden or other advocates of terror pretend their target is the United States.
And in Tanzania, where the United States was ostensibly the target, all 10 murder victims were Tanzanian. Though Dar es Salaam was less damaged than Nairobi, Tanzania is poorer than Kenya. Tanzania is also one of Africa's few working democracies.
Both countries cooperated fully with U.S. efforts to investigate the bombings, much better than Saudi Arabia did two years earlier. Some Kenyans criticized U.S. actions immediately after the bombing in discouraging members of the public from helping and in rescuing Americans first. This is understandable anguish.
Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, quick to visit the scene of East Africa carnage, rightly said in Nairobi that she would seek supplemental funds from the U.S. Congress to compensate Kenya and Tanzania. Congress should be quick and generous in granting it.
Terrorism is, at core, a publicity stunt. War with terrorism is a public relations battle. That requires the United States to keep the assaults on African sovereignty and the slaughter of African innocents, Muslim and Christian, before the world's eye. No one should forget that Osama bin Laden poses no real threat to U.S. security and immense threat to existing Islamic regimes.
This priority also affects the U.S. counter-strikes at bases of terrorism within Afghanistan and Sudan, two countries with which the United States is not at war but which it condemns for human rights abuses. The 79 cruise missiles were more armament than the terrorists used. And while the aim was better and collateral damage less, there was damage and innocents died.
While upholding its right to act, the United States should also be generous with these regimes. However good the U.S. intelligence on the pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum, among the things it makes are drugs for the health of humans and livestock in a rebellion-torn, tyrannized and famine-hit country.
While the United States is trying to aid rebellious Sudanese southerners whom the regime is starving, it also has humanitarian concerns for the Islamic people of the north and no desire to deprive them of drugs or food.
The United States, while aggressively protecting its own citizens, has no quarrel with the people of Sudan or the people of Afghanistan, though both now may feel themselves attacked by the United States.
Positive and humane gestures toward both populations are in the U.S. national interest. They are essential to deprive terrorists such as Osama bin Laden of victory.