USIS Washington File

13 August 1998


(Embassy spokesman responds to press criticism) (1420))

By Robert Fullerton

USIA Staff Writer

NAIROBI, Kenya -- Stung by criticism in some press accounts that U.S.
marines callously prevented "good Samaritan" volunteers from aiding
Kenyan wounded and dying victims of the U.S. Embassy bombing here, an
Embassy spokesman on August 13 said such judgments were unfortunate.

"Let me make it as plain as I can," he said. "We did and do appreciate
the good will of the African good samaritans. Kenyans are gentle
people and some of them undoubtedly must have been shocked by the
brusque way they were treated. We also understand their anger. But the
criticisms in the newspapers are directed against the wrong people.
Like them, we're victims. And the perpetrators are monsters who were
willing to kill more than 20 Kenyans for every dead American."

It's true, he said, that the focus of U.S. marines -- in those
confused hours immediately after the August 7 bombings -- was "to
secure the embassy. That was their number one responsibility and that
is just what they did."

The marines' first job, he said, "was to secure the area from looters,
to get those looters already present out and to keep others from
getting in. They also were very worried about a 40-gallon fuel tank
behind the Embassy. We didn't know if it was going to blow -- or even
if the building was going to stand.

"You've also got to keep in mind," he said, "that there was a
tremendous amount of confusion in those early hours after the
explosion. We really didn't want additional unidentified, good
samaritans entering, perhaps to be injured or killed in an effort to
be helpful -- and also possibly eradicating valuable evidence that
investigators might need later.

"We did not discriminate between Kenyans and Americans," he stressed.
"All are part of the Embassy family. The charges of racism are
scurrilous. We simply did not have enough people on the ground at
first to reach out to the Kenyans injured in other buildings. When
additional helpers arrived, they immediately moved out into the Kenyan

The Embassy spokesman also denied charges -- as have Department of
Defense and State Department officials -- that U.S. government efforts
to help bombing victims at Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, were
needlessly slow. The two, major embassy explosions, which occurred
minutes apart, claimed the lives of a dozen Americans and 237 Kenyans
-- including 32 Foreign Service Nationals (FSNs) employed at the
Nairobi embassy -- and injured about 5,000 persons. U.S. Ambassador to
Kenya Prudence Bushnell resumed her duties immediately after treatment
for minor cuts and bruises. The bombing in Dar es Salaam resulted in
10 dead and more than 75 injured, with eight of the dead FSNs.

The Embassy spokesman pointed to an August 11 Embassy news release
which noted that U.S. medical and rescue teams "have arrived since the
August 7 bombing in downtown Nairobi to assist in ongoing efforts to
recover bodies in damaged buildings and to provide medical treatment
to the hundreds of injured in Kenyan hospitals."

Locating and unearthing the Kenya bombing victims was the most
difficult part of rescue efforts. Many persons were buried beneath the
ruble of the nearby seven-story Ufundi House, which took the brunt of
the explosion and toppled over on the rear of the U.S. embassy
building. Rescue efforts were directed by an Israeli team skilled in
such work.

Asked at the Pentagon August 11 about news reports that the U.S.
rescue efforts were too slow getting started -- as opposed to efforts
by the highly-praised around-the-clock Israeli operation, Kenneth
Bacon also lauded the Israelis. He recalled that the Defense
Department had readily accepted the Israeli offer "to send a team of
people (to Kenya) experienced in dealing with rubble and extracting
bodies and, we hope, living people" -- as it also accepted offers of
security help from Great Britain and Australia and medical assistance
from South Africa.

Bacon asserted that the U.S. "very quickly" flew some 17 missions from
Washington, the Middle East, and Germany, transporting 418 passengers
and 140 short tons of equipment -- a total of 120,000 miles.

"Remember Africa is not really close to Europe or close to Andrews Air
Force Base," he said. "We put together teams of people within hours of
the disaster and had not only new security teams on the way, but
medical teams on the way. We had 64 civilian rescue experts from
Fairfax County (Virginia) shipped over there. We had dogs shipped over
there. We had over 200 units of blood shipped there relatively
quickly. So I don't buy that allegation that we didn't respond quickly

Pressed that flights were late getting off the ground at Ramstein Air
Force Base, Germany, and at Andrews Air Force Base, Washington, Bacon
explained that first "we had to assemble teams. We had to make sure we
had the right people. We had to get the FBI people on board. And I
submit to you that in the life of press people, this may seem like a
long period of time, but in terms of putting together complex teams of
experts, I think we operated relatively quickly here."

At the State Department on August 10, Director General Edward Gnehm
also recounted to department employees how "The Medical Division of
this Department acted with what I consider incredible speed." Three of
"our medical people who were in a nearby post were in Nairobi in a
matter of hours, before the sun set the day of the explosion." He said
that State Department Chief of Medical Services Cedric Dumont quickly
"had moving a Medivac plane from South Africa with blood and supplies
and other medical support that was in Nairobi in the evening." Dr.
Dumont also coordinated medical support "from so many other branches
of government to get the people that we needed there quite rapidly. As
you all know, we received enormously important support from friends
and allies -- other countries like Israel that brought in dogs and
teams to work in the rubble.

"Indeed, our Kenyan and Tanzanian friends in both places, in spite of
the enormous problems that they faced, provided us support and
resources to help us deal with our problem," Gnehm added. "We had
blood donations from many people here in the country that were on
those flights that went out, along with medical supplies."

Gnehm also stressed U.S. government efforts to aid Kenyan and
Tanzanian FSNs.

"When we had our casualties at both posts, we moved to take care of
them as we did our own," he said. "You would know from the press that
we medically evacuated from Nairobi five of our FSNs to Germany along
with our Americans. These were people that we assessed needed the
special intensive or specialized medical treatment that they could not
get in Kenya. We may, in fact, be evacuating seven more as we evaluate
their conditions. Also remember that many, many of our Americans
suffered terrible injuries in this, and they were treated locally in
Kenyan hospitals, as were many of our other Kenyan employees."

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnny Carson also
stressed to a questioner that "We have responded to the needs of our
Kenyan employees just as we have responded to the needs to our
American employees. And as our medical teams and emergency rescue
teams have gone in, they have gone in to rescue both host country
nationals as well as Americans.

"In the situation in Nairobi, we have provided the bulk of the medical
equipment -- fluids, syringes, bandages and other things -- to the
Kenyans and the Kenyan officials. As we have moved to take our people
out for emergency medical treatment, we have indeed moved the Kenyans
out as well. We took ten Americans on a Medivac flight out to
Lanstuhl, Germany. We have Medivac'd five Kenyan employees there as

"Equally, we would like to praise the Kenyans for what they have done
to and for Americans, because Kenyan facilities were used to treat
many Americans who were slightly injured or bruised and those who
needed emergency attention," he said. "But we have not flagged in
trying to provide support. Indeed, we've put something in the
neighborhood of $5 million in emergency medical assistance and rescue
equipment into the area. Most of that has been done to save not only
American lives, but also Kenyan and Tanzanian lives."