Embassy Bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam

Embassies and Empires

Revolutionary Worker #970, August 23, 1998

The August 7 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania killed at least 257 people and injured many thousands. While the U.S. government and media focused attention on the 12 U.S. citizens who died in the Nairobi blast, most of the casualties were Kenyans and Tanzanians. The injured embassy personnel were quickly flown out to hospitals in Germany or the U.S. to receive special medical care. In Nairobi, where the explosion caused much more damage than in Dar es Salaam, the hospitals were overwhelmed by the huge flood of patients.

Clinton and other U.S. officials are trying to rally public outrage at the destruction of "our" embassies. But people need to be clear on what U.S. embassies--in East Africa and anywhere--are really about. These outposts don't represent the interests of the proletarians and oppressed people in the U.S. Their role is not to promote genuine internationalist solidarity, understanding and friendship between the masses in the U.S. and people around the world. They are not our embassies.

Instead, these embassies belong to the class of monopoly capitalists who rule over the people in the U.S.--and who rob and dominate people all over the globe. They serve the strategic, political and economic interests of the U.S. imperialists.

One aspect of what these embassies actually do came out in the U.S. actions after the Nairobi blast. People on the street converged on the bomb site wanting to help in the rescue effort--but the Marine guards prevented them from entering the embassy area. A Kenyan lawyer whose office is nearby said, "It seems the Marines were more concerned with the security, safety and secrecy of their premises than the fate of many victims buried in the rubble." The main concern of the U.S. officials was protecting sensitive documents--such as "CIA files that would presumably include profiles of Kenyan leaders and perhaps identities of Kenyans on the agency's payroll." (New York Times, Aug. 13) As this incident shows, these embassies serve as a base for spying and intervention in other countries.

Another sign of what the U.S. government is most concerned about: Just hours after the embassy explosions, huge teams of FBI agents--along with agents from the CIA, military intelligence and the State Department--were on their way to carry out detailed investigations. Why didn't the U.S. government fly large teams of eye surgeons and other medical specialists to Kenya and Tanzania to treat the many people who suffered serious eye damage from flying glass or received other critical injuries?

It is not known at this point who or what group carried out the bombings. The U.S. may eventually point a finger at someone--but such an accusation could well be just an excuse to strike a blow at forces that the U.S. government wants to attack. In the U.S. media, some "security experts" are claiming that certain Islamist groups in the Middle East are responsible--and calling for U.S. military retaliation.

The reality is that many different political forces have contradictions with U.S. imperialism. Some, like Islamic fundamentalists, are based on quite backward-looking ideology. But all over the world, people from oppressed nations have many just grievances against U.S. imperialism. They have been exploited, bullied, invaded and bombed by the U.S. This is why the U.S. is so deeply hated around the world--and why its embassies, military bases and other instruments of its empire become targets.

The U.S. government knows that its embassies are prime targets--and it has fortified many of them. But the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were among those that were "low priority" for the U.S. The embassy in Nairobi was located right in the middle of a busy business district. The explosion flattened an office building next to the embassy and sent glass and other debris flying out like shrapnel. Most of those killed or seriously injured were in the nearby buildings or in the street.

Clinton calls these recent embassy bombings abhorrent and inhuman. Yet during the U.S. war against Iraq, the dropping of 60,000 bombs on the Iraqi people was described as clean, surgical and even heroic. Why is it abhorrent to explode two car bombs in front of embassies--but heroic to drop tens of thousands of bombs from warplanes onto cities, water treatment plants and hospitals as the U.S. did in Iraq?

In the aftermath of the bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, the major newspapers and TV in this country were filled with in-depth, personal stories of the U.S. embassy personnel. Where were the in-depth, personal stories of Iraqi families who spent night after night huddled in air raid shelters as the U.S. bombs fell from the sky? Where were the feature stories about the people of Vietnam who dug tunnels to survive the U.S. carpet bombings and to wage fierce resistance?

From Hiroshima to Vietnam to Iraq, the U.S. has been the biggest and most ruthless perpetrator of bombings in the world. The victims of these bombings number in the millions. Yet when anyone uses violence against the U.S. government, they are instantly labeled as "terrorists." The Chinese people have a saying: "The emperor can burn down villages, but the people are forbidden to even light a candle." The oppressors claim the right to commit great crimes, but scream in outrage when the people respond in the slightest way.

One of the possible "suspects" being floated out by "experts" in the U.S. for the embassy bombings is an Islamist leader from Saudi Arabia named Osama bin Laden. According to news reports, bin Laden and other Islamists had threatened earlier this year to carry out attacks against the U.S.--unless U.S. troops were withdrawn from Saudi Arabia, where two of the sites considered most sacred in Islamic religion are located. Whether these forces had anything to do with the bombings is unclear. But the contradictions between these forces and the U.S. is an example of what Malcolm X once said about "chickens coming home to roost"--the violence the U.S. imperialists send out into the world comes back to haunt them. The U.S. first sent troops to Saudi Arabia in 1990--in preparation for the bloody war on Iraq. Now, these troops--and other U.S. moves in the Middle East--are causing conflicts between the U.S. and Islamist forces. Also, bin Laden was one of the fundamentalist forces in Afghanistan who was armed and backed by the CIA in the war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. One Egyptian intelligence officer said, "Bin Laden learned a lot of tricks from the CIA, which was glad to help him fight the Russians...He was a point man."

History has shown repeatedly that wherever U.S. imperialism goes in the world, people get hurt. Clinton and other U.S. officials may shed crocodile tears for those killed and hurt in the explosions in Nairobi and Dar es Saalam. But whoever carried out the bombings of the embassies, the ultimate responsibility for the deaths and devastated lives lies with the U.S. imperialists.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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