Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave senators a thoughtful argument this morning in favor of helping French troops in their mission to help stabilize the government in Mali, arguing that the United States has to act in advance to protect the American homeland. But she forgot two important event in making her case.
“People say to me all the time, well, AQIM hasn’t attacked the United States. Well, before 9/11, 2011, we hadn’t been attacked on our homeland since, I guess, the War of 1812 and Pearl Harbor. So you can’t say, well, because they haven’t done something, they’re not going to do it,” she said. “This is not only a terrorist syndicate; it is a criminal enterprise.”
That’s not entirely accurate. The World Trade Center in Clinton’s adopted home state of New York was bombed in 1993 when her husband was president of the United States. In addition, although it was homegrown terrorism, most people would agree that the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing was also terrorism on the homeland.
Here is Clinton’s full comment on Mali in response to a question from Senator Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:
With respect to Mali, Senator, there was a country that had been making progress on its democracy. Unfortunately, it suffered a military coup by low-ranking military officers, which threw it into a state of instability with the Tuaregs who, as you know, some groups of, as well as other groups, had been in the employ of Gadhafi for years. He used them as mercenaries. With his fall, they came out of Libya, bringing huge amounts of weapons from the enormous stores of weapons that Gadhafi had that insurgents liberated, as well as others. And they came into Northern Mali. At the same time, there was a move by al-Qaida in the Maghreb to establish a base in Northern Mali.
We have been working to try to upgrade security around Northern Mali, among a number of the countries. Algeria’s the only one with any real ability to do that. Most of these countries don’t have the capacity to do that.
We are now trying to help put together an African force from ECOWAS (Economic Community of West Africa) so that African soldiers will be in the front of this fight. The Malians asked the French to come in. Obviously, France is one of our oldest allies. We are trying to provide support to them.
But this is going to be a very serious ongoing threat because if you look at the size of northern Mali, if you look at the topography, it’s not only desert, it’s caves — sounds reminiscent. We are in a for a struggle.
But it is a necessary struggle. We cannot permit northern Mali to become a safe haven. People say to me all the time, well, AQIM hasn’t attacked the United States. Well, before 9/11, 2011, we hadn’t been attacked on our homeland since, I guess, the War of 1812 and Pearl Harbor. So you can’t say, well, because they haven’t done something, they’re not going to do it. This is not only a terrorist syndicate; it is a criminal enterprise.
So make no mistake about it. We’ve got to have a better strategy. And I would hope we’d have not only a strategy that understands — you know, making it possible for these governments to defend themselves better, for people to understand and agree with us that these terrorists are not in any way representative of their values but that we can bolster democracy and try to give these Arab revolutions a real chance to succeed.