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Remarks of the President Regarding Military Strikes In Afghanistan and Sudan

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The Briefing Room

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release August 20, 1998


The Oval Office

5:32 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. Today I ordered our ArmedForces to strike at terrorist-related facilities in Afghanistan and Sudanbecause of the imminent threat they presented to our national security.

I want to speak with you about the objective of this actionand why it was necessary. Our target was terror. Our mission was clear -- tostrike at the network of radical groups affiliated with and funded by Osamabin Laden, perhaps the preeminent organizer and financier of internationalterrorism in the world today.

The groups associated with him come from diverse places,butshare a hatred for democracy, a fanatical glorification of violence, and ahorrible distortion of their religion to justify the murder of innocents.They have made the United States their adversary precisely because of whatwestand for and what we stand against.

A few months ago, and again this week, bin Laden publiclyvowed to wage a terrorist war against America, saying -- and I quote -- "We donot differentiate between those dressed in military uniforms and civilians.They're all targets. Their mission is murder and their history is bloody."

In recent years, they killed American, Belgian andPakistanipeacekeepers in Somalia. They plotted to assassinate the President ofEgyptand the Pope. They planned to bomb six United States 747s over thePacific.They bombed the Egyptian embassy in Pakistan. They gunned down Germantourists in Egypt.

The most recent terrorist events are fresh in our memory.Twoweeks ago, 12 Americans and nearly 300 Kenyans andTanzanians lost their lives, and another 5,000 were wounded whenour embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam were bombed. There isconvincing information from our intelligence community that thebin Laden terrorist network was responsible for these bombings.

Based on this information, we have high confidence that thesebombings were planned, financed, and carried out by theorganization bin Laden leads.

America has battled terrorism for many years. Wherepossible, we've used law enforcement and diplomatic tools to wagethe fight. The long arm of American law has reached out aroundthe world and brought to trial those guilty of attacks in NewYork and Virginia and in the Pacific. We have quietly disruptedterrorist groups and foiled their plots. We have isolatedcountries that practice terrorism. We've worked to build aninternational coalition against terror.

But there have been, and will be, times when lawenforcement and diplomatic tools are simply not enough, when ourvery national security is challenged, and when we must takeextraordinary steps to protect the safety of our citizens. Withcompelling evidence that the bin Laden network of terroristgroups was planning to mount further attacks against Americansand other freedom-loving people, I decided America must act.

And so, this morning, based on the unanimousrecommendation of my national security team, I ordered our ArmedForces to take action to counter an immediate threat from the binLaden network. Earlier today, the United States carried outsimultaneous strikes against terrorist facilities andinfrastructure in Afghanistan. Our forces targeted one of themost active terrorist bases in the world. It contained keyelements of the bin Laden network's infrastructure and has servedas a training camp for literally thousands of terrorists fromaround the globe. We have reason to believe that a gathering ofkey terrorist leaders was to take place there today, thusunderscoring the urgency of our actions.

Our forces also attacked a factory in Sudanassociated with the bin Laden network. The factory was involvedin the production of materials for chemical weapons.

The United States does not take this action lightly.Afghanistan and Sudan have been warned for years to stopharboring and supporting these terrorist groups. But countriesthat persistently host terrorists have no right to be safehavens.

Let me express my gratitude to our intelligence andlaw enforcement agencies for their hard, good work. And let meexpress my pride in our Armed Forces who carried out this missionwhile making every possible effort to minimize the loss ofinnocent life.

I want you to understand, I want the world tounderstand, that our actions today were not aimed against Islam,the faith of hundreds of millions of good, peace-loving peopleall around the world, including the United States. No religioncondones the murder of innocent men, women and children. But ouractions were aimed at fanatics and killers who wrap murder in thecloak of righteousness; and in so doing, profane the greatreligion in whose name they claim to act.

My fellow Americans, our battle against terrorismdid not begin with the bombing of our embassies in Africa; norwill it end with today's strike. It will require strength,courage and endurance. We will not yield to this threat. Wewill meet it, no matter how long it may take. This will be along, ongoing struggle between freedom and fanaticism; betweenthe rule of law and terrorism. We must be prepared to do allthat we can for as long as we must.

America is and will remain a target of terroristsprecisely because we are leaders; because we act to advancepeace, democracy and basic human values; because we're the mostopen society on Earth; and because, as we have shown yet again,we take an uncompromising stand against terrorism.

But of this I am also sure. The risks from inactionto America and the world would be far greater than action, forthat would embolden our enemies, leaving their ability and theirwillingness to strike us intact. In this case, we knew beforeour attack that these groups already had planned further actionsagainst us and others.

I want to reiterate: The United States wants peace,not conflict. We want to lift lives around the world, not takethem. We have worked for peace -- in Bosnia, in NorthernIreland, in Haiti, in the Middle East and elsewhere. But in thisday, no campaign for peace can succeed without adetermination to fight terrorism. Let our actions today sendthis message loud and clear: There are no expendable Americantargets. There will be no sanctuary for terrorists. We willdefend our people, our interests and our values. We will helppeople of all faiths, in all parts of the world, who want to livefree of fear and violence. We will persist and we will prevail.

Thank you. God bless you, and may God bless ourcountry.

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