- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2000

The State Department yesterday repudiated a low-ranking official's effort to quash a Voice of America editorial on the grounds that the deaths of 17 U.S. sailors in Yemen "does not compare" with the deaths of some 100 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
An unidentified State Department official, concerned about reaction in the Arab world, instructed the government-funded radio service on Monday to kill or amend the editorial condemning the terrorist attack that killed the American sailors aboard the USS Cole.
That decision "was wrong" and the VOA later was allowed to broadcast the original editorial, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, after the memo came to light.
"The Voice of America text … has, in fact, been cleared by the Department of State as an editorial expressing the policies of the United States government," he said.
The editorial on the Oct. 12 bombing, titled "Terrorism Will Fail," had been submitted to the State Department for approval according to standing policy.
But a department official declined to clear it, writing in a memo Monday that the broadcast would reach an already inflamed Palestinian audience and the "17 or so dead sailors does not compare to the 100 plus Palestinians who have died in recent weeks."
The memo noted that the VOA had "remained silent" on the Palestinian deaths in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, and said its Arab listeners would not "see the separation we are trying to make and relate it directly to the violence."
The memo went on to say that something about the Palestinian deaths should be added "to take the edge off," or else "we should kill this editorial until the violence has calmed for a while."
The VOA said yesterday that the editorial was cleared late Tuesday night and broadcast yesterday morning without revision.
Philip Reeker, deputy State Department spokesman in Washington, said senior officials retracted the Monday memo after seeing it.
The VOA editorial "is a perfect reflection of U.S. policy," Mr. Reeker said.
The editorial quoted President Clinton saying terrorists "will fail utterly."
It said terrorists responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and other incidents would be brought to justice.
"The U.S. will not rest until … remaining fugitive terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, have been brought to account," it said.
Bin Laden is accused of masterminding the embassy bombings and is suspected of involvement in the suicide attack on the USS Cole.
The State Department refused to identify the author of the memo, implying it was a lower-level staff member. Most of the department's Middle East policy advisers were traveling with the president in the Middle East at the time it was written.
The Voice of America is an independent news agency, but its editorials reflect U.S. policy and since 1991 have been vetted by the State Department.
The VOA submits eight to 10 editorials a week to the State Department; one or two a week are sent back for revision. The VOA said it is rare that an editorial is killed outright.
In Norfolk yesterday, at a memorial service for the victims of the USS Cole bombing, Mr. Clinton mourned the victims and warned those responsible: "We will find you."
The death count of 17 makes it the worst terrorist attack on the U.S. military since a truck bomb ripped through an Air Force housing complex near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in June 1996, killing 19 troops.
The State Department warned yesterday that terrorists may be planning attacks against U.S. targets in the Persian Gulf, the Arabian peninsula and Turkey, and cautioned U.S. citizens to be on guard.

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