- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 1, 2001

It was November 1997. Half a dozen members of Congress and a few staff members, unnaturally silent, stood under Khobar Towers, looking up. The towers were two giant cutaways, hundreds of rooms jaggedly cut open to the air, in what had once been living quarters for U.S. airmen stationed in Saudi Arabia. They had been protecting the cause of Middle East peace in the land of Ibn Saud.
The impression left by these mangled buildings, devastated by a truck bomb larger than the one in Oklahoma City, was indelible. The legacy should be caution and an absence of any compromise in bringing indictments of the responsible terrorists, even at the cost of chilling relations with Iran.
In June 1996, a truck bomb cratered asphalt for hundreds of feet across and, in the blink of an eye, savagely took 19 American lives and injured 400 others. The death toll would have been higher but for an heroic watch officer, who immediately began clearing rooms when he saw the suspicious truck arrive.
Walking through those buildings a year later, the sheer horror of what was well understood to be an Iranian-inspired terrorist act caused seasoned policy makers to shudder. What they saw were bloodstained walls, often in the haunting shape of silhouettes, twisted steel and pulverized cement. The cowardice and cruelty of that act triggered antiterrorist legislation, greater force protection across all U.S. outposts and a lingering cry for justice.
Last month, as the five-year statute of limitations on conspiracy charges approached, a U.S. grand jury indicted 13 Saudis and one Lebanese suspect in the bombing. The indictments, however, contained at least one deafening silence no Iranian terrorist was either named as an unindicted coconspirator or indicted.
As the New York Times reported, the 46-count indictment contained "dozens of references to Iran," and "demonstrated that American investigators were convinced that Iran was behind the attack." Additionally, the paper confirmed that "counter-terrorism officials have repeatedly said that Iran had a significant role" in the attack.
Why then are there no indictments of Iranian coconspirators, even in absentia? The answer seems to be partly diplomatic niceties between the United States and Saudi Arabia, partly a forlorn hope that treading softly without the big stick will induce Iran to terrorize less, partly an absence of full Saudi cooperation (possibly stemming from fear of Iranian retaliation), partly Saudi frustration with FBI operating procedures, and partly the elusiveness of specific Iranian suspects.
Each of these factors notwithstanding, there is an enduring gravity to this act that warrants a full-court press, even beyond the now-expired statute of limitations for conspiracy, to find any and all Iranian coconspirators, prosecute them for murder, and sentence them accordingly, no matter how long that takes.
Some will argue that the existing indictments are deterrent enough, or that more resources dedicated to this particular international crime will bring only diminished returns. In fact, the truth is elsewhere. Expending those resources is no less compelling than it was in Oklahoma City. The rationale for further ruffling Saudi feathers, and possibly chilling progress with Iran's new leadership, is simply put.
We embolden our allies by demonstrating that we tolerate no safe harbor for international terrorists. If we pursue all perpetrators of this act and lesser acts without regard to politics, we strengthen the international perception that we mean what we say and will not weaken in our resolve to bring each and every international terrorist to justice. In the words of Ronald Reagan, "You can run, but you can't hide."
More succinctly, consider four other reasons. First, murder has no statute of limitations. Second, there is a reason murder has no statute of limitations, namely the legally unforgivable nature of the crime. Third, terrorism can only be stopped when exceptions are not made, when this policy is consistently applied, and when that reality is widely understood. Fourth, those unforgettable bloodstained walls that silently cried for justice at Khobar Towers.
The Towers have now been razed, but just as in Oklahoma City, we owe the last full measure of our devotion to those who there gave their lives. In this case, that means no exceptions for Iran, no halt in the hunt for all culpable, and public acknowledgment of both commitments.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide