- - Monday, October 12, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

At 10 p.m. local time on June 25, 1996, a 3,000-pound truck bomb was detonated along the perimeter fence of the Khobar Towers Housing Complex in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. The ensuing devastation ripped the face off one building and destroyed others throughout the complex. Nineteen airmen were killed and 381 wounded. I think it is crucial to understand that the reason this bombing is so important from an historical perspective is that it was the first shot against America in the War on Terror, which culminated on Sept. 11, 2001, the single most devastating attack upon American soil.

For 19 years, the survivors of the Khobar Towers bombing, myself included, and the family members of the fallen have had minimal clarity or explanation about who was responsible and why this devastating event took place. The event that changed our lives so significantly has been shuffled off into the dustbin of history, until now. I must pause to thank Washington Times Executive Editor John Solomon for his Oct. 5 article titled “Bill Clinton White House suppressed evidence of Iran’s terrorism.” Finally, we can begin to answer many of the questions that have haunted us for so many years.

The betrayal by the Clinton administration began swiftly after the explosion. and a scapegoat had to be found. The 4404th Wing commander, Brig. Gen. Terryl Schwalier, was an easy choice. Gen. Wayne A. Downing was dispatched from Washington with one goal in mind — to vilify Gen. Schwalier — and his report accomplished this task superbly. Gen. Schwalier was denied his second star and forced to resign in disgrace, although, he has since been exonerated in two subsequent investigations.

The betrayal was not limited to officers. Staff Sgt. Alfredo Guerrero was on top of the building when the truck pulled up to the perimeter fence. He observed the occupants get out and run to an awaiting car. Knowing what was about to happen he ran into the building and alerted the occupants to evacuate immediately and was caught in the ensuing explosion. Staff Sgt. Guerrero deserved the Medal of Honor for this act of heroism. He ignored fear and danger, going above and beyond the call of duty to save hundreds of lives. But you don’t give out big medals while trying to keep things quiet.

I believe the largest betrayal was to the men and women of the 4404th Wing, who gave everything that night. President Clinton and his administration went to great lengths to hide the truth that Iran was behind the attack. I find it incomprehensible that he felt little remorse in using this attack for personal gain and to further his agenda by hiding the facts behind the attack.

Mr. Clinton stated in his communication to Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, “Nineteen American citizens were killed.” No, Mr. Clinton. 19 American servicemen made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. They were killed in an attack by the Iranian government on an American air base, constituting an act of war.

Mr. Clinton never mentioned the men and women stationed at Khobar Towers. who are the very essence of the word heroes. Their selfless dedication to each other and the mission never wavered the night of the bombing. They were the best that America had to offer and all served with distinction and pride.

What the members of the wing did that night was truly beyond words. Security Forces had stopped the truck from coming in the front gate earlier that evening. I can say with absolute certainty that the number of killed and wounded would have been significantly higher if the explosion had happened within the center of the complex. They literally saved hundreds of lives. After the bombing they could be found throughout the complex with some wearing civilian clothes or partial uniforms and identifiable only by their M-16s. They hadn’t had the time to put on their uniforms and were only selflessly concerned with guarding the personnel stationed there.

Many of the bombing survivors, including those wounded, ran to the building and began removing rubble by hand to find their fallen comrades. They carried the wounded in their arms, on doors, with blankets or anything that could be used as a litter, to the clinic. I know of a wounded sergeant who reported to the clinic and upon finding no receptionist there, took it upon herself to fill in as the receptionist. She was the last person treated after working all night with a dislocated foot.

A Security Forces sergeant in an act of heroism carried a wounded airman on his back while leading another airman to safety out of the bombed building.

After going through all this, the entire Wing turned out two days later to salute their fallen brothers when the aircraft with their bodies left for America. These are just a small fraction of the stories I have heard over the years. To the survivors, you are heroes one and all.

As the commander in chief, Mr. Clinton placed no value on the lives of the soldiers that served under him. Their sacrifices meant very little when placed against his personal and political aspirations.

As his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, put it so callously before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee while testifying about the killing of four American patriots under her watch in Benghazi, “What difference, at this point, does it make?”

It makes a difference. There is an implied contract between the U.S. government and the servicemen and women who enlist that should they be called to give the ultimate sacrifice, their country will do the right thing. The survivors and family members of the 19 killed have only been offered lies and deceptions as to why this event happened and who was responsible. Every President from Bill Clinton on has broken this sacred trust. The American people deserve better and certainly the sacrifices of so many should not have been in vain.

William Schooley is the head of the Khobar Towers network of survivors.

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