The Truth About Who Advocated a “Cut and Run” Policy in Somalia in 1993

September 25, 2006 at 7:13 pm | Posted in American politics, Bill Clinton, Foxnews, Republicans, Revising History, Somalia, War on Terror | 5 Comments

Glen Greenwald has done a fabulous job on his blog to showcase the real culprits of the reduction of forces in Somalia in 1993. This past Sunday, on FoxNews (the right-wing propaganda machine) Clinton defended his actions in Somalia in the face of lies and false accusations.

Wallace’s first question was about Al-Qaeda being ’emboldened’ by our leaving Somalia. He asks:

WALLACE: When we announced that you were going to be on Fox News Sunday, I got a lot of email from viewers, and I got to say I was surprised most of them wanted me to ask you this question. Why didn’t you do more to put Bin Laden and al Qaeda out of business when you were President? There’s a new book out which I suspect you’ve read called the Looming Tower. And it talks about how the fact that when you pulled troops out of Somalia in 1993, Bin Laden said “I have seen the frailty and the weakness and the cowardice of US troops.” Then there was the bombing of the embassies in Africa and the attack on the USS Cole.


WALLACE: …may I just finish the question sir. And after the attack, the book says, Bin Laden separated his leaders because he expected an attack and there was no response. I understand that hindsight is 20/20.

CLINTON: No let’s talk about…

WALLACE: …but the question is why didn’t you do more, connect the dots and put them out of business?

This is a lie and historical revisionism. As Mr. Greenwald has shown on his blog, this is what Clinton said in 1993 about Somalia:

And make no mistake about it, if we were to leave Somalia tomorrow, other nations would leave, too. Chaos would resume, the relief effort would stop and starvation soon would return. That knowledge has led us to continue our mission. . . .

If we leave them now, those embers will reignite into flames and people will die again. If we stay a short while longer and do the right things, we’ve got a reasonable chance of cooling off the embers and getting other firefighters to take our place. . .

So, now, we face a choice. Do we leave when the job gets tough or when the job is well done? Do we invite the return of mass suffering or do we leave in a way that gives the Somalis a decent chance to survive? Recently, Gen. Colin Powell said this about our choices in Somalia: “Because things get difficult, you don’t cut and run. You work the problem and try to find a correct solution.” . . .

So let us finish the work we set out to do. Let us demonstrate to the world, as generations of Americans have done before us, that when Americans take on a challenge, they do the job right.

Mr. Greenwald quotes John Kerry who said:

Mr. President, we are in a situation now where withdrawal would send the wrong signal to Aidid and his supporters. It would encourage other nations to withdraw from the U.N. effort in Somalia and no doubt would result in the total breakdown of the operation and possibly the resumption of the cycle of famine and war which brought the United States and other members of the international community to Somalia in the first place.

What did Republicans say? Let’s find out. GOP Sen. Kay Hutchinson said:

I supported our original mission, which was humanitarian in nature and limited in scope. I can no longer support a continued United States presence in Somalia because the nature of the mission is now unrealistic and because the scope of our mission is now limitless. . . . Mr. President, it is no small feat for a superpower to accept setback on the world stage, but a step backward is sometimes the wisest course. I believe that withdrawal is now the more prudent option.

GOP Sen. Robert Dole said:

I think it is clear to say from the meeting we had earlier with–I do not know how many Members were there–45, 50 Senators and half the House of Representatives, that the administration is going to be under great pressure to bring the actions in Somalia to a close. . . .

Mr. Greenwald quotes a few other Republican Senators who advocated for an immediate withdrawal from Somalia, while President Clinton advocated finishing the job. I wonder why Mr. Wallace forgot this when he asked Mr. Clinton about Somalia? I wonder why Republicans forget this when they criticize Clinton about Somalia? Their own representatives in the Senate pushed Clinton to withdraw, and probably led to the withdrawal, and subsequent “emboldening” of Al-Qaeda. Oh the irony of history.


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  1. Read the book “Blackhawk Down” and you’ll get a pretty good picture of why opponents of that mission were calling for withdrawal and the events that lead up to the Clinton administration’s decision to ultimately withdraw. The book doesn’t only address the disastrous 24 hours that lead to the deaths of 18 US soldiers but also treats the political events that lead to the mission in the first place and the consequences of the events of Oct 3 & 4. In the book, Clinton does not come out smelling like a rose.

  2. EN,

    I am familiar with the situation in Somalia in ’93. I know Clinton made mistakes there, or the mission would not have failed. But he did not advocate an immediate withdrawal as these Republicans have. And that is the key point.

    I wonder how harsh a “Blackhawk Down” book about Iraq would be on Bush….

  3. Clinton does not come out smelling like a rose because he had the opportunity to stick to his guns but caved to the MINORITY party, showing a severe lack of backbone and integrity. He eventually tried to blame the whole endeavor on Les Aspin who was basically fired two months following the Battle of Mogadishu. Somalia is a black mark in American foreign policy for the simple reason that we did cut and run. Plus, Bin Laden in both his 1995 and 1998 fatwahs mentions that withdrawal to embolden existing and potential recruits. If ever there existed the opportunity to set an example, Somalia was it and Clinton failed to do it. What Republicans were saying at the time is completely irrelevant to how we should evaluate Clinton’s performance in that matter and irrelevant to the discussion today about Iraq (except to point out that the more things change the more they stay the same– only this time it’s the Dems screaming to cut and run).

  4. EN,

    Why does it matter what Democrats are saying today and why does it not matter what Republicans said then? The way you describe it, you are excusing what Republicans may have done that “emboldened” terrorism. They do not deserve a free pass, regardless of how flawed the plan was, they advocated a cut and run policy while Clinton advocated finishing the mission.

    Furthermore, you suggest our failure in Somalia is a direct cause of Bin Laden’s group furthering their attacks. But, we know that the real instigator of Bin Laden declaring war on the United States was when we placed American soldiers in his beloved land, Saudi Arabia. He had planned many attacks against us because of our actions in 1990-91 in Saudi Arabia.

    While our failure in Somalia only strengthened his hand, it was not at the heart of Bin Laden’s drive for 9/11. The real instigator was our presence in Saudi Arabia.

    Furthermore, we don’t seem to be talking anymore about something that happened back in the 80s, in regards to terrorism. In 1983, America and France took part in a peacekeeping mission in Lebanon. Hezbollah did not appreciate our presence there, and surprise, they did something about it. They rammed a truck into a barracks where US Marines were sleeping. They killed 241 United States Marines, our elite forces, in their sleep.

    What was Reagan’s response? He called it despicable, and vowed we would not leave. He did not strike back at terrorists. And within five months, he pulled the troops out.

    What do you think went through the minds of Hezbollah and others who did not like the United States?

    If they kill American soldiers, America would cut and run. Yet Republicans today don’t criticize Reagan’s obvious cut and run in the face of the worst terrorist attack on America to that point. Why not?

    EN, there is a reason why we’re at war today. That is because America has failed in the past, by both Republican and Democratic leaders. Don’t blame one without blaming the other. Bush did sit idly by in his first 8 months in office. His response when brought the famous August 2001 memo about Bin Laden wanting to attack America is, “okay, you’ve covered your ass.”

    I find it shameful of Republicans blaming Democrats for being attacked when both parties have plenty of blame to go around. You want unity but then practice tactics that divide our nation. You call anyone who doesn’t agree to your methods terrorist lovers. You demand ideas from Democrats, but when they give ideas, you dismiss them, because they are not your ideas.

    Can an honest assessment ever be done of the War in Iraq without one side calling it biased against the other? Can someone rightly ask why the violence in Iraq is at its worst, without being called a partisan hack? Can someone question the viability and ability of a strategy to work or not work without being labelled one thing or another?

    Not these days. And that is sad.

  5. So sick of hearing Clinton bear the brunt…Who sent the troops in? BTW I’m a Republican who can see through the bs.

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