Sunday, January 14, 2001

JACK KELLY Memo: Jack Kelly is national affairs writer for the Post-Gazette and

The Blade of Toledo, Ohio (


Laurie Mylroie, publisher of the online newsletter Iraq News, was an adviser

to President Clinton in his 1992 campaign. It's evident he didn't pay much

attention to what she had to say.


Mylroie's new book, "Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein's Unfinished War

Against America," makes a strong case that the Butcher of Baghdad was behind

the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City, as well as

subsequent failed plots to blow up the United Nations building and the

Lincoln and Holland tunnels and attack U.S. airliners in the Pacific.


"The rash of terrorist attacks directed at the United States . . . does not

represent an amorphous - and therefore unpreventable - new kind of

terrorism," she concludes. "Rather, the United States is involved in a new

kind of war - an undercover war of terrorism, waged by Saddam Hussein."

Most of the information from which Mylroie draws her conclusions comes from

a careful reading of the evidence made public during the trials of four of

the seven indicted in the World Trade Center bombing, and 11 of the 15

indicted in the subsequent New York City bomb plot.


We've forgotten what a near thing the World Trade Center bombing was. The

bombers planned to collapse the north tower onto the south tower, engulfing

both in a cloud of cyanide gas.


The bomb was highly sophisticated and immensely destructive. Placed on the

B-2 level of the north tower's parking garage, it created a crater six

stories high. It was composed of half a ton of urea nitrate, with a

nitroglycerin trigger. Mixed in among the bags of urea nitrate was sodium



"Death is what you really sought to cause," said Judge Kevin Duffy at the

sentencing of the first of the World Trade Center defendants. "Thank God the

sodium cyanide burned instead of vaporizing. If the sodium cyanide had

vaporized, it is clear that what would have happened is that cyanide gas

would have been sucked into the north tower and everyone in the north tower

would have been killed."


The man prosecutors acknowledge was the mastermind of the World Trade Center

bombing was Ramzi Yousef, who came to the United States from Iraq via

Pakistan. Though known to the Arabs with whom he dealt in New York as

"Rashid the Iraqi," he appears to be Baluch in ethnicity. Baluchistan is an

area roughly the size of France whose territory is divided among Pakistan,

Iran and Afghanistan. After the bombing, Yousef's escape route took him

through Pakistani Baluchistan.


According to a conspirator who turned state's evidence in the second bomb

plot (on the United Nations and the Holland and Lincoln tunnels), Yousef

also played an important role in it. "Ramzi Yousef showed up on the scene

and brought a number of individuals together and escalated the original

plot," testified Rahman Haggag.


Yousef was the only individual suspected of being involved in both the World

Trade Center bombing and the subsequent bomb plot. Again, he managed to

leave the country before the law descended upon the other conspirators.

The law eventually caught up with Yousef in 1995, as the result of an

accident. He and a co-conspirator were in the Philippines, planning to blow

up 12 U.S. airliners over a 48-hour period. They'd designed a jelly-like

bomb that could get through airport screening machines. But Yousef started a

fire while mixing explosives in the kitchen sink of his apartment. The fire

department came, and then the police. Yousef escaped from the Philippines,

returning again to Pakistani Baluchistan, where Pakistani authorities picked

him up. He is now in a maximum-security prison in Colorado.


Yousef displayed considerable knowledge of chemistry, a sophisticated

understanding of what the CIA calls "tradecraft," and deep pockets. But

there are no indications he is a religious extremist. In the Philippines, he

frequented nightclubs where alcohol is served, which would be anathema to an

Islamic fundamentalist. Mylroie makes a persuasive case that he was an Iraqi

intelligence operative.


Only one of those indicted in the trade center bombing remains at large. He

is Abdul Rahman Yasin. He lives in Baghdad.


Though the evidence presented at the New York City bomb trials fairly

screams state sponsorship, the government did not pursue this angle for,

Mylroie thinks, two reasons:


The FBI tends to regard terrorism as a criminal act committed by

individuals, not an act of war sponsored by a state. And if the government

publicly acknowledged that Iraq was behind the bomb plots, it would be

compelled to do something about it. The Clinton administration has been

loath to take strong action against Saddam Hussein, regardless of the



Blaming terrorism on loose networks of extremists may provide an excuse for

inaction. But failure to take action against the real culprits puts the

lives of tens of thousands of Americans at risk.