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Despite a bomb attack in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. airmen, terrorism will not be allowed to prevent the United States from protecting its vital national interests in the Middle East.
Remarks by Secretary of Defense William J. Perry , U.S. Forces Dhahran Air Base, Saudi Arabia, Saturday, June 29, 1996

Defense Issues: Volume 11, Number 58-- terrorism will not be allowed to prevent the United States from ...

Despite a bomb attack in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. airmen, terrorism will not be allowed to prevent the United States from protecting its vital national interests in the Middle East.

Volume 11, Number 58

 

Terrorists Strike U.S. Forces in Middle East

Remarks by Secretary of Defense William J. Perry to U.S. Forces Dhahran Air Base, Saudi Arabia, June 29, 1996.

 

I'd like to offer on behalf of the department and all of the

American people our sympathy for the ordeal you've been through

here and also to thank you for the job you've been doing here

through the years. But most of all to tell you the job you've

been doing is vital to American security, and we're going to keep

doing that job. We will not be driven out of Saudi Arabia. We

will not be intimidated by this move.

Most of you know enough about the history of this area to

know why we are here. In 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, they

were poised to invade Saudi Arabia at the same time. They

threatened the security of the entire region. They threatened the

flow of oil to the entire world. Based on the deployment of Iraqi

forces at that time, Saudi Arabia could have been overwhelmed.

The United States had no military presence here.

At the request of Saudi Arabia and the other countries in

the region, we did assemble a powerful military coalition which

decisively defeated Iraq. That move was very costly in lives and

was very costly in dollars, and it took us five months to get

those forces in place. Iraq and other countries in the region

have learned some lessons from that, and if they threaten us

again, we may not have five months the next time.

Therefore, the lesson from this is very clear. We need a

strong U.S. military presence to deter future attacks on Kuwait,

Saudi Arabia and the other countries in the gulf region. This

deterrence will provide for the security of Saudi Arabia and the

other gulf countries. It will provide for the security of the

United States and will indeed provide stability for the region

and for the entire world.

An absolutely critical part of achieving that security is

the U.S. military presence here and in particular the U.S. air

presence here at these Saudi Arabian bases. In addition to that,

we have critical ground pre-positioned equipment in Kuwait, in

Qatar and in Oman, and we have a very substantial naval presence

in the gulf with bases in Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

These three together -- air, ground and naval presence -- make up

the U.S. military presence in this region, very strong, very

powerful in and of itself, and provide the infrastructure which

could lead to very rapid expansion of military capability.

This military presence provides the deterrence that spares

this region from another Gulf War, and therefore, we believe that

this presence is vital to the security of the United States and

the security of Saudi Arabia and the stability of the entire

region. Therefore, we are going to stay here. We will not be

intimidated by terrorists. We will not be intimidated by rogue

nations.

As we stay here, as the events of the last week have clearly

demonstrated, there's a risk. That is the price of security here,

but we can take steps to reduce that risk, to bring that price

down. One of the principal purposes of my coming here is to talk

to you; thank you for what you're doing; explain why it's so

important to be here. But another purpose is to work in detail

with the American military officials, security officials, and to

work with the Saudis to devise programs to increase the security,

thereby reducing the risk of our presence here.

That will involve measures to increase what I call passive

security -- moving the perimeters out, more barriers, more

fences, more guards, more patrols, unfortunately, more

regulations and more restrictions. All of those things really

have been under way for the last year, but we will be doing more

of them. Indeed, the extension of the perimeters around the

residence area is already under way. What we have already done

quite clearly saved many lives in this last bombing attempt. Had

that truck been able to get closer to the buildings, there would

have been many more casualties. But it was not enough for the

size of the bomb we were dealing with, so we have to extend the

perimeters even farther.

But whatever we do along those lines, we do not want to ask

you to have to live in bunkers 24 hours a day. We want you to

have a decent quality of life, and therefore, passive security

measures are not enough. We also have to pursue active security

measures. That will involve a very intensive investigation of

this last bombing, so we can apprehend the suspects, identify the

team, the cell, from which they're operating so that group cannot

perpetrate any more bombings. It involves increased intelligence

and counterintelligence efforts. It involves working more closely

on international counterterrorist activities to stop the flow of

terrorist tools into the area.

All of these things we will be doing. Indeed, many of them

have already started. But the bottom line of all of this is that

what you are doing is vital to the security of the United States.

So I came here, first of all, to thank you for what you're doing,

to tell you we're going to stay here and keep doing it, but also

to tell you we will be taking every reasonable measure we can

take to increase the security and, therefore, decrease the risk

of what you are doing. We will be working very closely with the

Saudi officials in all of these measures.

Now with those opening comments, I'd like to take the

occasion to get questions and comments from those of you in the

audience here, the military people who are based over here.

Anybody like to throw questions and comments to me at this time?

Now, before I take your question, ... based on the briefings

that I got both in Washington and, more importantly, the briefing

that I received here this morning, the airmen at the complex that

was attacked showed real guts, true grit. We expected no less,

but it makes us very, very proud to see the way you all acted

under that kind of pressure, that kind of stress. ...

Now, there was a question. The question is what measures are

going to be taken for the buildings that are that close to the

perimeters. Those measures are already under way.

First of all, even before the bombing there was both a fence

and a perimeter of barriers put around, which meant that no

vehicle could get closer than about 80 feet to the building. For

a bomb the size of the one that attacked the National Guard

building, that would have been reasonable protection.

This was not a bomb that size. This bomb was something over

3,000 pounds. We still don't have the complete size yet, but [it

was] a huge bomb, and so we did not get sufficient protection.

Therefore, we are extending the perimeter out to about 400 feet.

That is already in progress. A briefing I got this morning said

that that would be completed by Friday, so that means that any

vehicle can get no closer than 400 feet to the buildings.

In addition to that, we will be vacating the rooms closest

to the street so that the rooms that are the most vulnerable to

attack will not be occupied. Now, the net effect of all this will

be doubling up in the space so there will be an inconvenience in

terms of doubling the space, but there will be a dramatic

improvement in safety. Those measures for the residents of this

base are already under way and will be in place, as I said, by

this Friday, so there will be a dramatic improvement in security.

...

I'm quite satisfied with what I've heard is being done with

this complex both in terms of the effectiveness and in terms of

timing. But we have residences all over Saudi Arabia, and we have

to be concerned with all of them, not just this one. But in terms

of this particular complex, very timely and very effective

actions are being taken.

Question? ... [regarding what will be done about the

terrorists]

We're going to find them and punish them. I don't have any

doubts on that. We already have an FBI team that was here the day

after the bombing. They're working in close cooperation with the

Saudis. In addition to find this particular group, apprehending

them and punishing them, that's a necessary action, but that is

not sufficient. They are not the only threat to the security of

our forces here, and, therefore, we need improved intelligence

and counterintelligence efforts as well.

So I will be discussing with the Saudi officials things that

go beyond capturing and punishing perpetrators -- it's

apprehending before they do the bombing. The best way of dealing

with terrorism is through intelligence which identifies the

cells, identifies the people, identifies their plans before they

execute them. So we need a much stronger program in that regard.

Thank you very much. It was great to talk to you, and again,

you've all shown true grit. I can tell you I am proud to be your

secretary of defense.

 

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