Book Review: Terrorism, Betrayal & Resilience: My Story of the 1998 U.S. Embassy Bombings by Prudence Bushnell
On August 7, 1998, members of the al-Qaeda terrorist network detonated truckloads of explosives outside the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killing 224 people and injuring thousands more. In Terrorism, Betrayal & Resilience: My Story of the 1998 U.S. Embassy Bombings, then-Ambassador to Kenya Prudence Bushnell recounts the horror of that day, the series of historical events precipitating it, the crisis response in the aftermath, and lessons learned for policymaking and leadership.
Bushnell provides a poignant memoir of community healing and personal growth, accompanied by a raw and honest assessment of intelligence and security failures in the lead up to the attack. Her story captures the heartache and loss felt by the families of the victims and of the Foreign Service community, artfully demonstrating how weaknesses in national security bureaucracy and strategy can reverberate and result not only in diminished U.S. global standing but also in a devastating loss of life.
Bushnell portrays the attacks through three different perspectives: as a disaster that sent shockwaves through the community for whose security she was responsible, as an event meaningfully situated in the overall history of U.S. counterterrorism policy, and as a trauma that profoundly impacted her personally and professionally.
Following a brief reflection on her early life overseas and the evolution of her career as a public servant, Bushnell describes the events on the day of the bombing. On the morning of August 7, two men in a truck approached the embassy gates. One of them lobbed a stun grenade at a local guard with a boom that drew curious onlookers to their windows. As the guard rushed to warn the Marines on post, a second man detonated a truck bomb, transforming window shards into deadly projectiles and wreaking destruction not only on the embassy chancery but also on the neighboring Ufundi House, the Cooperative Bank Building where Ambassador Bushnell was attending a meeting, and passersby in the street.
Bushnell recounts the immediate crisis management efforts of her team, her tense relationship with Washington over its lackluster response, and the healing and recovery process as time passed. She also describes her earlier misgivings about the embassy's security posture, and the warnings she communicated about threats and...