Remarks on the Terrorist Attack in Saudi Arabia and an Exchange With Reporters
The President. Good morning. As I leave for the G-7 summit, which is the fourth of my Presidency, I want to say a few words about yesterday's outrageous attack on Americans in Saudi Arabia. First, I ask every American to take a moment today to say a prayer for the victims and their families and to rededicate ourselves to the fight against terrorism.
Let me now tell you what we know, what we do not know, and what we are doing about the attack. Here's what we know about what happened: Saudi police were immediately suspicious of a truck which was parked outside the security perimeter of our base. They alerted an American patrol and began to warn the occupants of nearby buildings. As our patrol approached the truck, two of its occupants fled, and shortly thereafter, the bomb exploded. No person or group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet, and we do not know who is responsible yet.
As of this moment, 19 are confirmed dead, all Americans. Eighty people have been seriously wounded, including some non-Americans, and more than 200 people were treated for minor injuries. Secretary of State Christopher will fly to Saudi Arabia today. Last night, I directed an FBI team of 40 experts, investigators and forensic experts, to go there to work with the Saudi Arabian authorities. We deeply appreciate the cooperation of the Saudi Government.
Now as I head to Lyons, my first order of business will be to focus the strength and the energy of the G-7 on the continuing fight against terrorism. Let me be very clear: We will not rest in our efforts to find who is responsible for this outrage, to pursue them, and to punish them. Anyone who attacks one American attacks every American, and we protect and defend our own.
This attack underscores the struggle of all those who share tolerance and freedom and security. Our struggle at the end of the cold war is to deal with these new perils: the rogue states like Iran and Iraq; the smugglers who would poison our children with drugs; those who deal in sophisticated weapons or weapons of mass destruction, chemical, biological and nuclear; terrorists who strike not just in Saudi Arabia but in the subways of Tokyo, in the streets of London, in the Holy Land, and in America's heartland—usually people in the paralyzing grip of religious, ethnic, and racial hatred.
To meet these threats, last year the G-7 in Halifax and then, at the United Nations General Assembly, the United States launched initiatives to fight international organized crime, drug trafficking, nuclear smuggling, and terrorism. Now at Lyons, we expect to expand that work, and we expect to see very practical results, including a package of 40 specific recommendations to combat terrorism. Defeating these organized forces of destruction is one of the most important challenges our country faces at the end of this century and the beginning of the next.
The G-7 is primarily an economic group. We've worked hard to advance our economic security, and compared to 4 years ago, we're much better off. We know we still have a long way to go. But I will say to my partners there what I say to my fellow Americans today: We cannot have economic security in a global economy unless we can stand against these forces of terrorism. The United States will lead the way, and we expect our allies to walk with us hand-in-hand. We cannot tolerate this kind of conduct.
Q. Mr. President, in light of the possibility that the bombing was carried out by people who don't want American and Western forces on Arab soil, do you feel the need to reaffirm the mission to the American people?
The President. Well, first of all, I believe that the United States has been made very welcome there. We have tried not to be an obtrusive presence. We have worked in close partnership with the Saudis for a long time, since the Presidency of Franklin Roosevelt. And I think it would be a mistake for the United States to basically change its mission because of this.
We are there at the invitation of the Saudi Government and in partnership with the Saudi Government. I am reluctant to comment on what the possible motives of this act are and whether it was directed primarily against us because we're Americans or simply because we're there in partnership with this government.
I had a good talk with King Fahd yesterday who expressed his deep regret at our loss and his determination to find those responsible, and I believe that we should wait until we know who did this and what their motives were to say more. But I believe the United States mission in the Middle East is important, and it is supportive of countries that support the peace process, and I believe that we should continue on that mission.
Q. Mr. President, will the FBI be able to conduct an independent investigation?
Q. Are you going to Saudi Arabia, Mr. President?
The President. On the question of going to Saudi Arabia, at this time I have no plans to do it. If we change our plans, I'll let you know. As I'm sure you know, I have been there since I've been President. My heart is there today and has been. It is difficult to think about anything else but our people in uniform there, and especially those whose lives were lost, and their families. But I do not want to be in the way of the attempt to take care of all of the people there and to get this investigation off to a good start.
If something happens that makes me think it's appropriate for me to go, I will let you know at the earliest possible time.
NOTE: The President spoke at 11:01 a.m. on the South Lawn at the White House, prior to his departure for Lyons, France. In his remarks, he referred to King Fahd bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia. The proclamation of June 26 honoring the victims of the bombing in Saudi Arabia is listed in Appendix D at the end of this volume.
William J. Clinton, Remarks on the Terrorist Attack in Saudi Arabia and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/222519