Terrorism, Betrayal and Resilience - My Story of the 1998 U.S. Embassy Bombings by Prudence Bushnell, Potomac Books, 2018.
This is an impressive book. It is well written, quite readable and tells a fascinating story. No one but the ambassador on the scene could have written this book. It is comprehensive in its depiction of events during, after and leading up to the embassy Nairobi bombing. It provides a unique perspective on what happened and how people reacted and coped. But that is not all, the author also dissects the Department of State’s response to the security situation and the bombing with a critical eye. Before and after the bombing there are many lessons that ought to have been learned; however, many weren’t. Additionally, the book outlines overall global planning by al-Qaeda, reporting what the USG knew and when and all the snafus involved in interagency turf issues. Ambassador Bushnell paints a compelling case of negligence as the worst case or ignorance or ineptitude as the best regarding Washington’s response to security concerns and the threat of the al-Qaeda network. Topping all this off is Ambassador Bushnell’s observations on leadership and her practice of leadership during her entire career. Finally, notable are discussions of hurdles that she as a woman had to overcome in asserting herself as an effective leader.
The book appeals to popular audiences that are curious about terrorism, and want a real life diplomatic thriller. Indeed this is one. It is a compelling recitation of what happened and how embassy personnel and the government of Kenya responded to the crisis. Even though a reader probably knows the overall outcome, the story of how the bombing and the aftermath is suspenseful and gripping. It certainly will be read by the diplomatic community and by scholars, researchers and others who track terrorism and how it manifests itself.
The book contributes to a fresh and certainly for most a more comprehensive understanding of what transpired in Nairobi. That in itself is meritorious, but the critical dissection of how the US intelligence community was divided on the al-Qaeda threat provides a new perspective that contrasts with the self-satisfied performance conveyed by Washington oriented writers.
This is a very good book that needs to be read by anyone interested in Kenya, terrorism and the global diplomatic response to the crises of our times.