by Calvin Ishee
Imagine that after paying your dues for many years in the Foreign Service, you finally get your dream job, United States Ambassador. You arrive to your new embassy only to find it insecure and vulnerable to attack. You immediately notify your senior leaders and am told “quit complaining”. Three days later your embassy is bombed by Osama bin Laden, many of your coworkers die and you suffer from your own injuries incurred by the bomb. How does one rise to the immediate as well as long term challenges of this tragic event? That’s the story of Former US Ambassador to Kenya, Prudence Bushnell.
Ambassador Bushnell, affectionately known as Pru to her very close friends, not only survived this terrorist attack, she thrived. With very limited resources she rallied the troops, including local Kenyans as well as Israeli personal and properly accounted for the injured and deceased alike. Her accumulated leadership skills allowed her to effectively lead her team during the most terrifying moment in her life.
Her book, “Terrorism, Betrayal & Resiliance: My Story of the 1998 U.S. Embassy Bombings” is a “must read” for politicians, diplomats, leaders and ordinary citizens alike. Even though Congress, the CIA nor the FBI has never officially investigated this blatant attack on an American Embassy, many lessons can be learned from this tragedy. This book sheds light on an attack that pretty much went unnoticed by the American public.
I was fortunate to ask the Ambassador a couple of questions regarding her book and life experience:
Gazebo Gazette: What do you want readers to take away from this book?
Ambassador Bushnell: First and foremost, America should take care of its people, especially those willing to serve around the world, in some of the most challenging locations on earth. In spite of past terrorist attacks, to this day, our embassies are not properly protected. This is not a Republican or Democratic issue, it’s an American issue. We must protect our diplomats!
GG: Why was this never properly invested by Congress?
AB: The country had many other issues on it’s mind, primarily the Monica Lewinsky and President Bill Clinton scandal. In fact she wrote the book to share this tragedy to honor the people whose lives were lost on August 7, 1998, in Nairobi, Kenya.
GG: Why was the U.S. Embassy in Kenya specifically targeted for this terrorist attack?
AB: Osama bin Ladin targeted this embassy because a female was in charge and in addition to not liking that, he felt he could gain a lot of favor from his followers by killing a female U.S. Ambassador.
After the bombing Ambassador Bushnell went on to other prestigious assignments, including one as U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala. To this day she suffers from PTSD, however she’s still teaching leadership and encouraging Congress to properly protect the diplomats that represent United States interests across the globe. For the “rest of the story”, Ambassador Bushnell’s book is available for purchase at the Pass Christian Book Store.