1998: Bombings of Sudan and Afghanistan

Joe Biden applauded Bill Clinton’s bombing of a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan that was justified by relying on dubious intelligence as well as a strike in Afghanistan.

Ruins of Shifa pharmaceutical plant, alleged chemical weapons manufacturing facility said bankrolled by Islamic terrorist financer Osama bin Laden, cruise missile target in retaliatory US air strikes after terror bombings of US embassies in Africa.  (Photo by Barry Iverson/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images)
Ruins of the Al Shifa pharmaceutical plant are seen on Aug. 1, 1998. Photo: Barry Iverson/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images

In August 1998, Joe Biden supported the U.S. bombing of a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan as well as a farm in Afghanistan allegedly used by Osama bin Laden as an Al Qaeda training site. The Clinton administration justified the strikes as a response to Al Qaeda’s bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania earlier that month. “Operation Infinite Reach” represented the first time the U.S. acknowledged taking a preemptive military strike and was a policy precursor to the borderless war strategy that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney would promote after the September 11 attacks.

“I want to applaud and thank the president for being willing to take this action,” Biden said after the strikes. While the Clinton administration claimed that the Al Shifa pharmaceutical plant was being used by Al Qaeda to potentially make the lethal nerve agent VX, that claim was later widely agreed to be based on faulty intelligence. The bombing of the factory had dire consequences, as it manufactured an estimated half of all drugs in Sudan, including vital anti-malaria medications. “I do think it was the right move at the right time,” said Biden. The strikes occurred as the investigation into Clinton’s lies about his affair with a former White House intern intensified, and some analysts said the attack was intended to distract from the scandal. Biden retorted that any alleged connection between the two was “malarkey, pure politics.” He chided reporters, saying, “Does it make it harder for you guys to keep dwelling on Monica Lewinsky? It breaks my heart that you aren’t going to be able to talk about it for the next 24 hours.”

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