Being the U.S. Means Hardly Ever Saying Sorry

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Saudi multimillionaire Salah Idris is preparing to sue the U.S. government in an effort to win back his good name -- plus the $30 million or so he lost when the U.S. bombed his Sudan pharmaceutical factory last year. According to U.S. officials, Idris' plant in Khartoum stored chemical-weapons material and had links to Osama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of attacks on two American embassies in Africa one year ago.

But while America has provided little evidence to implicate Idris, the Saudi businessman has commissioned a U.S. investigative firm to support his claim that his plant produced nothing but medicine. Aided by the D.C. law firm Akin, Gump (where President Clinton's friend Vernon Jordan is a partner), Idris won the release of $25 million that Washington seized last August. If Idris sues, he'll face a formidable obstacle: a senior Administration official says the government will argue that its attack is covered by a doctrine of international law known as sovereign immunity and cannot be challenged in court. Disagreement persists in the government, he concedes, as to whether Idris knew chemical-weapon feedstocks were in his factory, but it has no doubt they were. Faced with the same decision, he insists, the U.S. would attack again.