Terrorism, Betrayal, and Resilience


Terrorism, Betrayal, and Resilience

My Story of the 1998 U.S. Embassy Bombings

Prudence Bushnell

288 pages
29 photographs, index

Look inside the Book

October 2018


$29.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

On August 7, 1998, three years before President George W. Bush declared the War on Terror, the radical Islamist group al-Qaeda bombed the American embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, where Prudence Bushnell was serving as U.S. ambassador. Terrorism, Betrayal, and Resilience is her account of what happened, how it happened, and its impact twenty years later.

When the bombs went off in Kenya and neighboring Tanzania that day, Congress was in recess and the White House, along with the entire country, was focused on the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Congress held no hearings about the bombings, the national security community held no after-action reviews, and the mandatory Accountability Review Board focused on narrow security issues. Then on September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. homeland and the East Africa bombings became little more than an historical footnote.

Terrorism, Betrayal, and Resilience is Bushnell’s account of her quest to understand how these bombings could have happened given the scrutiny bin Laden and his cell in Nairobi had been getting since 1996 from special groups in the National Security Council, the FBI, the CIA, and the NSA. Bushnell tracks national security strategies and assumptions about terrorism and the Muslim world that failed to keep us safe in 1998 and continue unchallenged today. In this hard-hitting, no-holds-barred account she reveals what led to poor decisions in Washington and demonstrates how diplomacy and leadership going forward will be our country’s most potent defense.

Author Bio

Prudence Bushnell is an American diplomat who has held a series of leadership positions with the U.S. Department of State, including deputy assistant secretary for African Affairs, ambassador to the republics of Kenya and Guatemala, and dean of the Leadership and Management School at the Foreign Service Institute. She is retired from the Foreign Service and founder of the Levitt Leadership Institute at Hamilton College in New York. She has earned numerous awards for her leadership and diplomacy, including three honorary doctoral degrees. For more information on the author visit prudencebushnell.com.


“[Bushnell] makes a compelling case that good diplomats can make a difference.”—Lawrence D. Freedman, Foreign Affairs

"Ambassador Prudence Bushnell's account in this book of her own experience entering, and then rising through the ranks of the Foreign Service exemplifies the challenges faced by women and minorities of that first "post-Palmer" generation trying to break into a traditional, and still "pale male"–dominated club."—James L. Bullock, Cipher Brief

"Who better than the person in charge of an embassy can describe the impact of this embassy being bombed? Absolutely brilliant concept and it has been executed in a way that does the event justice."—Anna Faktorovich, Pennsylvania Literary Journal

"Despite significant recent improvements in the strategy and practice of fighting terrorism, and in the technologies and policies implemented by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, Bushnell’s tough look at the policymaking process reveals areas that still need improvement, and the devastating consequences that can result if they do not. Ultimately, the American people must place increased priority on diplomacy and the personnel who represent them abroad, in order to achieve improved counterterrorism outcomes and to ensure diplomatic safety. Ambassador Bushnell’s book provides an impassioned reminder of that reality."—Frances Duffy, American Diplomacy

"[Terrorism, Betrayal, and Resilience] is a call for a shift in leadership philosophy within the government from a managerial mindset to one of active leadership."—Robert Clemm, Strategy Bridge

“A gripping diplomatic thriller that tells the harrowing saga of the 1998 bombing of Embassy Nairobi. Ambassador Bushnell’s first-person account provides lessons of leadership, crisis management, and policy acumen. The tale dramatically illustrates the terrorism danger diplomats confront daily.”—Ambassador Robert E. Gribbin III (Ret.)

“Ambassador Prudence Bushnell is a true professional with the toughness, grit, courage, and compassion that marks the kind of superb leader you want in charge during a crisis. I witnessed her remarkable composure, even when personally injured, and her take-command leadership style. This book is important for many reasons. It vividly presents a profile in courage; an understanding rarely appreciated about our foreign service men and women working in difficult assignments; a set of valuable lessons learned; and a case study in leadership during crisis. Every American should read this book.”—Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)

“With heroes and villains aplenty, this riveting cold tale of the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Kenya has startling relevance. As today’s State Department struggles to survive a gutting by its own government, Prudence Bushnell reminds us just how important and dangerous the job of diplomacy can be.”—Rheta Grimsley Johnson, syndicated columnist and author of Poor Man’s Provence: Finding Myself in Cajun Louisiana

“Prudence Bushnell’s name is not household familiar—but it should be. She was at the center of one of the most infamous terrorist attacks on American people and property in history.  And she was a woman in the highest ranks of the State Department when such a thing was rare. She tells her story with integrity and intelligence—and gives lessons on leadership based on life experience.”—Barbara Kellerman, James MacGregor Burns Lecturer in Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School

“For all readers, Ambassador Bushnell’s searing account of the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings provides profound lessons in leadership. She demonstrates time and again her deep commitment to the safety and mission of the people she led. Her willingness to battle paralyzing bureaucracy, both before and after the bombings, exhibits her decency and humanity in the midst of the chaos and evil that the Embassy experienced. She devoted much of her career to improving leadership at the Department of State. She is a role model for future leaders.”—Chris Kojm, director of the Leadership, Ethics, & Practice Initiative, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University

Table of Contents


List of Illustrations



Part 1. What Happened?

1. The Bombing

2. The Past as Prologue

3. The Response

4. The Impact

5. The Turning Point

6. The Consequences

Part 2. How Did It Happen?

7. The Proxy War

8. The Blowback

9. The Plots

10. The Plans

11. The Execution

Part 3. So What?

12. The Outcomes





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