Under President Clinton the US's policy on Northern Ireland has moved towards the nationalists. Conor O'Clery provides the first detailed account of the forces which shaped Clinton's conversion in last year's visa warsby Conor O'Cleary / November 20, 1995 / Leave a comment
One of the most extraordinary episodes in the history of the special relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States took place on January 29th 1994 in the Oval Office of the White House.
President Bill Clinton was at his desk. In front of him were two sets of documents. One urged him to reject an application from Gerry Adams for a visa to enter the US. This recommendation had the backing of the British government; Warren Christopher, the US secretary of state; Janet Reno, the justice minister; Louis Freeh, the FBI director, and the US embassy in London. The other advised the president to allow Adams into the country. It had been submitted by Clinton’s national security adviser, Anthony Lake, and his colleague, Nancy Soderberg.
Anthony Lake is a Massachusetts cattle farmer and academic with several books on foreign policy to his name. He started his Washington career in 1970 as a special assistant to Henry Kissinger, President Nixon’s national security adviser, but resigned after the US secretly invaded Cambodia, a betrayal of Nixon which the FBI acknowledged by tapping his telephone for nine months. Two years later he threw in his lot with the Democrats and joined Senator Edmund Muskie as foreign policy adviser. He went on to become director of policy planning at the State Department under President Jimmy Carter, and played a role in the joint British- American effort to persuade the white Rhodesian government to step aside in the late 1970s. When Clinton ran for president he took Lake on as foreign policy adviser, and then brought him into the White House as national security adviser.
Nancy Soderberg, a 1980 graduate of Vanderbilt university, is the daughter of a Scots-Irish mother and a Swedish-American father. She served Senator Edward Kennedy as foreign policy adviser for seven years, which made her the obvious choice as point person on Ireland when President Clinton brought her into the National Security Council (NSC) as staff director. Her past association with Kennedy sparked suspicions in London that Soderberg would be a covert supporter of nationalist causes. But despite the green dress she wore at the Clintons’ St Patrick’s Day party in 1994, and a long-standing friendship with John Hume, the Northern Irish SDLP leader, she had a reputation in Irish-American circles as someone unsympathetic to their favoured causes (such as the fate of IRA fugitives and the MacBride…