But do you remember the Cole?
Most of our readers probably do remember the USS Cole, which was badly damaged in a terrorist attack on Columbus Day of 2000, when the ship was refueling in Yemen during the prodromal stage of the current war. Seventeen sailors were killed in the explosion.
Yesterday the USS Cole set sail again for the Middle East for the first time since then, and every time the crewmembers gather for a meal, they remember their fallen predecessors:
Every day the sailors aboard the Cole walk across a reminder of the attack that made the destroyer the most famous ship in the U.S. Navy fleet.
The floor in the corridor leading to the dining area has 17 gold stars — one for each sailor killed when terrorists bombed the Cole as it was refueling in Yemen’s port of Aden on Oct. 12, 2000.
None of the current crew was there on that fateful day, but they are well aware of what happened, and of the dangers facing their ship in the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf:
Sailors in the current crew of 320 — including many who asked to be assigned to the Cole — say they’re unafraid to deploy to that region.
“You’re looking over your shoulder, maybe a little nervous pulling into ports and stuff like that,” Chief Robin Guy said Tuesday on the ship, docked at Norfolk Naval Station.
“But I think right now throughout the world we have to be like that on any of our ships,” said Guy, 35, of Virginia Beach. “That threat is there, whether you’re here or overseas.”
Former Cole crew member Master Chief Paul Abney, who lost friends when the guided missile destroyer was bombed, said it’s the right thing for the ship to return to the Middle East.
“It sends a message in and of itself that we can be hurt but not broken,” Abney, 49, said in a phone interview Tuesday.
Abney said he considers himself blessed because he only suffered a black eye in the attack and inhaled smoke. He left the Cole in February 2001 and now is stationed at a command in Norfolk.
The dedication of the Cole’s current crew is impressive:
Command Master Chief Pat Reynolds, 44, of Lubbock, Texas, has been in the Navy for 25 years but has been aboard the Cole for only three weeks. He requested duty on the Cole in part because he was impressed with the crew’s ability to come together to save the ship.
“The ship is metal. It’s the living, breathing crew that makes it special,” he said, adding that he has no doubt every member of the current crew would perform as well if something should happen to the ship.
Reynolds said he can’t wait to deploy to protect U.S. interests and show “the world we’re professional and that we mean business.”
As the confrontation with Iran heats up, the Cole’s presence in the Middle East is likely to be more than symbolic. Best keep the ship and its crew in your prayers.
If you need help remembering, visit the Cole Memorial website.
And while you’re remembering the Cole, it’s important to remember a few other things:
- The Clinton administration response to the Cole bombing was… essentially nothing. Send the FBI, collect some evidence, and pressure Yemen to co-operate.
- When the Iranian revolutionaries overran the American embassy in Tehran in 1979 and seized American citizens as hostages, the Carter administration response was… essentially nothing. Freeze Iranian assets. One botched rescue attempt. Twenty-seven years of unremitting bellicose behavior on the part of the mullahs.
- When Hezbollah blew up the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 241 American servicemen, the Reagan administration response was… to withdraw the Marines from Lebanon.
- When U.S. Army Rangers were ambushed and eighteen were killed in Mogadishu in 1993, the Clinton administration response was… to withdraw from Somalia.
- When Islamic terrorists bombed the World Trade Center in 1993, killing six people, the Clinton administration response was… to treat it as a domestic law enforcement matter, initiating a protracted criminal proceeding and essentially ignoring the potential connections with Saddam Hussein’s intelligence services.
- When terrorists bombed the Khobar Towers complex in Saudi Arabia in 1996, killing nineteen U.S. Air Force personnel, the Clinton administration response was… to let the Saudis control the investigation and dispense justice, pleading with them to throw the FBI some crumbs of information.
- When the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed by Al Qaeda in 1998, killing hundreds of people, the Clinton administration response was… to bomb an aspirin factory in Sudan and an empty terrorist camp in Afghanistan.
After 9-11 everything changed, right? We overthrew the Taliban, invaded Iraq, captured Saddam Hussein, and killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
- When the Palestinians elected members of Hamas — which is among the most vicious and ruthless terrorist groups in the world — the Bush administration response was… to give some more money to the Palestinians and beg them to play nice this time.
- When Islamists organized carefully staged riots and violence to protest the Danish Mohammed cartoons, the Bush administration response was… to say that the Danes were out of line when they published the cartoons.
- When the Iranians deliberately and publicly demonstrated their intention to obtain nuclear weapons, the Bush administration response was… to offer the Iranians nuclear technology, attempt to engage them in talks, and beg them to abide by previously-signed treaties.
You’d think we’d have learned by now, but apparently we haven’t.
Although we all wish it were otherwise, the fact remains that our displays of weakness — doing little or nothing in the face of terrorist atrocities, or withdrawing when attacked, or equivocating in the face of threats, or obsequiously offering inducements when threatened with violence — only generate more violence against us.
Until we reclaim our martial virtues, we can only expect more of the same. We would do well to emulate General William T. Sherman:
My aim, then, was to whip the [enemy], to humble their pride, to follow them to their inmost recesses, and make them fear and dread us. Fear is the beginning of wisdom.
Remember the Cole!
Hat tip: Reader TJP.