Remember the Cole

USS ColeRemember the Maine!

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:

USS ColeEvery 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.

USS Cole MemorialIf you need help remembering, visit the Cole Memorial website.

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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.

Yes, but…

  • 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.

18 thoughts on “Remember the Cole

  1. Thanks for the reminder Baron. 17 salutes to ours.

    Next time someone approaches her in troubled waters I’d expect that the sounds of 30 Mike Mike will fill the air.

  2. “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.

    Baron, your characterization may be a bit unfair – but I think it refers to a central aspect of the GWOT, indeed, the tricky protean “center” that we may have to keep managing over the better course of, as President Bush stated, a “young adult’s life.”

    To be fair to you, the wikipedia article explained that the state department said:

    “We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable.”

    Returning to my first point, I would like to point out that although we may be witnessing a fumbling administration that has lost touch with some transcedental American culture, we may equally be witnessing a calculated strategy to affect organizational behavior amongst muslims. We may be acting like dhimmis, but seeming to act like dhimmis may create a context in which preference divergence amongst radicals increases, and their organizational efficiency and leadership is affected. I think its wrong to make the mistake that we are anything but feared in the areas we’ve decided to tread in a terrifying manner. Iraqi insurgents spoke of, in “No True Glory,” how, even when the media focused on the fetishized “asymmetry” of their tactics, and the supposed elegance of IED warfare on the Leviathan, that when American troops were on the attack, they were everywhere, overwhelming and absurdly destructive and precise.

    So square those two perceptions and you may have a context in which there are decreasing incentives to attack something like the USS cole, because it only means your ass, and there are increasing incentives to do something else with your time, rather than aspire to the pop culture jihad.

    The problem with waging preference divergence so to speak is that its likely to piss off americans and it arguably may cause the radicals to diverge a bit, while making the already diverged (albeit rare) moderates more vulnerable or no less secure than before. But its worked before and its working on AQ now.

    my $.02

  3. fastfood,

    …although we may be witnessing a fumbling administration that has lost touch with some transcedental American culture, we may equally be witnessing a calculated strategy to affect organizational behavior amongst muslims. We may be acting like dhimmis, but seeming to act like dhimmis may create a context in which preference divergence amongst radicals increases, and their organizational efficiency and leadership is affected.

    At the risk of Archonix deeming me a snark, I must say this sounds like you’ve been attending too many seminars for middle management.

    Regarding …waging preference divergence…its worked before and its working on AQ now.

    Please enlighten me. Where?

    …Fear is the beginning of wisdom. Amen.

  4. linearthinker:

    Those ideas about how organizations work may be more useful in dealing with terrorists than in making a company compete better.

    Googling “preference divergence al qaeda”

    produced this:
    Harmony and Disharmony:
    Exploiting Al-Qa’ida’s Organizational Vulnerabilities

    Perhaps the most interesting insight from the present collection of documents is the way in which they demonstrate how al-Qa’ida executives deal with the same banal challenges that occupy any other organization—be it employee salary and benefits, debates over strategic vision, or underlying doctrinal interpretations. This report’s application of principle-agent theory and organizational approaches to this declassified document collection are meant to provide a useful model for conducting terrorism analysis as well as identify new insertion points for counterterrorism policy.

    Its an interesting read on how to destroy these networks, both from introducing some kinetic energy to the bottom of the pyramid as we chisel away at the top. We are most certainly good at the latter; it looks as if robots may be introducing assembly-line efficiency to the task in the near future. But its that former objective that is trickier. The cartoons I think played into that arena and we did something that may be judged by history as apt, at least insofar as it didnt rock the boat as were making it sea worthy – the boat being Iraq, Afghanistan etc.

  5. In Iraq, despite missteps, one thing I can say for Bush is that he is steadfast. Despite any pronouncement from the State Department, the American press showed themselves 100x more cowardly in their refusal to publish the cartoons. The State department operated out of over-caution, but the press operated out of pure fear. I would rather accept the mistakes of someone committed to doing the noble thing than listen to the silence of those who perpetually pat themselves on the back for intending the right thing.

  6. fastfood —

    Here’s what I was thinking of. It took me a long time to find it:

    …we believe in a free press. We also recognize that with freedom comes responsibilities. With freedom comes the responsibility to be thoughtful about others.

    That’s President Bush, on February 8, 2006.

    Compare this Spiegel interview with Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen:

    These protests are no longer about the 12 caricatures that were published by a free and independent Danish newspaper. Many groups with a vested interest in the Islamic world are now exploiting the situation for their own purposes.


    Caricatures are an important part of our culture of debate. They should defuse political spats through humor and irony. It is about making a strong statement but softening it with a wink. So Danes do not get too upset about caricatures.


    I can only continue to emphasize that the drawings were not published by the government but by an independent newspaper. So neither the government nor the Danish people can be held responsible.


    The government doesn’t have any interest in insulting Islam or any other religion. But all of the protestors must understand that the Danish government has no means of controlling a free press. This is the main problem: we are all talking at cross-purposes.

    I wish we had some leaders with half the cojones this man has.

  7. fastfood…

    A statement in your linked doc was that it posited techniques not actively being pursued by the Administration or DoD in the GWOT. I question that premise, but that’s only my opinion. What may appear in an unclassified study vs what is operational doctrine could be quite different. What’s more relevant to this post, and to our exchange, is that exploiting preference divergence is one technique in the kit of tactical operational tools, whereas the issues involved in “Remember the Cole” or the Danish cartoon flap are fundamental adherence to core values, and the courage to express them unwaveringly. If your point was that George Bush is a good high-stakes poker player, I wouldn’t argue. At this point though I’d prefer to see preference divergence confined to counterintelligence and psyops, and have an international policy based on common sense and the plain spoken values we heard when Bush spoke from the rubble of the WTC. To emphasize this I offer the following from the concluding section of your link: …the analysis provided here illustrates concepts and insights that can help conduct a more nuanced study of primary source documents. Nuance in analysis of intelligence documents may be okay, but I’d prefer my foreign policy straight up and neat, just like my scotch.

    Thanks for your thoughtful link and your patience. My first comment was out of line, not in content, but in tone. I can’t say the devil made me do it, either. I was taught not to quibble.

  8. Courtesy is mistaken as weakness in the world of the muslim extremist. Islamist supremacists are out to subdue the world under Islam. Any assistance you can give them, by way of red carpet treatment a la the EU, is the will of Allah.

    Bush may not have the clear voice to confront the muslim madness that Rasmussen has, but so far he has been the bane of the would be conquerors of the west. Rasmussen has the bark, but Bush has the bite.

    With an army of leftist heel-biters at his feet by way of the press and celebrities of popular/academic culture, Bush may feel he has to pick his domestic battles, while he lets the professionals in his government wage the new kind of war against the hostiles on the ground.

    What he also needs to do is to learn to fight a new kind of war against the press, leftist academicians, and left leaning celebs. They are the bigger threat.

  9. Baron:

    The Danish PM was the hero of the moment, no doubt; but Bush did have responsibilities that the Danish PM did not have to answer to, one of them being the popular caricatures of the United States in the Middle East.

    Personal anecdote:

    A friend of mine went to study for a semester in Dubai; while there he spoke with some of his native peers and learned that to them, it was quite obvious that America did not land on the moon and that Jews were responsible for 9/11. They told him this in the English they’d learned.

    Prospects to convince them otherwise seem few and I often wonder if the value of asserting that which the Danish PM did instead of that which the US President did is a unifying effect on the good guys and not so much a challenge to the bad guys.

    I hate to find myself on the same side of defeatists or apologists, but I like to think I’m walking a fine line when I ask if its preferred to circumvent the “clash of civilizations” manifest in the cartoon issue, for instance, rather than buck antlers with Imams. Its not that I don’t think our values are preferred; its just that I don’t know how one goes about convincing anyone of their usefulness when its the Imam’s playground. Perhaps its useful to then take the wind out of their sails so to speak?

    As far as all their bluster goes, what is its legacy? Did we, the US, the Danes and their ilk not demonstrate that these imams are paper tigers themselves, whose only power lies in what rabble they can organize to hoot and holler and vandalize? Once a state accepts free speech or freedom of the press, the very ideas that Bush invoked, that speech must be responsible can be used to put those imams in jail. Of course, thats a long ways off…or is it? Despite the infatuation with the intifada model, its always once decision away from being entirely subverted and quelled – Israel and Fallujah are arguably examples of just such a decision.





  11. Hello Turkish “Hero”. Nice of you to drop in and say what you really feel. Honesty is refreshing coming from a Muslim. Most of the time we are forced to endure a cacaphony of complaints and lies as your kind
    attempt to inflict themselves on us.

    There was an interesting picture in the news today. A cat had chased a bear up a tree. Twice! Amazing in that the bear had reacted to the cat’s hissing and threatening posture and had been afraid. The picture says it all.

    Had the bear simply swatted the cat
    with its paw the cat would have been tossed thirty feet with its guts hanging out of the wound on its belly. Sort of like Mr. Zarqawi ended up the other day.

    The mind can play strange tricks on one’s senses. A bear can be frightened by a cat. A culture can also be frightened by a hissing animal. In this case Islam.

    However, just as the cat would have learned, had it actually taken on the bear, it was not match for it. The Islamic world will find itself in much the same position as the cat. Sooner or later the bear will have to come down from the tree and the cat will
    then have to do more than ‘hiss’. It will find that inadequate when the bear lashes out.

  12. Ah, a quote from Sherman. I’ve always had a sneaking admiration for him, somewhat tempered by the fact I was born South of the Mason-Dixon, and wish he’d been on our side.

  13. Yeah I remember the Ottoman Empire…sick man of Europe, that knocked at the Gates of Vienna, but the Polish cavalry kept it from coming in.

    Best thing to happen to aforesaid Ottoman Empire was Mustapha Kemal Ataturk, who wanted to join the West, not beat it.

  14. “waging preference divergence” means distract and divide the managers with new problems between the ranks- that is, sow seeds of doubt and discord.

    “Make the management of al-Qa’ida’s financial assets more difficult.

    One way to accomplish this is to refrain from publicizing the freezing of funds or seizure of assets. When government freezes funds in this way, the individual responsible for those funds has to explain what happened.

    Either he must make up the funds from his pocket, or come under suspicion within the group, creating the perception of DIVERGING PREFERENCES that lead to agency problems.

    Keeping asset seizures secret also increases the perceived uncertainty of the operational environment, making it more difficult to maintain effective oversight in many interactions.[7]

    This in turn leads to a worsening of many agency problems in the long term.”

    Had to work for that one.
    Found the doc well worth reading, though, not dense or verbose.

    When do we use some of these recommendations on the 37,000 compromised foreign employees of the State Dept., the BBC, Saudi Royals, or DePaul University?

  15. Hey, turkish ‘hero’, it took you, the ‘Great’ Ottoman Empire, 2 centuries to defend militarily a small people, maybe 100 times smaller than you, in Eastern Europe. Remember, it was called Wallachia and Moldova (currently in Romania). Finally they were overwhelmed not by your military force but by the hypocrisy of the Western powers, beginning with the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which often betraied the two small countries either by not helping with anything, or by outrighly subverting them. However, when the big players in this region admitted the importance of the two small countries to be together, they just unified and together they bit the hack out of the Ottoman Empire in 1877, throwing you out of Bulgaria as well.

    So you should not be that optimistic, because you have no reason. The Ottoman Empire left a disgracing legacy in the Balkans, which still suffer because of it! And, when time comes to fight, Eastern Europe always showed its might. It only tok an alliance in between Russia and these small balkan states to defeat and throw out the Turks out of Europe. Now it only takes a serious attack on a major Western city, and that will triggger a change in minds and in the ‘political correctness’.

    Somewhere from E Europe

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