Linda Sog: On Thursday, October 12, 2000, 17 of our Nation’s finest were killed in a terrorist attack on the USS Cole, docked in the port of Yemen to take on fuel. We must never forget these brave young men and women, they gave us their all.
She has a poignant tribute with photos.
Chrissie posts a letter written at the time by a helicopter pilot about strength and determination of the surviving crew of the Cole :
But I will tell you that right now there are 250+ sailors living in hell on Earth. They’re sleeping out on the decks at night. You can’t even imagine the conditions they’re living in, and yet they are still fighting 24 hours a day to save their ship and free the bodies of those still trapped and send them home.
As bad as it is, they’re doing an incredible job. The very fact that these people are still functioning is beyond my comprehension. Whatever you imagine as the worst, multiply it by ten and you might get there. Today I was tasked to photo rig the ship and surrounding area. It looked so much worse than I had imagined, unbelievable really, with debris and disarray everywhere, the ship listing, the hole in her side….Then I started to notice the mass of activity going on below, scores of people working non-stop in 90 plus degree weather to save this ship. They’re doing it with almost no electrical power and they’re sleeping (when they can sleep) outside on the decks because they can’t stand the smell or the heat or the darkness inside.
Its quite an accomplishment that they managed to save the ship. The electricity went out for the pumps; they rigged something up from the fire hose I think. One night there was some random gunfire; the crew that was sleeping on deck all dove to cover the wounded.
From my article about the February escape of 23 al-Qaeda in Yemen including the mastermind of the Cole bombing, Jamal al-Badawi, and several co-conspirators:
Lingering Questions About the Cole Bombing
Because the Yemeni government has not allowed the United States full access to some prisoners, another theory circulating is that the prisoners were allowed to escape to keep them away from U.S. investigators. The former head of Yemen’s navy at the time of the Cole bombing, Ahmed al-Hasani, said in a press statement in May that President Saleh had prior knowledge of the Cole bombing, and that Saleh had sent high-level officials to Aden in the early morning hours before the attack.
Analyst and author Thomas Joscelyn, who has studied the Cole bombing, notes, “There is still much we don’t know about the circumstances surrounding the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, which was tasked with enforcing U.N. sanctions on Iraq. The U.S. investigation into the bombing was initially stymied by Saleh’s regime, which at first claimed the bombing was simply an accident. To this day it is not clear how competent the completed investigation was.”
A few things are clear about the attack. In 2000, the Yemeni interior minister issued an official letter instructing security personnel to give safe passage to Sheik Mohammed Omar al-Harazi, one of the masterminds of the Cole bombing who is also known as Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Neither he nor his bodyguards were to searched or intercepted. “All security forces are instructed to cooperate with him and facilitate his missions,” the letter said. During the 2004 trial of five co-conspirators, one Yemeni political analyst noted the travel pass “confirms that there is a breach in the Yemeni security system.”
“This system has been infiltrated for a long time by terrorist elements, because of old relations,” he said.
Some of the Cole conspirators were also in possession of weapons permits.
A former C.I.A. agent, Robert Baer, was told by a Saudi military contact that a Saudi merchant family had funded the U.S.S. Cole bombing and that the Yemeni government was covering up information related to that bombing. A leading Yemeni editor said in 2001, “It was clear from the start that the accessories to the attack would be tried, convicted and executed, but that the people inside Yemen who financed it, and used their power to facilitate it, would never be brought to book.”
The regime has had difficulty keeping the attackers in jail. In 2003, eight of the Cole conspirators escaped from jail and two later went on to complete suicide operations in Iraq. Among the 2003 escapees was Jamal al-Badawi, another mastermind of the bombing. Al-Badawi was recaptured and returned to prison only to escape again with 22 other inmates.
After the Cole attack, President Saleh denied publicly that he had been notified by the United States that the Cole was en route to Aden. According to former CENTCOM commander Gen. Anthony Zinni, in his 2000 Congressional Testimony, standard U.S. procedure was to notify Yemeni officials about two weeks prior to a ship’s arrival at port. It was just about two weeks before the attack on the Cole that the Pentagon’s secret intelligence unit, Able Danger, began to pick up “massive terrorist activity” in Aden.
At the time of the bombings, a Yemeni regime official advanced the theory that the United States had blown up the ship itself, as pretense for an invasion. This fear mongering has continued. “There was a plan to occupy Aden,” President Saleh said in a 2005 speech. According to President Saleh, eight U.S. warships waited at the mouth of the port of Aden, ready to invade in the days after the bombing. Only through his leadership abilities, he claimed, was the invasion averted.
In reality, all documentation indicates the Cole was traveling alone. In the days after the bombing, the crew of the Cole struggled unassisted to keep the ship afloat while the wounded were tended on deck. It is inconceivable that any U.S. ship in the area would not have come to their immediate aid.
A reduction in financial aid was the only punitive action against Yemen briefly discussed in the 2000 Congressional hearings, as an inducement for fuller cooperation with the F.B.I.’s investigation. It was deflected by Gen. Zinni’s objections. At the time, Congress barely contemplated the possibility of regime involvement, based in large part on Gen. Zinni’s assurances of Saleh’s sincerity. The Clinton administration never discussed retaliation against Yemen for the Cole bombing, according to the 9/11 report and other documentation. Clinton briefly discussed a military strike against Afghanistan, but the concept of confronting the Taliban was shelved as Clinton’s term drew to a close.
And recently we learned that the Yemeni regime is currently so duplicitious as to tell the US that Abu-Bakr al-Rabie was in jail when in reality he was home and just showed up for court hearings in prison clothes to fool the US. He recieved a ten year sentence and never spent a day in jail. Is this level of deception a new pattern of behaivor? I dont think so.
The former Cole Commander, Kirk Lippold, can’t get promoted and is being forced into retirement.
Tony Shaffer who worked on Able Danger and issued two warnings in the weeks before the Cole attack is still being targeted by DIA for going public.
Kia Fallis who was at DIA and tried very hard to get an official warning issued about the port of Aden shortly before the bombing (independently from Able Danger) quit in disgust the day after the attack.
John Oneill who lead the FBI investigation into the USS Cole bombing (until US ambassador Barbara Bodine kicked him out of Yemen because he wanted his people to have long guns in a nation where nearly every guy on the street carries an AK) died on 9/11.
Barbara Bodine continues to write articles defending her decisions and the notion that the Yemeni government was fully cooperative.
Still seeking justice, the Cole families are suing the Sudan and are only able to because its on the list of state sponsors of terrosism.
The USG for its part is focused on the two or three al-Qaeda in Somalia who may have been involved in the 1998 embassy attacks, as well it should be.