USS COLE – Five years ago

12 October, 2000 – Aden, Yemen

The war drags on.


Too many people simply “got over it”, not knowing or caring that every time we acted weak, we convinced our enemies that we were, indeed, weak. Too little effort. Too little determination. And we would pay.

The COLE, and the lack of meaningful response, somehow came up in a recent discussion I had on another site’s post about the August 6th, 2001 PDB. What a weird conversation.

For a series of pics chronicling the recovery of the ship, see this site.


  1. Reading the comment thread you have linked to gave me a thought: I know terrorism was a problem in the 70s (hijacking planes, killing athletes, etc.) and we know it became a serious problem in the late 90s. Why was there a 15-20 year gap in there where nothing terribly serious happened, and now every nutcase and whackjob between here and the ME is blowing things up? Was there some kind of internal instability in countries which support terror during that period that made them inactive? Were they too busy recruiting and planning? Were they concentrating their efforts elsewhere (Afghanistan, Chechnya, etc.?). I’m curious to hear what people think explains this situation. Basically – why has it suddenly become such a bad problem in the last 5-10 years? Or are my perceptions wrong?

  2. Well, a big part of it (IMHO) was the victory of the irregular forces over the Soviets in Afghanistan. Large numbers of fighters were trained and earned their stripes during that war, and it dawned on their leadership that terrorism and irregular warfare could win against the super powers. So, *and this is amazingly simplistic and general*, I think after an initial wave of successes, counter-terrorism methods were developed and tighter security cut down on the number of incidents. And don’t discount the fact that people and news organizations became more than a little de-sensitized to terrorist actions. It simply didn’t get the headlines it did at first, simultaneously reducing public awareness and limiting the effectiveness of terrorism itself. After Afghanistan and especially after Western troops were stationed in Saudi Arabia to free Kuwait, the bin Laden types began to organize and consolidate and recruit and plan. The escalating attacks against America (culminating, obviously, with 9/11) are the result of that build-up. And our taking the fight to them, like poking a hornet’s nest with a stick, is getting a fair amount of backlash. All that being said, I don’t know how much of a true let-down there was in the 80s. I think it was more of a general fact of life, but except for a few exceptions, it was mostly a police and intel matter. I think that strategy is part of what got us to where we are.

  3. There really isn’t a single obvious factor is there? It’s a complex bunch of things all happening and interacting… I wonder if this is a ‘fad’, or something which will able to be sustained for a long period. I suspect (and hope) that right now, most of those who are capable of and desire to commit serious acts of terrorism are throwing themselves onto our bayonettes, so to speak, and eventually their numbers will drop below the required critical mass and just sort of tail off. That’s a bit of an optimistic thing to wish for, but hey, I guess I’m a cynical optimist. If success in Afghanistan fuelled the wave of terrorism, will failure in the new Afghanistan and Iraq douse their fire? I suspect until something can be done about the culture of insensitivity and bloodshed, the problem will not go away, but that can be more easily addressed once the level of violence drops a bit I hope. So many questions and suppositions…

  4. Well, I think you are partially right, however, I think you are missing a fundamental difference. One man. The President of the United States. Ronald Reagan went after terrorist funding, destroyed backers(look at the libyan business), and put his foot down. There was still terrorism, but I think the terrorist leadership realized that they had to scale back, or this guy was going to cost them a lot of resources. I remember planes being blown up, bombings in Israel, and in europe. I remember the Cartels in Colombia (kidnappings, murdered judges and cops, etc…. fits the definition of terrorism, even if it’s for profit, not religion or politics). You have made good points above, I just think you undervalue the consequences of having a person in charge that publicly says ‘we will hunt you down and kill you’ (o.k., I’m paraphrasing) in the office. Makes the bastards think twice.

  5. That, above all, is why I approve of ousting the Taliban and Saddam. It’s psychology. You make examples of them. If you don’t, every two-bit religious nut and dictator in the whole planet thinks they can get away with subjugating and killing people. Of course, actually freeing the people who are being oppressed is a lofty goal, but that’s the immediate payoff. The future payoff is that you run less of a risk of having to do it again, and again, and again… I find it utterly astounding how few people think about, let alone understand the psychological aspect of the war on terror, dictators, and just war in general. Appeasement leads to war. Coming down very hard on people doing bad things leads to peace. It’s no different than how we get a functioning society. Many people are good because it’s in their nature, but there will always be people who would be bad. They are kept good by a credible threat of being caught and punished if they are bad. If people thought they could get away with crimes without justice being served, what would happen to society? So, why should we let tyrants and terrorists feel that way? I think we agree, Chad.

  6. More empty thinking Nicholas. Deterance only works on state actors. Other bad states are detered. libya is detered. momar qhadafi is/(had already been) detered. Other shithole countries are being detered. North Korea is not detered becouse they have MAD vis a vis artillary pointing at Seol. Individual terrorists are not detered. Osama bin laden is not detered. Zarqawi is not detered. enraged muslim’s are not detered (as clearly evidenced by the mounting Allied casualty count). Since non-state actors-terrrosits are not detered- and that was our primary threat, Iraq has done a really really terrible job of making us safer or the world better. War supporters advocate a theory which I call ‘replacement theory’- that you could take a dictator and his (evil) regime out and simply replace it with a much better regime. and you could do this with as little fuss as taking a can out of the cupboard and replacing it with a much nicer can (of democracy). Disregarding the whole- cans balanced on top will collapse analogy (the current order will be disrupted for the worse), theres the major problem that we havent delivered a government. the can we have doesnt work at least not one that matters. it cant deliver services, and it cant support itself. it doesnt look like there’s any trendline to give us optimism that we are in anything other then a race to the bottom.

  7. Aaron, What IS your major malfunction? Deterrence only works on state actors? I have news for you. Whether or not fruitcakes like Osama are deterred, they can not succeed without support from people who will carry out attacks, provide money, provide training, provide equipment, provide intelligence, provide housing, etc. It is THOSE people who will be deterred if there’s a very high chance of them getting a JDAM through their window when it’s discovered they are helping these criminals. You really think the terror network is full of people like bin Laden and Zaqrari and operates in total isolation? Think again. ‘War supporters advocate a theory which I call ‘replacement theory” Well, in your bizarre mind, maybe everyone who supports ‘x’ thinks like ‘y’ but in the real world it doesn’t work liek that. I don’t support your crazy theory. My theory is, if you give people freedom, once they get used to it they won’t want to go back. You just have to give them enough time to realize. It’s already happened in Afghanistan and it’s happening in Iraq as we type. ‘theres the major problem that we havent delivered a government’ Where HAVE you been getting your news? Hello, constitution? Hello, referrendum? Hello, election? If that’s not government… what the heck is? *sigh* I’m not going to bother to trash the rest of what you wrote.

  8. Yet another way to point out what Aaron wrote is rubbish. The opposite of stopping people from doing something by cracking down on it, besides actually HELPING them (which we’re not going to do), is to do nothing, right? And does anyone really argue that ignoring terror doesn’t help the terrorists, and ignoring tinpot dictators (or talking at them, which is effectively the same thing) doesn’t help the dictators? That’s how we started this whole discussion, right? So, if ignoring them makes it worse, and helping them makes it worse, what should we do? If you can’t work that out for yourself then I give up.

  9. wow so the opposite of what we’re doing now is doing nothing? that’s pretty much what your saying nick. its not. we had the support of the world going in and taking out the taliban in afghanistan. And instead of dealing with Osama, and Zarqawi, when we knew where they were, the decepticon administration decided to deal with a tinpot dictator who we already had contained. Now, we know where generally where Osama is. He’s in pakistan in the tribal areas. but we cant deal with him or put political preasure on him becouse we need pakistan’s support in the Iraq war, and Musharaf cant risk riling the tribes to turn him over. so- Iraq is interfering with getting Osama. And this vaunted ‘beacon of democracy’ theory of Iraq is just that- a theory and a hell of a risky gamble, even if there was someone competant implementing it. ‘constitution? Hello, referrendum? Hello, election?’ – what is that? its the republicans wet dream that something of value is being created in Iraq. Fact is, the government thats been created- Iraqi’s wont fight for. and it doesnt provide services. And all of these ‘corner turning’ moments are just a scam to convince rubes like you that something good is happening despite all the evidence to the contrary.

  10. You make me sick. Really sick. You don’t care about the Iraqi people. You think you know everything – you have leapt to conclusions on every possible aspect. Every time you read or hear something supporting your anarchist agenda, you convince yourself it’s true, because you want it to be. Every time you hear something that doesn’t agree with it, you conveniently ignore it. I know that Saddam was a vicious tyrant who repressed his own people. I know the terrorists are nothing more than thugs with twisted minds who get a kick out of killing and mayhem. I know that we can easily defeat them if we have the will to follow through with our actions. I know the world will be better, when all is said and done. You give the Iraqi people so little credit. Well, I tell you what, they’re a smarter, braver lot of people than you are. In a few years, you’re going to look pretty damn stupid. But I’m not going to gloat over that. Perhaps you will learn something out of the whole experience. Why you want the Iraqi people to suffer so is beyond me. I don’t think I’ve ever met an Iraqi but I’m glad that they will soon have all the freedoms that I enjoy.

  11. Just a Minor Point …Now, we know where generally where Osama is. He’s in pakistan in the tribal areas. but we cant deal with him or put political preasure on him becouse we need pakistan’s support in the Iraq war, and Musharaf cant risk riling the tribes to turn him over. so- Iraq is interfering with getting Osama’ We went into Afganistan in Oct 2001 and pretty much controlled the place by the end of year. The US invaded Iraq on March 18, 2003. So between 9/11 and March 03 – Per your version of reality, we were not hampered by Iraq. Pakistan – has no bearing on Iraq. Musharf’s issues have nothing to do with Iraq. If you review international journals in the 2001 -2002 time period you’ll learn a lot about the politics that run Pakistan without the Iraq issue clounding your mind. I have no issue with people having issues with our policy in Iraq and in the war on terror in general. Debate is healthy. I do have issues with those who spout oppositional dogma without a knowlege of the facts. They do you a diservice.

  12. Nick, try this little test to see how effective your arguments are You don’t care about the Iraqi people. You think you know everything – you have leapt to conclusions on every possible aspect. Every time you read or hear something supporting your anarchist agenda, you convince yourself it’s true, because you want it to be. Every time you hear something that doesn’t agree with it, you conveniently ignore it. I’m also curious as to your level of expertise in social psychology, particularly in a multi-cultural situations. You are pretty quick to assume Aaron is inadequate in his understanding of that arena.

  13. Sorry, that’s not very clever. I care about all people – other than those who purposefully hurt others like Saddam and Al Quaeda. I base my judgements on what I have heard and read, weighted by the credibility of the source. If I don’t know something, I don’t know, but I fill in gray areas with reasonable assumptions in order to draw reasonable conclusions. If I’m not sure about something, I don’t claim it as fact. I weigh all the evidence at hand, with a dose of pragmatism and historical perspective. So, if you’re right and I’m wrong, what would you suggest we change in order to improve the situation? Perhaps you have something constructive to say rather than just character assassination and status-quo-bashing?

  14. I wasn’t trying to be clever, Nicholas. Note that I didn’t suggest you don’t care about people. You, however, seem to think you know that Aaron doesn’t, to whit: ‘Why you want the Iraqi people to suffer so is beyond me.’ What do you think other people base their judgments on? You make what you think are ‘reasonable’ assumptions and draw what you consider to be ‘reasonable’ conclusions. Fair enough. But you think that Aaron has a ‘major malfunction’, what he writes is ‘rubbish’ the is enough to ‘make me sick. Really sick.’ Perhaps others might think that of you and your statements. Some thoughts on the situation. We did help train some of these people in weapons and tactics. We know that. We made choices to support some regimes that support these terrorists. We know that. We made a good number of decisions to not criticize some of the regimes that have supported, or at least disregarded the potential threats of, these terrorists. We know that. We planted ourselves in the Middle East in a way and a place that has been seen as offensive by some. We know that. We have been economically successful based on a petrochemical foundation that has enriched some of the people in the Middle East, but has not necessarily provided benefit to the masses. We know that. We have apparently not done a very good job of convincing the average Arab that we are in favor of a fair resolution of the situation with Israel. We ought to recognize that. We have apparently not done a very good job of convincing the average Arab that we hold no grudge against Islam in general and Muslims in particular. We have shown that we at least tacitly, if not officially support the inappropriate treatment of people in our custody. I personally think that the kickin’ ass and takin’ names approach will never lead to long term security and stability in the world. I actually believe that it is necessary to understand what others think and feel from their perspective to be able to make good decisions on how to interact with them. You can disagree with what the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo situation were really about or really mean, but their effect on our esteem in the world has been fairly obvious, I think. If your grandmother was killed by a bomb intended to kill bad people who are in the area I think you would be hard pressed to write it off as an unfortunate incident in a necessary fight to free you, particularly if you are too hungry and poor to really be thinking much about the abstract concept of ‘freedom’. I believe in a strong defense that starts with good relationships with as many people as possible without compromising our principles, like signing on to agreements about not torturing people and then changing our minds – or at lest using some legal weaseling to try to dodge those commitments. I’m not afraid to send the military in when necessary. But going into Iraq has been counter-productive in my opinion. Now if you want to establish permanent military bases in an important part of the Middle East as part of a more militaristic approach rather than diplomatic, I can see where it makes sense. But I don’t think it is right and I don’t think that the administration has been forthright about their intentions if that is what they are. I won’t bother to respond to any presumptions you make about who am I am, what I think, my IQ or the like. If you want to question some of my statements, by all means. Remember that opinions are not facts. I assure you that I do.

  15. It’s a complete waste of my time, but just to put this argument to bed – I can pick many things Aaron has stated and show them to be untrue. Here’s one for example: “and you also fantasize that this government is ‘repairing infrastructure and services’- you need to read more- cause it aint happening.” Number one. Do you really think that this coalition of several hundreds, with hundreds of billions of dollars being spent, is not capable of repairing infrastructure and services? If you need proof, here are a few things which were completed recently. I’ll leave out the miltary- and police-related improvements, we can count them as tactical gains, not infrastructure repair: September 15-30: * 31+ school renovations * Several new schools * New roads * 260 bed maternity hospital in Mosul * New water tanks * Renovated several water treatment facilities * Another new water treatment facility * New university dormitories * Heating/cooling improvements in a hotel * Newly renovated government building in Baghdad * 5+ New electricity substations September 1-14: * School renovation * Two new medical clinic * Improved sewage system in Sadr City * Improved electricity substations * New court house August: * 5+ school renovations * 4+ new water treatment plants * Repairs to other water systems * Improved electricity distribution and street lighting * 6+ fire station renovations * New turbine electricity generator * New roads * Sewage improvements * New electricity substations * Multiple water network improvements * Fixed some oil drilling apparatus * Courthouses in Basrah July: * New courthouses * New water tanks * Improved substation electricity distrubution * New water purification systems * Street lighting and electrical network upgrades * School renovations * Railway improvements … I could go on. My source is Granted, a lot more improvements need to be made. But this is only what was completed in about three months. A lot more is already in progress. How can you claim there have been no improvements when there are all these, and more, the lists readily available to anyone who looks for them? This is only what I found on one site, the Army Corps of Engineers. There may well be other NGO/private enterprise improvements in the same time frame. I’m sure there was some existing infrastructure which was destroyed or failed in the same period. This is why, for example, electricity generation has been steady for the last few months despite new generators and distribution equipment coming on line. (source: ) What do you expect? Iraqis are destroying their own infrastructure. They’re pretty stupid, obviously. Attacks on infrastructure are trending downwards: (That link has a bunch of interesting information. Most of it showing improvement, most of it not as quickly as we would like). Anyone still claim that services and infrastructure are not being improved? Obviously it would be nice if it was all fixed overnight but it isn’t going to happen. It’s taken longer than I thought it would but judging by the projects underway at the moment, I think there will be substantial improvements in electricity, water and other services over the next 3-6 months. Still all doom and gloom over there?

  16. Mystery Poster : I’m sorry, but when the first thing someone does in response to my comment is to denigrate and insult me, why do you expect me to be civil back? I didn’t go shoving my views down people’s throats. I simply posted them here to see what people thought. I didn’t do it so that I could be assaulted. I give as good as I get. If you want to have a civil discussion then perhaps stick to responding to the points I make, rather than attempting to assassinate my character. So far, you seem to be doing a better job than this Aaron person. I’ll ignore your implicit (and in some ways, explicit) attack on my character and respond to the meat of what you have posted in the interest of sanity. You say ‘we’ an awful lot in your post. Well, I’m not sure exactly who you are referring to as ‘we’. I am not a big fan of the lack of diplomacy today. I feel that if you don’t agree with the way someone behaves you should let them know in no uncertain terms. Many governments these days prefer to keep quiet. I’m not sure why that is – they must think it gets them some kind of advantage. I believe that the lack of good old fashioned diplomacy is a big problem today. In fact, I think the reason the situation in Iraq was so bad was that the diplomatic community really let us down. When countries like Iraq and Iran (and yes, even Israel) repeatedly fail to adhere to what we clearly make out are standards we feel they need to adhere to, we must DO something about it. Something strong. Something to send a message. Not necessarily violent, although it might come to that eventually. I’m really not sure what, in fact, you are responding to. You are talking about ‘the situation’. Do you mean in general? About Iraq? About terrorists? Both? I’m not sure. I don’t think anybody wants to subjugate everyone who disagrees with us. But I do feel that not taking a stand on anything weakens our position incredibly. You say ‘I actually believe that it is necessary to understand what others think and feel from their perspective to be able to make good decisions on how to interact with them.’. Well, of course. But the fact remains, some of these people are sick. They have invented reasons to hate us. How do you reason with someone like that? I’ve read a number of articles which attempt to dispel the notion that it’s poor living conditions that cause terrorism. They talk about the fact that most terrorists are from the wealthier levels of society. I agree with you, at a gut level, that it’s discontent which causes it, but I don’t see any clear way for us to HELP them. If there was a way which we could improve their lives to the point where they would be peaceful, that would be great, but what is it? To illustrate my above point, a lot of these people who turn into terrorists (or are simply against us) seem to have all sorts of crazy notions about Jewish conspiracies and stuff like that. That Jews caused 9/11, etc. They must be brain-washed or something. It makes me really mad when Palestinians go on and on about their claim on Israel. What, and the jews don’t have any claim? They deserve to die? They’re people too and I don’t see why they deserve any less than anyone else. ‘But going into Iraq has been counter-productive in my opinion.’ Well, I simply don’t see the alternative. Diplomatic pressure was not going to stop Iraq from being a source of trouble for itself and its neighbours. Sanctions didn’t work. Of all the ‘problem countries’ in the region and in the world, Iraq was: * One of the most deserving for change. The people were being oppressed and killed, neighbouring states were threatened (Iran/Iraq war, Kuwait invasion, threats against Israel, etc.) * One of the easiest targets for change, in the sense that we believed the threat of them using any really serious (NBC) weapons on us was quite low (compared to say Iran or North Korea). * Has a history of enlightenment, which means that once it’s settled down, it should be a successful and free country Iran was also at one point, but much riskier to invade, and with more religious strife, I think. FWIW, I think what happened to Iran is tragic. The Shah may not have been popular with the hard-core religious types but I think he was guiding the country in the right direction, and with the right kind of support, it could have turned out very much better than how it is today. I agree with basically everything you’ve said, except that going into Iraq has been counter-productive. You say you’re not afraid to send the mililtary in when necessary. Well, I think when you’ve run out of other options, it’s necessary, and I think we ran out of options. Again, please tell me what you think would have helped ‘fix’ Iraq and the unrest in the Middle East that didn’t involve military operations. Well, this is a rambling and poorly organized post, but it’s my attempt to engage in a constructive discussion. Perhaps it will convince you that I’m not some kind of war-mongering conservative apologist. I do believe, however, I have the right to call ‘bullshit’ when someone opposes my opinions with a distinct lack of substance in their reply, and I tend to get mad when I feel I’m being targetted with personal attacks.

  17. My claims that military basing in Iraq is a major reason for us to be there do not negate the argument that democracy is a worthy goal or important to our cause. In fact, I believe democracy to be the foundation of our attack on the root causes of international terrorism. That’s the long-term strategy. Short-term, we need military basing right there in the heart of things. And if democracy in Iraq fails, we still need military basing there, only more. That’s a lot different than saying that we’re in Iraq because we need military basing.

  18. Yes Murdoc, there are a number of reasons for being in Iraq. these include- –bases- as you point out –oil- selling off/controlling oil. Also sadam tried to leave the reservation- sell oil in euros, not US$. –democracy- tastes great, less filling-. None of these were what the war was sold on which was- lies, big fat lies, about WMD’s. Unfortunatley as long as we remain the only democracy we seem likely to make is one that doesnt produce a government that the people will join the military to support, or that the populace truly believes in, or one that is capable of producing security, or services.

  19. Aaron: You’re welcome to drag out the ‘it was all about WMD’ argument again. I’m not playing, though. I was there. I listened to the reasons. There was more than WMD and anyone who was listening to what was said (not necessarily what was reported in the headlines and sound bites) knows it. RE: ‘one that doesnt produce a government that the people will join the military to support’ You realize, don’t you, that one of the largest numbers of Iraqi civilians killed so far have been people lining up to join the military or police forces? You may argue all you want about motives for joining, hidden or otherwise, but despite being constant targets and putting their families in danger the Iraqis keep joining up. The sheer ignorance and/or dishonesty that it must take to claim Iraqis aren’t joining up is simply staggering.

  20. And yes Nicholas you need to enlist. Get on over there and fight for what you believe becouse recruiting is to the people who believe in chimpy’s great adventure. like you. In the meantime, this is just you fantasizing that this is a great idea, while being scarred sh-tless of the actual cost. Stand up or shut up ya chickenhawk.

  21. Hi Murdoc? Are you trying to tell me that this was sold on anything other then security concerns? wow, you are entering W levels of credibility. And no, what Im saying is that they arent signing up for Iraq. They arent signing up to fight for Iraq.

  22. Aaron: You said ‘WMD’, not ‘security concerns’. I said ‘there was more than WMD’ not ‘other than security concerns’. Get your story straight if you want to be taken seriously.

  23. I’m curious to hear what people think explains this situation. Basically – why has it suddenly become such a bad problem in the last 5-10 years?’ – Nicholas I think you guys (Nicholas, Chad,Murdoc) got it right in saying that its a complex issue with many asspects and I basically agree with the ones you listed, I’d just like to add 2 more. 1). I think a big part of it is simply the flow of history. What I mean is there always has been and always will be (until the end of time anyway)sickos like these with all kinds of motivations, justifications and goals (Nazis and Communists and now Islamic terrorists being the most recent) Each has there appointed time to rise up in power and then be crushed. 2). What I see as one major cause of this increase in terrorism is Islam. I don’t really buy this ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ thing. You see are enemy isn’t ‘terrorisim (that’s just a tactic/stratagey that our enemy employs). The enemy is Islamic terrorists,who are bent on taking over the world. Now I’m not an expert on the Koran by any means; but from what little I know it seems clear to me that the Koran clearly supports and encourages the goals (and means) of the Islamic terrrorists. It teaches that faithful muslims must work to bring the whole world under Islamic rule by whatever means necessary. Infidels have three options; either convert, submit to Islamic rule, or be destroyed. Now you could argue whether or not this is a correct interpretation of the Koran;(I think it’s correct)but such arguments are somewhat irrelevant since this interpretation is taught as correct in many many Islamic schools. And that fact is probably the greatest single cause for this increase in Islamic terrorisim. Now here’s a thought I had – one of two things needs to happen at some point to really put and end to this war. 1). Assuming I’m wrong and Islam is really just a hijacked peacful religion; (which I’m personally very skeptical of) – then eventually what needs to happen is; all those peacefull muslims out there need to stamp out this heresy that is defiling their religion. They need to have a counsel to show why (beyond a shadow of a doubt) the text of the Koran does not in any way support world conquest, terrorisim ect. 2). If (as I’d guess) you’d never be able to show that Islamic terrorisim has no support whatsoever from the Koran; the text of the Koran should be modified in such a way as to give solid backing to those who say Islam is a religion of peace and to give no ground whatsoever for Islamic terrorists to stand on. (perhaps this should be done no matter what) As for Aaron there is nothing I could say to you that would have any affect since you can’t accept the fine arguments of Murdoc and Nicholas. I can only say this: I’ll be praying for you every time I can remember to (no one is beyond hope).