*****NOTE: this was originally posted on 10/12/2012. We’re not sure how, but the original post disappeared, so it is being re-posted.
When I was a kid growing up in Texas, we learned early how shouts of “remember the Alamo!” helped rally the troops at the Battle of San Jacinto. I still have pride in the story of how Antonio Lopez de Santa-Ana, commonly known as “Santa Anna” by the Texians (that was what we were known as back in the day), lost the battle of San Jacinto and traded uniforms with a lowly infantryman to hide from Sam Houston – only to be captured and discovered when other prisoners recognized him. There is a marker under a massive tree where Santa Anna stood before a wounded General Sam Houston and said, “That man may consider himself born to no common destiny who has conquered the Napoleon of the West. And now it remains for him to be generous to the vanquished.” Houston reportedly told him, “you should have remembered that at the Alamo.”
Had there had been any calls to remember Shanksville as our military took Kabul, the press would have painted the troops as marauding invaders drunk on vengeance. People often forget that 9/11 was not the first attack on Americans by jihadists. Today was quiet on the news front; you almost wouldn’t know what today is if you weren’t paying attention.
It has now been 12 years since 17 American sailors were killed and 39 wounded when a jihadist piloted a bomb toward the USS Cole, DDG-67.
There are a lot of things people don’t know about the bombing of the Cole. I’d like to start with how the ship came to be – her namesake.
Darrell Samuel Cole was 21 years old when he enlisted in the Marines in August 1941. He was classified as a field musician, specifically a bugler, when the Japanese bombed the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor later that year. At the Battle of Guadalcanal, he ditched the bugle to fight as a machine gunner; after the battle, he formally requested to be made a rifleman. His request was denied due to a shortage of field musicians. Two years after Guadalcanal, he made the request again – and was again denied. He went back to being a machine gunner during the invasion of Roi-Namur, and his division was so impressed with his tenacity that they assigned him to be a machine gunner for the battles of Saipan and Tinian. He was awarded the Bronze Star for bravery on Saipan and later took command of his squad when their leader was killed in combat. The third application for a rating change was approved due to his documented heroism, and he was officially made a gunner and achieved the rank of sergeant.
During the Battle of Iwo Jima, Cole’s machine gun squad met against heavy resistance and their advance was halted by entrenched soldiers in three pillboxes. Sgt. Cole advanced by himself, armed with only a pistol and a handful of grenades, to take out the Japanese positions and continue the forward assault. As he made his way back to his squad to move them forward, he was killed. Darrell Cole, a Marine’s Marine, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his gallantry.
The USS Cole was named for him.
When we watch documentaries about naval battles and numbers are bandied about, it’s often done without regard to how the sailors died. Death at sea is rarely quick. My father is a Navy veteran and I’ve heard all the things he learned in the Navy about what can happen if a ship goes down. Out of deference to those who have loved ones in the Navy I will not elaborate; suffice to say it isn’t a pretty picture. Despite how fast things happened on October 12, 2000, the 17 who perished didn’t all go quickly.
The Cole shouldn’t have been anywhere near the Gulf of Aden. Yemen was (and still is) extremely hostile to Americans. During the investigation of the bombing, FBI agents were under constant threat. Bill Clinton, like most liberals, wanted to believe that anti-American jihadists would be our friends if we just extended an olive branch and some courtesy. He sorely underestimated the determination of an enemy that wants us dead simply because we are not Muslim. President Obama has made resonatingly clear that he has not learned that lesson, either, and doesn’t care to learn it.
There may be plenty of things we dislike about Mitt Romney. Aside from the particularly rude manner in which his staff have spoken of other conservative politicians (to include Governor Palin), he’s widely known to be something of a flip-flopper. He’s no different from any other establishment politician in that sense. Like him or not, he is our only chance to oust Barack Obama. He does at least understand that we cannot afford to appear weak in the face of ongoing threats from the Middle East. When we turn out to vote in three weeks, we should keep that at the forefront of our minds.
And we should always – along with every US victim of jihadi violence, from the Beirut barracks to the Benghazi embassy – remember the Cole.
*****UPDATE: next post from Mel Maguire: the Libya debacle and why it is worse than Watergate