- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 1, 2000

Two reports warning of terrorist activities issued before and after the suicide bombing attack on the USS Cole have been discounted by the House Armed Services Committee as not containing specific enough information to prevent the attack. Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of the U.S. Gulf forces, told the committee last week that if he had received specific enough information on an imminent attack, he would have ordered force-protection measures. The committee's defense of this inaction despite the reports issued by the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency beg the questions: Why did the USS Cole not receive any warning, and why was the Navy ill-prepared to handle such a threat?

The site of the USS Cole attack is known to be a base for the Islamic Army of Aden, founded by Islamic terrorist Osama bin Laden's brother, Muhammad Khalifa. Yemen itself has been flagged by the State Department as the headquarters of a number of Islamic terrorist groups. Such circumstances dictate that "force-protection measures" should already have been in force at the time of the refueling at the Yemeni port, and that those procedures should have been thoroughly practiced before the U.S. destroyer approached the dangerous region. But such protective measures would still not be enough to guard the servicemen if U.S. intelligence in the region had not delivered the necessary warnings in a timely manner.

What will it take for this administration to consider the lives of servicemen who work to safeguard our country's security worth protecting? Over two years ago, the administration had to answer a similar question when our ambassador to Kenya, Prudence Bushnell, appealed to the State Department on two different occasions to enhance security at her embassy in Nairobi because of safety threats there. But she was rebuffed both times, and 224 people died and over 6,000 were injured in the bin Laden-orchestrated bombings of the U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. In the wake of that national security threat, the administration became entangled in arguments over embassy spending and the number of feet each embassy should be from the street to prevent future attacks. Meanwhile, terrorists preparing for their next attack were laughing at the superpower's shortsightedness.

President Clinton is giving them room to mock the United States again by using rhetorical rather than physical threats immediately following the attack. Promising retaliation before the investigation is complete and a strategy has been created perpetuates the administration's policy of replacing military preparedness with reactive operations. "We would probably be better served by less huffing and puffing, concentrating on determining the facts before threatening action, and taking care of the families" of the victims, Steve Duncan, former assistant secretary of defense under the Reagan and Bush administrations, said in an interview.

The way forward now is for the administration to answer questions about its own negligence, and give the intelligence and military community the support they need to prevent such tragedies in the future. If it doesn't, it will continue to hear the terrorists' laughter.

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