The Pentagon announced on Wednesday that they would seek the death penalty for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a jihadist complicit in the bombing of the USS Cole.
The announcement is the first fruit of the Obama administration’s reversal of position in trying to convict militant Islamists in civil courts.
And it was also long overdue.
If 9-11 was a tsunami that altered America’s relations with the world, the attack on the USS Cole was its earthquake.
Occurring on October 12th, 2000- a year before 9-11, minus a month and day- it was the first clue that the tectonic plates of US policy would be shifting, and that there was nothing we could do about it.
The Cole bombing contained many of the same characters responsible for 9-11, the Ft Hood shooting, the attempt to car bomb Times Square and the failed attempt to blow up the Northwest Airlines Christmas flight in 2009.
That we ignored the Cole bombing for so long, that we still try to ignore it, Mr. Attorney General Holder, is insult to my people.
O.K., I really don’t have any people, but if I did, they’d be sailors.
It’s not just the depravation of liberty and comfort and convenience that sailors submit to in the ordinary course of business; the business of just keeping the Navy afloat.
It’s that it’s hard, boring, tedious, uncomfortable and often dangerous being a salior, even when people aren’t trying to kill you.
I thank God every day that many are doing that business, 24-hours a day, all over the world.
Right now, as you read this, a 25 year-old Petty Officer 2nd Class is sitting behind a .50 caliber machine gun, on 34-foot boat painted steel gray. He’s on a force protection mission, protecting a ship from the type of attack that happened to the Cole.
He’s slathered in sunscreen, because not only does he have to watch for bad guys, he has to watch for skin cancer too. Besides which; getting a sun burn is a violation of orders which could lead to disciplinary action against him.
There will be no beer today for him, as he sweats out a pint or two of water an hour, surrounded by nothing but desert and water.
Being dehydrated? That’s also a violation of orders.
When he’s done with his 18 hour day, he gets to sleep in a tent. Then he gets to do it again.
Many of the Inshore Boat Units of this type are reserve components, meaning they will be called up for deployment, sent back to civilian life, and then will called up again.
For 17 USS Cole sailors, they didn’t have all those years. They died as a direct result of the explosion in October 2000.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Johann Gokool survived the explosion as one of 39 injured in the attack, but lost his left leg as a result. He was discharged as 100 percent disabled.
He suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that manifested itself in severe panic attacks. He died in December, 2009, just four days after an Islamist tried to blow up Northwest Flight 253. He died from a panic attack so severe that his family says it killed him.
He was 31 years-old.
He’s buried now at Arlington National Cemetery, as are the other sailors from the Cole.
If the Department of Defense secures a conviction and puts radical Islamist Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri to death, some Americans will mourn the death of the jihadist.
But I won’t.
Instead I will remember the sailors from the Cole, especially Johann Gokool, who died a little every day for nine years.
Remembrance is long overdue.
List of the Cole dead:
Chief Petty Officer Richard Costelow, Morrisville, Pennsylvania.
Signalman Seaman Recruit Cheron Luis Gunn, Rex, Georgia.
Seaman James Rodrick McDaniels, Norfolk, Virginia.
Seaman Recruit Lakiba Nicole Palmer, San Diego, California.
Operations Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Lamont Saunders, Ringgold, Virginia.
Ensign Andrew Triplett, Macon, Mississippi.
Seaman Apprentice Craig Bryan Wibberley, Williamsport, Maryland.
Hull Maintenance Technician 3rd Class, Kenneth Eugene Clodfelter, Mechanicsville, Virginia.
Mess Management Specialist Seaman Lakeina Monique Francis, Woodleaf, North Carolina.
Information Systems Technician Seaman Timothy Lee Gauna, Rice, Texas
Engineman 2nd Class Mark Ian Nieto, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.
Electronics Warfare Technician 3rd Class Ronald Scott Owens, Vero Beach, Florida.
Engineman Fireman Joshua Langdon Parlett, Churchville, Maryland.
Fireman Apprentice Patrick Howard Roy, Cornwall on Hudson, New York.
Electronics Warfare Technician 2nd Class Kevin Shawn Rux, Portland, North Dakota.
Mess Management Specialist 3rd Class Ronchester Mananga Santiago, Kingsville, Texas
Fireman Gary Graham Swenchonis Jr., Rockport, Texas
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