USS Cole Torpedoed by Political Correctness

by | Oct 28, 2000

The USS Cole is a $1 billion high-tech missile warship. But it was no match for a rubber dinghy manned by two Arabs. The explosive-laden dinghy severely damaged the Cole and inflicted 56 casualties (17 dead, 39 injured) on a once proud U.S. Navy. The attack on the Cole showed a “great deal of sophistication,” […]

The USS Cole is a $1 billion high-tech missile warship. But it was no match for a rubber dinghy manned by two Arabs. The explosive-laden dinghy severely damaged the Cole and inflicted 56 casualties (17 dead, 39 injured) on a once proud U.S. Navy. The attack on the Cole showed a “great deal of sophistication,” declared Richard Clarke, a top U.S. security official with the grand title of “National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection and Counter-terrorism.” On “60 Minutes” last Sunday, Clarke said that the rubber dinghy attack was so sophisticated that the United States is absolved of any suspicion of intelligence failure.

Listening to Clarke, one got the definite impression that an attack on the Cole with an Exocet missile would signify sophistication beyond comprehension.

There was nothing sophisticated about the attack on the Cole. Experts have pointed out that if the dinghy had been properly positioned, it would have set off the Cole’s warheads and fuel tanks, and blown the warship to pieces.

There can be no doubt, however, that the Arab attack was more sophisticated than the U.S. cover-up. Eight years of Clinton-Gore-Reno have proved that bald-faced lies lack consequence. Now everyone is getting in on the act. Clarke can go on national television and misrepresent an attack on a U.S. warship by a rubber dinghy as a highly sophisticated action outside the boundaries of prediction and defense.

Despite having the Cole’s report, the Navy can’t decide whether the attack on the Cole occurred earlier while entering port or later while docked. Obviously, a committee is searching for the least damaging explanation for the loss of a warship to a rubber dinghy.

What is being covered up is that the U.S.S. Cole and its sailors are victims of political correctness.

When a warship enters a potentially unfriendly port, it must be on alert. Unless the commander and crew are so green that they have never before entered a foreign port, officers and crew are familiar with the operation and capable of knowing that an unidentified rubber dinghy has no business coming alongside. Due diligence mandates the order to the dinghy to “stand off,” followed by warning shots. If the dinghy persists, due diligence requires that it be blown out of the water.

Three kinds of political correctness prevented the Cole from protecting itself. The State Dept doesn’t want U.S. ships on alert, because it implies a lack of confidence in foreign “friends” that might give offense. We mustn’t be undiplomatic even if U.S. property and lives are at stake.

The Cole’s commander knew that aggressive behavior on his part would be made an “incident” that politically correct Clinton-Gore appointees in the Pentagon and Office of the secretary of the Navy would use to terminate his career.

Repeatedly, Clinton appointees have made it clear that they regard the military services as “too aggressive,” that is, too male, and out of synch with the civilian population. Recall the recent punishments handed out to U.S. paratroopers who took their military duties in Kosovo seriously.

Years of “sensitivity training” have dulled the warrior spirit and the alertness factor that keeps a band of warriors alive. Commanders and troops are afraid to respond to a potential threat in a timely fashion. What if the threat turns out to be a misperception? The Arabs in the dinghy might only be out for a boat ride or bringing wares to hawk to the Cole’s crew.

The Cole’s commander could not know for certain the dinghy’s purpose. But he did know for certain that if he caused an incident that proved to be unwarranted, he would have no support from Clinton’s politically correct Navy. Political correctness has reversed the caution factor. A commander who uses caution to protect his ship is likely to be denounced as “macho-aggressive,” whereas one who uses caution to guard against a politically incorrect act can lose his ship but save his career.

The damage inflicted on our armed forces by Clinton-Gore goes far beyond insufficient funding. Similarly, the readiness problem goes beyond undermanned and undertrained forces. Military personnel are afraid to act in a ready, or timely, fashion. Unable to risk the use of force, the Cole assisted its own demise.

Paul Craig Roberts is the John M. Olin Fellow at the Institute for Political Economy, a Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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