On Thursday, Oct. 12, 2000, the United States guided missile destroyer (DDG-67) USS Cole, named for Sergeant Darrell S. Cole who was killed in action on Iwo Jima in 1945 and commanded by Commander Kirk Lippold, was refueling in the port of Aden Yemen.
At 11:18 a.m., it was attacked by an al-Qaida suicide boat bomb containing an explosive charge powerful enough to rip a 40-foot whole in the side of the Cole.
17 sailors lost their lives in the attack, which in hindsight would be seen as one of the stepping stones on Osama bin Laden’s path to the attacks on the World Trade Center less than a year later.
In his new book “Front Burner,” former Commander Kirk Lippold tells the story of the attack on his ship and crew, as well as the heroic story of the hours and days after the attack as he and they fought to save their crippled ship.
In an interview with The Daily Caller, Lippold expressed his feelings of regret that more was not done to avenge the lives of the sailors he was ultimately responsible for, and the political inaction in response to the attack.
“I think that the United States and the Navy under-appreciated the growing threat that al-Qaida represented to our national security interests and to the Navy,” Lippold said, “while no one ever expected a waterborne improvised explosive device built in to a boat to come along side and detonate. By the same token, following that attack, there was no response, absolutely no response.”
“Everyone kept raising the bar as to the evidence they required, when clearly at both the CIA and at the FBI, ample evidence existed for a military response,” he continued. “The Clinton administration kept balking at that and didn’t want to respond and eventually just wrapped up an investigation literally the day before the Bush administration took office.”
“But when the Bush administration came in, they had an attitude that we’re more forward-looking, not backward acting. Consequently, nothing was done.”