EDITORIAL/OCTOBER                                                                                                                                                                                             2000

The bombing of the U.S.S. Cole is the latest disaster due directly to the Clinton administration's inept foreign policy, weakening of the military, and fear of the appropriate use of force. Unfortunately, it will probably not be the last.

          Why were our sailors unnecessarily put it harm's way? Prior to the massive defense cutbacks, the Navy maintained enough refueling tankers to service ships at sea, but this is no longer a viable option. A much smaller Navy is now spread thin over numerous deployments. Yet the Cole's tanks still held more than enough fuel to make it to the secure port of Oman. Why was the ship sent to Aden?  Apparently, the State Department has given the Navy instructions to improve relations and "fly the Flag" in the area.  Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, the Defense Department staffer who took responsibility for selecting the port of Aden, testified before Congress that it was the least dangerous dock in an area that is considered a rat's nest of terrorist enclaves.  Yemen was recently removed from the list of terrorist nations, however, just last week, the State Department had shut down the U.S. Embassy compound due to recent mob violence and threats revealed by U.S. intelligence sources. So despite Yemen's longstanding ties to international terrorism, its government was given more than a week's notice that one of the United States' premier capital ships would be placed in a highly vulnerable position in its waters for four to six hours.

Why was the Cole deployed to that area? It is a guided missile destroyer, and was being sent through the Suez Canal to Iraq to serve as a deterrent to Saddam Hussein, who is reestablishing his hegemony in the region and has directly threatened Israel. Why is Hussein a renewed threat? The Clinton Administration has completely collapsed in dealing with Iraq, failing to follow through the long term plans to replace Hussein with a moderate, legitimate government. Iraqi rebel forces were organized, supported, and funded in the waning days of the Gulf War. The intent was to set up an Iraqi led opposition to depose Saddam, while maintaining military and economic pressure on his regime and weakening his forces. Saddam successfully thwarted and ended the U.N. weapon inspections and sanctions. The administration cut the funding to and abandoned the Iraqi rebels, and just prior to the 1996 election, failed to provide air support as Saddam's troops pushed through in a major offensive and wiped them out. 

Why did a defeated Hussein become so bold?  After the Somali debacle, the Clinton administration became extremely gun shy of committing troops in dangerous areas, and relied on high tech weaponry to conduct safe, push button wars and avoid those nasty scenes of flag draped caskets sitting on the docks of Dover, Delaware. Unfortunately, high tech weaponry was actually designed to complement regular forces, not replace them.  Cruise missiles are expensive weapons that should be used to disable the enemy's command and control centers, making it safer for the remaining forces to do their job more effectively. The administration has instead squandered this arsenal in a ham-handed, haphazard manner, reducing the effectiveness and accuracy with no real threat of a follow up with significant force. In 78 days of high tech bombing of the small, unsupported third world regime of Milosevic, billions were squandered to destroy a handful of tanks and installations, leaving enemy forces largely unaffected. However, pilots were restricted to go no lower than a three-mile altitude to avoid any chance of casualties from enemy fire. This resulted in great inaccuracy and lots of collateral damage and civilian deaths. The Clinton-Gore policy of occasional, sporadic, and ineffective missile attacks on Iraq did little real damage. U.S. fighters are still being baited by Iraqi troops locking small, portable radar units on them. The lack of effective response and the Clinton administration's obvious fear of any real U.S. commitment has merely emboldened Hussein and elevated his status from crippled survivor to bold leader.

This message has not been lost on other enemies. The guerilla attacks on our embassies, our installations, and ships generally result only in a few missiles lobbed from a thousand miles away with no real chance of hitting a significant target, and the resulting innocent casualties and collateral damage will win more converts to our enemies' cause.

The Oslo Accords forced Israel to give up strategic territory to implacable enemies for the promise of peace. Yasser Arafat was at his weakest point, and PLO infighting threatened to depose him entirely. Through the Clinton-Gore administration's influence and U.S. funding, he became the premier power broker in the region, rearming his forces and pocketing billions in U.S. aid. Within months of the1993 agreement, Arafat began giving speeches for sympathetic audiences promising jihad for Jerusalem and repeatedly threatened to abandon "peace" and return to intifada. His state-controlled media has conducted a seven-year campaign of agitation and hate-filled, anti-Israel propaganda. Meanwhile, attacks on Israel increased, and the resulting insecurity encouraged the election of Benjamin Netanyahu, a no-nonsense hardliner. The Clinton-Gore team immediately started sabotaging his government through both diplomatic and funding channels behind the scenes, and publicly eroding confidence in his government through press releases-even gratuitously meddling in the subsequent election by sending James Carville to run the campaign of Barak.

Barak's latest concessions at the Camp David meeting with Arafat last June were astounding, giving the Palestinians basically 95 percent of everything they had demanded. Arafat, sensing the inherent weakness in both the offer and Clinton, simply walked out without a counter offer-his power comes from his fight against Israel, not by any peaceful existence with it. Clinton's State department later admitted they "underestimated" the actual animosity of the people in the area, judging their attitude would be closer to that of the professional negotiators.

The anti-Israel U.N. Security Council condemned the country for basically not allowing itself to be overrun by armed mobs. The United States disgracefully refused to stand by our former ally by vetoing the resolution. And Hillary had the chutzpah to tell New York Jewish voters that she disagreed with that decision, hoping they would forget her public embrace of Mrs. Arafat immediately after her lie about Israel poisoning Arab children.

To add insult to injury, the United States State Department believes the "17 or so dead sailors" on the U.S.S. Cole "does not compare to the 100+ Palestinians who have died in recent weeks" in Mideast violence, revealed in a stunning government memo to the Voice of America.  They spiked a fairly standard editorial about the U.S. Policy on terrorism, believing that it would inflame the situation. They later back-peddled when the memo was leaked, but the thought that an agent of our own government would have such an attitude is appalling. Immediately after the memorial service for the dead sailors, Clinton attended a golf tournament, telling two dozen international golfers Wednesday that their profession gives a "gentle and gentlemanly" rebuke to people like those who killed 17 American sailors of the USS Cole.

 "Like you, they stood for our common humanity and those who want to build the world where we bridge our differences and celebrate our diversity," he said. "When you play in this tournament with honor and by the rules, respecting the character and ability of your opponent, you show the world, including those rooting hard for you, the way we all ought to live and work. 

"You offer another rebuke, although gentle and gentlemanly, to those who believe our differences are more important than our common humanity." 

Nice-Sailors are still sweating in the Persian Gulf on a listing ship with no power, cutting the rotting remains of their comrades out of the twisted steel hulk, and the Commander-in-Chief compares them with golf pros at a country club.

Our military has been drastically weakened to such a point that we rely on terrorist enclaves to refuel our ships. The administration has undercut, sabotaged, and abandoned our allies and shown fear of any military intervention that may produce U.S. casualties,  while cutting the funding for military training, maintenance, and security. A defeated dictator has been allowed to rebuild his strength and power. And it has been recently revealed that Al Gore illegally concealed from Congress the fact the Russia has been supplying Iran with extensive nuclear and weapons technology. The U.S. dependence on foreign oil has increased 50 percent during the Clinton -Gore administration, and through ignorance, arrogance, and neglect, the Middle East has yet again been turned into a powder keg.

                                                                                      ~R.B. Rippey