Monday, October 12, 2009

Ten Twelve

Today is the ninth anniversary of 10/12.

Lots of people commented on 9/11, including myself and some other bloggers I follow, echoing the media emphasis on that important and memorable event. But the media gets it wrong when they assert that it was Al Qaeda's second attack on US territory. It was the fourth. And it says something sad about us as a nation that we give more importance to an attack on a civilian office building than one that left dozens of our servicemen either killed or wounded.

I am, of course, talking primarily about the attack on the USS Cole on 10/12/2000, which killed 17 sailors and left 39 others wounded. (The other event I allude to was "8/7", the attack on two US embassies on 8/7/1998. Embassies, like US flagged military vessels, are considered sovereign US territory.) Al Qaeda's first attack on the World Trade Center was not viewed as an act of war. Oddly, even their attack on a US naval warship was not viewed as an act of war. Even more oddly, it was their second attack on the World Trade Center -- not the simultaneous attack on the Pentagon and/or the White House and probably the Capitol -- that got recognized as an act of war.

This attack on our warship is so far off of our cultural radar that, when I alluded to this event on Dean Dad's blog last week, even my reference to "naval warships" left him scratching his head about 10/12, thinking I was talking about Hitler rather than Japan. No, I was not talking about Japan invading China or Germany invading Poland or France. I was talking about Japan attacking US Navy ships while in port at what was then US colonial territory (Hawaii) as well as on the seas in and around another US colony (the Philippines). Al Qaeda attacked a US Navy warship visiting a port in Yemen, almost a full year before it attacked the Pentagon. Both attacks on naval vessels provided an abundantly clear indication that they were at war with us, whether we liked it or not. Some might argue that both were wars of "choice", we could have chosen to let Japan control the Pacific as its own private lake and we could have disengaged completely from the middle east (including Saudi Arabia and Israel), but neither were likely choices for us to make.

Al Qaeda's timing was perfectly bad, by the way.

They hit a pair of embassies in the summer of 1998, when the US was totally preoccupied with a sex scandal and the subsequent impeachment of the President. The Clinton administration, weakened as it was by those events, seemed to view it as an isolated act of terror rather than part of a growing campaign against the US. That view seemed to be shared by the professionals in the DoD and CIA, as reflected in the refusal to attack bin Laden when we had him in our sights.

They hit the USS Cole in the late stages of the 2000 Presidential campaign, and the information about the connections to Al Qaeda were developed during the interregnum period that included a delayed handover because of the contentious recount in Florida. The report of the 9/11 Commission makes it pretty clear that the Clinton administration, having been unable to get the CIA and DoD to attack bin Laden himself for previous acts of war, did not even try to push that point during its last weeks in office. It also makes it very clear that the Bush administration seemed to think that those were attacks on the Clinton administration rather than on the United States, blowing off the new information developed in December and January by the FBI and others.

Forgetting the USS Cole seems typical of the way we have, as a nation, downplayed the significance of the war against Al Qaeda in response to its war against us. We had 8 years of the Bush administration talking about how much it cares about US servicemen, yet they did nothing when 17 of them were killed by Al Qaeda and continued to do nothing when reports surfaced that the same people were planning more of the same. When they complained that Oh, we didn't think they would attack the US, all I could think was What do you think a ship flying the US flag is, if not part of the US? Did Bush and Cheney really think it would be no big deal if Al Qaeda sunk more ships?

The people questioning the war in Afghanistan need to remember that there is at least one target on their list that they haven't hit yet, the Capitol, and that past history says they will not rest until they carry out their plans ... unless we stop them first. We need to remember 10/12, or 9/11 won't be the last we hear from Al Qaeda.

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