The former commander of the USS Cole said it was “a good day” when a U.S. airstrike in Yemen reportedly killed an al-Qaeda operative tied to the deadly attack on the guided missile destroyer nearly two decades ago.
“It’s a good day because we still have a government and people in the military who remember and are willing to hold people accountable for killing Americans,” said retired U.S. Navy Cmdr. Kirk Lippold, who lost 17 sailors in the attack. “It gives you a sense of justice.”
The U.S. military announced Friday that a Jan. 1 airstrike in Yemen targeted al-Qaeda member Jamal al-Badawi. Suicide bombers in a boat packed with explosives attacked the Cole during refueling on Oct. 12, 2000, in the Port of Aden.
U.S. Central Command said in a statement U.S. forces “are still assessing the results of the strike following a deliberate process to confirm” al-Badawi’s death.
Lippold told the Herald al-Badawi was a convicted member of the murderous terror cell and “handled the movement of the boat, explosives, and personnel in and out of Yemen that allowed all the pieces to come together in (port of) Aden for the attack.” Lippold said he will never forget the “thunderous explosion” that seemed to lift the destroyer up and to the right.
He said he could “feel the thrust” of the explosion and felt the ship “twisted and come back down into the water.” He said he grabbed his 9 mm pistol and ran toward the danger.
The Cole ambush was a prelude to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attack — a tragic day Lippold said he fears is being lost to history.
“There’s a generation of young people who weren’t alive when 9/11 happened. We have to remind them,” he said, adding that recent talk of pulling troops out of Syria and possibly Afghanistan will just allow terror groups to gain strength.
“We need to make investments in our future and national security. That is not wasted money,” Lippold, 59, said during a telephone call from Washington, D.C., Friday. “We will be worse off if we disengage.”
He urged the Trump administration to take on Pakistan’s support of terror groups.
“I know it’s been a long time,” he added, “but the attack on the Cole is why we are fighting this war.”
President Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria has sparked concern, with the Pentagon asking for more time.
Bay State U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren — who is exploring a run for president in 2020 — said it is “right” to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan. But others say it opens the door for more terror strikes.
“Don’t delude yourself. Terrorism is not going away,” said Debra Burlingame, whose brother Charles “Chic” Burlingame III was the pilot of American Airlines Flight 77 that was hijacked out of Washington Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Va., on 9/11 and flown into the Pentagon.
“This is an enemy that has metastasized,” she added. “We can’t control them but we can control our own destiny.”
This article is written by Joe Dwinell from Boston Herald and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.