Late this week, with the nation and the world distracted by a TRILLION dollar spending bill, President Obama halted the trial of the mastermind behind the USS Cole bombing. For a lot of people the USS Cole is a mere footnote in the history books, but good history books look back 9yrs ago and list the attack as the turning point in America’s war with Al Queda. It was the moment when Al Queda went from world class terrorist group to super-terrorists; to a movement.
The attack on the USS Cole demonstrates absolutely EVERY single one of America’s systemic failures in dealing with Al Queda.
- The attack was detected by multiple US intelligence agencies-including naval intelligence, but no one connected the dots.
- The ship was warned, but didn’t protect itself well enough. The response was limited to law enforcement/FBI efforts that were thwarted by diplomatic nuances.
- There was no military response.
- It was and IS NOW AGAIN an al Queda recruiting tool/demonstration of their success
- There was no demonstration of American resolve, revenge, or justice.
- Most of the USS Cole bombers were arrested by our “allies” in Yemen, then they escaped (sometimes several times).
The US did get the mastermind, but now Barack Obama’s dropped the charges against him. He dropped the charges AND HAD THE AUDACITY and ARROGANCE to ask the families of terror victims to come to the White House for a photo op. That gesture (genuine or not is irrelevant) rang hollow as demonstrated in this letter from the father of one of the USS Cole victims to our President.
Dear Mr. President Obama,
Our son’s name was Gary G. Swenchonis, Jr. He was a Fireman in the US Navy. He was killed in the attack on the USS Cole on 10/12/00. This letter is an appeal to you to take some long overdue action on the behalf of the 17 sailors murdered in that attack. It is an appeal for justice for their families as well.
We have been fighting against the Yemeni government and our own government for eight long years to obtain a modicum of justice for our son and his 16 mates. It’s our sincere hope that you, President Obama, and your administration will help us.
President Clinton promised the nation action in the wake of the attack, but never followed through. President Bush wrote to me, and he promised action as well. However for eight years not one of the killers was held accountable by our government or the Yemeni government.
It was not until just these past few months of the Bush administration that we finally saw some concrete measures when we witnessed the case of Ali Hamza al Bahlul. It was the first time my family and I received any comfort through this long ordeal. We attended the trial at Guantanamo Bay Prison, and I was fortunate enough to testify. The Military Commission staff conducted themselves with the utmost professionalism in all their duties, and we are proud to have them representing us in court as our lawyers. The nation can be proud of the conduct of the Military Commissions.
Bahlul was Bin Laden’s media secretary and propagandist. He produced a video that glorified the murders of our son and sixteen other sailors and the wounding 39 more sailors. The video’s purpose was to incite others to murder. Our family believes he received an appropriate sentence.
But besides that one instance of justice, we have had to listen and watch with broken hearts as the Yemeni government coddled our son’s killers. The guilty were pardoned, given light sentences that were later reduced, or not even tried for the attack. We understand that all the members of the terror cell that attacked the United States that day are walking around free in Yemen.
Yet our government still supports President Saleh and his corrupt regime even though he blatantly aids and abets Al Qaeda, Hamas and terrorism. Our government supports Saleh and his duplicitous regime even though he did everything possible to hamper with the US investigation into the Cole attack. And he was successful. Our government supports Saleh and he has used US military assistance to engage in a near genocide of his own citizens in the Sa’ada region, called “Yemen’s Darfur”.
President Obama, now I fear these sailors who died in the service of the United States will be abandoned again. It will be one more tragedy in a long list of tragedies in the Cole attack. With the suspension of the trials at Guantanamo Prison, we are deeply and painfully concerned that Abd al Rahim al Nashiri and Tawfiq bin Attash will evade justice like all their terrorists friends did in Yemen. These men had a significant role in the terrorist attack that killed my son and 16 other sailors. They are in US custody. We have a right to expect a just outcome. However, our fear is if the terrorists are tried here in our federal courts, they will go free. The bias in favor of the defendant built into our system of criminal justice becomes magnified and disproportionate in terrorism cases which are in fact not crimes but national assaults.
Regardless of one’s view on the definition of torture, there is evidence they murdered American citizens in cold blood. I don’t see how that fact can be ignored and justify their release. The debates revolving around the use of torture does not lessen the severity of the heinous crimes that they are charged with. We have had to watch helplessly as the killers of our son and his mates were tried and then one by one released by the Yemeni regime. I begged our leaders to stop that parody of a trial at the time. They did not. We implore you not to put the families through that nightmare again.
Our Representative and Senator Cornyn along with some other senators are actively working on other issues for us in regards to the attack on the USS Cole. His office has informed us that there will be a Judicial Hearing this year on those issues. It’s my heartfelt hope that you President Obama will stand with us and support that hearing.
We the families of these forgotten heroes have been denied answers for years to the most basic questions. My wife and I were so happy to read in the paper that the goal of your administration is to make our government as honest and transparent as it could be. It was a breath of fresh air. Your words gave us hope that we may actually get answers to our questions after eight long years.
I would also like to ask you if you could personally look into the issue of why the Cole Families have not been able to collect the monies awarded to us in a Federal Court under the Death on the High Seas Act. It’s been two years since our lawyers won that case. And we are still waiting. The monies awarded were only for our loved one’s future wages. How can our own government ignore a Federal Court’s verdict?
The Justice Department has taken issue with releasing the funds from the Sudan which provided assistance for the attack on the Cole. Our own government is fighting us again. And how ironic is it that we were told that the Justice Department is there to help victims of terrorist attacks. We are not asking for taxpayer monies. I never have and never will. We want the nations that supported Al Qaeda such as the Sudan and Yemen to be held responsible, not the American taxpayer. I think that if the 9/11 families had been treated this way, that there would have been a national outcry against such callous treatment from their government. But they were a much larger group of victims than us and they had the press focused on their plight.
Your assistance on these matters would be greatly appreciated. I know that we the Cole families are a small group and that is one of the reasons that we have been ignored by two administrations. Yet unfortunately, I think that small groups of victims of terrorist attacks may continue to grow here in America. And victims like those of the Cole and Embassy attacks will see more of their fellow Americans join our group. It’s my hope that you as the President will see to it that these small groups will be treated equally, with the same rights and dignity as a large group of victims that has suffered the loss of loved ones murdered by terrorists. As Judge Doumar stated in his ruling “It’s a further tragedy that the laws of the United States, in this instance provide no remedy for the psychological and emotional losses suffered by the survivors.”
Small groups of victims of terrorism have no high profile advocates like the terrorist do. All we can do is to beseech our elected politicians so the real victims are not forgotten. Sometimes partisanship rears it insidious head, and justice for the true victims is lost in the process. I think its way past time that Congress passed a Bill that will ensure that American Victims of Terrorist Attacks will have legal and financial recourse at obtaining justice, regardless if it’s just one family and or thousands of families. And not have their own government as their greatest and most formidable opponent to obtaining justice. The laws, passed to help victims, have been watered down to where it is practically of no use to the victims and/or their families.
I know that the press and the Human Rights groups only normally speak for the accused such as the terrorists who helped to murder our son and his mates. But even though they are dead, they still have rights too. We their families do as well. We have no pro bono lawyers. We have no press to champion our cause on the TV, in the newspapers and or the internet like the terrorists do. We have only our elected leaders, the lawyers that we pay if we can afford them and other citizens sympathetic to our plight and our cause.
We hope and pray that you will be willing to help us change that, Mr. President. We hold out hope that with you as our new President that the plight of small groups of victims of terrorism such as the Cole Families and their murdered loved ones will no longer be ignored by their government. We hope and we pray that you will even go so far as to ensure that future groups of Americans will never have to endure what we have had to endure, at least in regards to the problems I have stated.
Thank you for your time in these most important issues.
Gary G and Deborah Swenchonis
Remember the Cole! 01/24/09