It is entirely possible that this Persian Gulf incident was a test of U.S. resolve and a probe of security measures. If so, the Navy and the nation passed the test. No American lives were lost and the Rappahannock suffered no damage. But Navy brass, and political leaders, should consider ways to improve the security policies. In addition to their security teams, perhaps refueling ships should have a destroyer escort such as the USS Cole, which has not been forgotten.
As Lawrence Wright noted in The Looming Tower, after the attack injured petty officer Kathy Lopez, swathed in bandages, managed to whisper a message for U.S. officials. “Get them,” she said. It took a while, but they got at least one.
In May a CIA drone took out Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso, the Al Qaeda chief who masterminded the Cole attack and was plotting to bring down airliners with an improved underwear bomb. That kind of precision targeting in effect continues a Reagan policy, “you can run but you can’t hide.” Reagan said that in 1985 after ordering U.S. Navy F-14 fighters to force the landing of an Egyptian airliner carrying four Palestinian terrorists who had murdered Leon Klinghoffer, 69 years old and in a wheelchair, aboard the Achille Lauro cruise ship.
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