Clinton has harsh words for Cole attackers


Associated Press

NORFOLK, Va. – Honoring the 17 sailors killed “standing guard for peace” aboard the USS Cole, President Clinton warned their attackers today: “You will not find a safe harbor for we will find you and justice will prevail.”

Speaking at a ceremony attended by many of the nation’s leaders and families of the dead and wounded, Clinton described the unidentified attackers as people who allowed their religion, political, racial, or ethnic views to warp their view of the world. “For them, it is their way or no way,” Clinton said.

But the president said such people “can never heal or build harmony or bring people together.”

Some family members of the sailors who died cried as Clinton spoke.

Some sailors injured in the attack on the USS Cole were taken to the ceremony in their home port by ambulance and listened to the president while lying on mobile hospital beds.

Two sailors injured in the attack in Yemen on Thursday remain in Germany undergoing treatment.

“They all had their own stories and their own dreams,” said Clinton, who met with victims’ families before the public ceremony. He read each of the 17 sailors’ names.

“In the names and faces of those we lost and mourn, the world sees our nation’s greatest strength,” Clinton said.

The ceremony was held at the Norfolk Naval Station’s Pier 12. Nearby were two of the Cole’s sister ships, the destroyers USS Ross and USS McFaul, and the aircraft carriers USS Enterprise and Eisenhower.

Clinton, speaking slowly with emotion, was joined at the ceremony by first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and their daughter, Chelsea.

“Today we honor our finest young people, fallen soldiers who rose to freedom’s challenge,” Clinton said.

Speaking directly to parents, brothers and sisters and loved ones, Clinton said: “We are all mindful of the limits of our poor words to lift your spirits or warm your hearts.”

The president said the crew of the Cole found common humanity and commitment to their country amid their diversity, and said that bond “must surely confound the minds of the hate-filled terrorists who killed them.”

Clinton asked Americans to ponder the service of troops serving the United States around the world.

“The lives of the men and women we lost on the USS Cole meant so much to those who loved them. “They have given us their best,” Clinton said. “Let us give them their meaning.”

Defense Secretary William Cohen called the attack an “act of pure evil.”

“Death snatched them away in one violent, unsuspecting moment, while they were making sure America and its friends slept easily in a dangerous world,” Cohen said.

The president said that over the past several days he had joined the rest of the nation in learning details about the fallen sailors – “their profiles, their lives, their loves, their service.”

Clinton noted that the dead included Electronics Technician 1st Class Richard Costelow, of Morrisville, Pa., who had worked with him in the White House, helping to update its communications system.

“All answered the same call to service and found themselves on the USS Cole headed for the Persian Gulf,” Clinton said.

Army Gen. Hugh Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reminded the ceremony: “Those who perpetrated this act of terror should also never forget that America’s memory is long and our reach longer.”

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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