This article was also published in the 6 November 2000 issue of the Marine Corps Times.

23 October 2000

Promises And Promise-Makers

Anthony F. Milavic,
Major, United States Marine Corps, (Retired)


On 12 October 2000, an explosive-laden vehicle was steered into the side of the destroyer USS Cole in the port of Aden, Yemen, and its cargo detonated. That act took the lives of 17 U.S. sailors.

During the remembrance ceremony on 18 October 2000, President Clinton and Defense Secretary William Cohen promised the nation that those responsible for that act would be brought to justice. 

Their words and promises stirred the emotions of the shipmates, families and friends of the deceased on the pier there in Norfolk, Virginia as shown by the tears and embraces captured by cameras. 

On 23 October1983, an explosive-laden vehicle was driven into the headquarters building of Battalion Landing Team 1/8 in Beirut, Lebanon and its cargo detonated. That act took the lives of 241 U.S. servicemen — 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers.

On 18 July 1998, George J. Tenet, director of Central Intelligence, asked the attendees of the Marine Corps Intelligence Association’s 5th Annual Convention dinner to remember that act and, he promised us, the perpetrators would be brought to justice on "[his] watch."

He touched a sensitive Marine nerve, and those present in the ballroom of the Pentagon City Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Virginia responded with an emotional round of applause.

The 17th anniversary of the Beirut bombing just passed, and neither have those responsible been brought to justice nor have I heard a single report on the status of Tenet’s promise. 

Perhaps it is because this event and that promise are old news or vague memories for the American electorate.

Conversely, the media has been filled with reports over the past week of efforts to identify those responsible for the recent Cole incident. 

If the current political campaigns provide the impetus to find and punish the perpetrators of those killed on the Cole, I will applaud and thank those who made it happen. 

However, given the results of the Beirut investigation, the fact that this campaign will be over in days, the credibility record of this administration and the fact that Clinton, Cohen and Tenet will be out of office in some three months, I am not optimistic that anyone will be brought to justice in the near term. 

If that pessimism proves to be accurate, we will be left with only our memories. I know that the members of the U.S. Armed Forces will remember their fallen comrades; I only hope that all will also remember the promises and the promise-makers and act accordingly. 


On 5 February 2009, on the orders of President Obama, charges were dropped "without prejudice" against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the suspected mastermind of the USS Cole attack, held at the Guantanamo Bay prison. The next day, President Obama, reportedly, promised relatives of the Cole casualties that Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri would be brought to justce.