'This Is What Our Navy is About'

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:19 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - "The bottom line is, we don't live in a risk-free world," said Admiral Vern Clark, the Chief of U.S. Naval Operations, commenting on the bombing of the USS Cole in a Friday morning television interview.

Adm. Clark hailed the 250 Americans who remain on the crippled destroyer Friday as "heroes" who are "battling for their ship." He said flooding on the ship has been controlled, and as of Friday morning, the destroyer was listing only 4 degrees.

He praised the captain and crew for doing a "magnificent" job, and he denied that what happened Friday was an incredible breach of security.

"We pull into ports all around the world. I have 101 ships in our Navy out - forward deployed - this morning," Adm. Clark said on NBC's Today show. "When you do so, you notify, through our embassy channels, local authorities to help support us...There was no way for the captain to know that this one individual had somehow penetrated the support team."

Adm. Clark says one of the small boats helping to tie up the U.S. Navy ship is the apparent source of the explosives that tore a huge hole in the USS Cole amidships. He said while final judgments have to be made, "from where I sit, it's pretty obvious to me" that it was terrorism.

As of Friday morning, the official death toll stood at seven Americans dead. Another ten are missing, the admiral said. [The Navy later said the ten missing Americans are "presumed dead," raising the death toll to 17.] Adm. Clark said the 35 injured Americans are getting the best treatment available, some of them in the African nation of Djibouti.

Admiral Clark said what happened Thursday in the Gulf of Aden is a reminder of "what our Navy is about."

"We're out there," he said. "This is the Navy that the people of the United States of America have bought, so that we could be forward, and we could be representing the interests of the nation in the far corners of the earth."

Adm. Clark noted that the United States of America has global interests. "We've been in the Gulf for 50 years...and our presence creates stability. And we're not going to back down from that responsibility."