Friday, October 23, 2009

In Memoriam: 1983 Beirut Terrorist Attack Killed 241 Americans

On Oct. 23, 1983, a suicide truck-bombing at Beirut International Airport in Lebanon killed 220 U.S. Marines, 18 sailors and 3 Army soldiers; a near-simultaneous attack on French forces killed 58 paratroopers.

The early reports said 161 Americans killed, but in the following days of the bombing, reports of the death toll increased.

The pullout of the US troops a few months later and the lack of a decisive US military response may have consequently contributed to the rise of anti-American Middle East terrorists and the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. From Wikipedia, on the lack of a forceful US response to the terrorist attack.
In fact, there was no serious retaliation for the Beirut bombing from the Americans,[16] besides a few shellings. In December 1983, U.S. aircraft from the U.S.S. Enterprise CVN-65 battle group attacked Syrian targets in Lebanon, but this was in response to Syrian missile attacks on planes, not the barracks bombing. Multi service Ground support units were withdrawn from Beirut post attack on the marine barracks due to retaliatory threats.

In the meantime, the attack gave a boost to the growth of the Shi'ite organization Hezbollah. Hezbollah denied involvement in the attacks but was seen by Lebanese as involved nonetheless as it praised the "two martyr mujahideen" who "set out to inflict upon the U.S. Administration an utter defeat not experienced since Vietnam ..."[17] Hezbollah was now seen by many as "the spearhead of the sacred Muslim struggle against foreign occupation".

Amal militia leader Nabih Berri, who had previously supported U.S. mediation efforts, asked the U.S. and France to leave Lebanon and accused the U.S. and France of seeking to commit 'massacres' against the Lebanese and creating a "climate of racism" against the Shia.[18] Islamic Jihad phoned in new threats against the MNF "pledging that 'the earth would tremble' unless the MNF withdrew by New Year's Day 1984.[19]

The Marines were moved offshore where they could not be targeted. On February 7, 1984, President Reagan ordered the Marines to begin withdrawal from Lebanon. This was completed on February 26, four months after the barracks bombing; the rest of the Multinational Force was withdrawn by April.

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