Marines sent to act a peacekeeping force were using a large building at the Beirut Airport for a barracks. Attacked by a large truck bomb, the building was destroyed by blast, fire, and collapse. 220 Marines, 18 sailors, and 3 soldiers died. 60 other Americans were injured, some critically.
It is the largest one day loss of Marines since the landings on Iwo Jima in February 1945. Hezbollah, a radical Islamic group, got the credit. It remains unclear if they were completely responsible.
President Reagan, in what I consider to be the worst decision of his Presidency, pulled the Marines out and brought them home.
We were not prepared. There is plenty of blame to share at various points in the chain of command. Those Marines should have been dispersed, behind a secure perimeter. The Marines on guard should have had loaded weapons, not just one Marine at the gate with an empty M-16. The mission they were given, the equipment they brought, the situation they were in, were all ripe for an attack like this.
But once it occurred, the worst thing was that the United States turned tail and left. It displayed our lack of resolve to the world.
This is the 25th anniversary of that bombing, and I went to visit the Beirut Memorial at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina on Sunday.
These are the pictures of that memorial. There’s been an addition. There’s a piece of a beam from the World Trade Center mounted across from the wall that lists the names of the dead. Someone besides me saw the connection between these two events.
It’s a nice memorial, and the Marines, sailors and soldiers deserve to be remembered and honored there. The WTC fragment shouts silently, but eloquently, the result of the decisions made by politicians in the face of unflinching evil.
Because evil is what it is, and evil doesn’t compromise. Evil must be faced and defeated. Until we remember the lesson of Beirut, the lesson of the USS Cole, the lesson of PanAm 103, the lesson of 9/11, and the lesson of every truck bomb, car bomb, IED, and sniper in the Mid-East, until we look at the unremitting terror that flows out of fundamentalist Islam and decide that we will do whatever it takes to stop it, it will continue. And we will have to keep building more memorials.
To kill the Americans and their allies — civilians and military — is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it.
–Osama Bin Laden