The driver of the yellow Mercedes Benz truck in Beirut that awful day 24 years ago knew precisely where to go. According to intelligence reports, two members of what was then the underground terrorist organization known as Hizbullah had mapped the layout of the Marine barracks so that the suicide bomber could carry out his mission to maximum effect. He knew the Marines pulling sentry duty had pocketed their ammo clips thanks to some ridiculous rules of engagement. And he was aware that there were no barriers protecting the structure so that his truck laden with 12,000 pounds of explosives would only have to crash through ordinary wood and plaster in order to be positioned perfectly so that detonation would have catastrophic effects on the building.
The truck had apparently been prepared with the help of Syrians and Iranians in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon where several Revolutionary Guard units had been stationed under Syrian protection. An NSA intercept revealed at a trial that convicted the Islamic Republic of Iran of being behind the attack, stated that a message sent from Iranian intelligence headquarters in Tehran toAli-Akbar Mohtashemi, the Iranian ambassador in Damascus and directed the Iranian ambassador to get in touch with Islamic Amal which has since been identified as the military arm of Hizbullah at the time, and instruct him to “take spectacular action” against the Marines.
When the bomb detonated, it may have been the largest non-nuclear explosion in history up to that time (we used the “Daisy Cutter” in Afghanistan which weighs 15,000 lbs). The entire barracks building was lifted off its foundation and when it came down, it collapsed in a heap of cinder blocks, plaster, and dust. A few seconds after the blast, another suicide truck bomber crashed into the French military headquarters detonating a similar device. All told, 241 Americans lost their lives in the blast. Another 58 French paratroopers died in the other attack that day. It was the worst day for the Marines since the battle of Iwo Jima and the worst day for the US military since the first day of the Tet Offensive in Viet Nam.
While it is not a rock solid certainty that Hizbullah, acting on direct orders from Iran, was behind the attacks, the preponderance of evidence certainly points that way. At the time, Hizbullah was in its initial stages of formation, being trained by Revolutionary Guard units who had infiltrated Lebanon through Syria. At first, Hizbullah was not an independent actor in Lebanon, receiving its orders directly from Khomenei’s Iran. The US had just given Sadaam Hussein more than two billion dollars in aid to fight Iran and the thinking is that Khomenei wanted to get back at the US for our support of Iraq. When US forces pulled out the following February, it was simply gravy from the Iranian point of view.
So for 24 years, we have been in an undeclared war with Hizbullah and, by extension, Iran. Or, at least Iran has been at war with us. We have pretended that no such conflict exists under successive US presidents, Republican and Democratic, liberal and conservative. Occasionally, history intervenes and tries to rouse us out of this stupor but so far, to no avail. In 1984, Hizbullah attacked our embassy, killing 5 Americans. In 1985, TWA flight 847 was hijacked by Hizbullah and a Navy diver was savagely beaten to death. They kidnapped and murdered CIA officer William Buckley and Colonel William Higgins, a Marine serving with the UN at the time. (They were kind enough to forward videos of the murders to our government). They fired on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. They have operated around the world, killing Jews wherever there’s a soft enough target to hit.
To this day, Hizbullah is beholden to Iran, getting all of its funding and weapons as well as its training through the Revolutionary Guards. They receive an estimated $250 million a year – by far and away the largest recipient of Iranian foreign aid. Their fighters are trained in Iran, indoctrinated in Iran, and are more loyal to the “Islamic Revolution” than they are to Lebanon.
And yet, there are those who are serious when they proclaim they don’t want us to “start” a war with Iran.
This is worse than madness. It is deliberate, self deluded suicide not to recognize Iran as deadly enemy of the United States. Bombing and invading is not the answer, although as the last option available, it may come to that. But we should have absolutely no qualms about attempting to undermine the government of Iran and work for regime change – peacefully if at all possible. But ultimately, the only peaceful solution would be if the Iranian people themselves overthrew the corrupt and messianic mullahs who currently run that country.
It was 24 years ago today that Hizbullah, acting under what is believed to be the direct orders of Iran, made their largest and most successful attack against America. Their masters in Tehran have since been challenging us at every turn, testing our resolve and going so far as to assist our enemies in Iraq. The question now isn’t if a showdown will occur but when.
I don’t know if violence can be avoided. I know we must try to do so because the consequences of war with Iran for the entire world would be profoundly dangerous and destabilizing. But the threat Iran poses is intolerable and must be dealt with – one way or another.
Reader Mike emails with a correction:
The “Grand Slam” bomb of WWII, weighing 22,000 lbs and dropped from a British Lancaster bomber, was larger.
And for that matter, accidental ammunition explosions of WWI and WWII, in Halifax N.S., Texas, the Bay Area and IIRC, Eniwetok Atoll, each involved several thousand tons of munitions.
I should have mentioned above that the statement about the barracks bomb being the largest explosion ever up to that time was actually from a quote by the trial judge in the suit against the Iranians.
Obviously, he didn’t know what he was talking about – any more than I did.
Thanks to Mike for the correction.