It was 25 years ago today, 6 A.M. on October 23, 1983 that 220 United States Marines, 18 Navy sailors and 3 Army soldiers were killed by a suicide truck bomber in Beirut, Lebanon. Two minutes later, a similar attack killed 58 French soldiers stationed there. The Fundamentalist Islamic Jihad against The West had begun. The President of The United States at the time, a half-daft former movie actor named Ronald Reagan, talked a good game about keeping the Marines in Lebanon and seeking out those responsible, but ultimately pulled out of the country and did nothing to respond to the attack. Instead, two days later, he had the Marines invade Grenada, a tiny island in the Caribbean, perhaps setting the stage for Bush The Younger attacking the wrong country in response to the attacks on America of September 11, 2001. Must be a Republican thing, or an insane thing. Hard to tell.
For whatever reason, America did not notice or acknowledge that a war was being waged on us. There had been enough warning, starting in 1979 when Iran took American Embassy personnel hostage for 444 days and thus helped Ronald Reagan win the presidency. Then in 1981 Libya was found to be planning assassinations of American diplomats in Rome and Paris. American warplanes shot down 2 Libyan warplanes, with Reagan treating the whole thing as an isolated incident. Then when the Marine barracks was demolished in 1983 with 241 dead, Reagan did nothing, probably chalking it up to the long history of the politics of insanity that rule the Middle East instead of the opening salvos of a war.
In December of 1983 the American Embassy in Kuwait was also bombed. In March of 1984 the CIA station chief in Beirut was kidnapped and would later die in captivity. He was one of thirty Americans who would be kidnapped in Lebanon between 1982 and 1992. Reagan’s response to the kidnappers was to sell armaments to Iran secretly and use the proceeds to fund a war in Nicaragua, but only 3 hostages were released, and the most powerful government on earth was reduced to negotiating with terrorists. The Iran-Contra affair remains a black mark on American diplomacy that came back to bite us in the ass again and again. In September of 1984 the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon was bombed, killing 24 people.
In December, 1984 a Kuwait airlines flight was hijacked in Tehran, Iran and the captors demanded the release of 17 Kuwaiti prisoners responsible for the 1983 bombing of the American embassy in Kuwait. When the demands went unmet, the hijackers killed two Americans before Iranian officials stormed the jet and released the remaining hostages. Then in June of 1985 an American commercial jet was hijacked and rerouted to Lebanon where the same demand was made and again unmet. The hijackers killed an American Navy diver and tossed his body on the runway. America blamed Hezbollah and secretly pressured our stooge in the Middle East, Israel, to start releasing some captives to placate these terrorists. That worked out about as well as Neville Chamberlain’s famous appeasement act.
In October of 1986 the cruise ship Achille Lauro was hijacked by Palestinians and they executed an elderly wheelchair-bound American tourist. In April of that year a discotheque in Germany was bombed that was popular with soldiers from the American Army of Occupation left over from World War 2. An American was killed and it was determined that Libya was responsible. This time Reagan bombed Libya in response. Then in the Alzheimer-ridden Reagan’s last few days as president in December of 1988, Pan Am flight 103 was destroyed over Scotland, killing all 259 on board, once again courtesy of Libya. No action was taken against anyone for the bombing until 2000, when one man was convicted and another acquitted.
Things were fairly quiet terrorism-wise during the four year presidency of Bush The Elder, other than him attacking Iraq over their alleged theft of Kuwaiti oil. Then when Clinton became president the attacks started all over again with attacks on the U.S.S. Cole, the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, simultaneous attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. At this point President Clinton had figured out that al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden were behind a lot of this stuff and fired cruise missiles into Afghanistan and Sudan at terrorist bases. Richard Clark was assigned to track and kill bin Laden, but he proved pretty elusive. Several opportunities to kill the man were aborted when it was determined there would be too many civilian casualties. Bin Laden is a guy America once supplied with arms and training to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, yet another Iran-Contra type of fiasco that came back to haunt us.
As damaging as all these attacks were, they were as flea bites on a St. Bernard, irritating but not all-consumimg. Then came 9/11/01 and the devastating attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. That finally got our attention and made us realize we were at war. Unfortunately for America, at that point we had Bush The Elder’s son as our president, Bush The Younger, possibly the stupidest and most arrogant individual ever to hold a public office above the rank of dog catcher. After attacking Afghanistan where al Qaeda was based, he decided to invade Iraq, a nation not involved in any way with anti-American terror attacks.
In this way he recruited more Jihad fighters than bin Laden ever dreamed of and 5 years later we’re still occupying a crumbling Iraq. Bush the Younger is using Iraq as a battleground to fight new enemies he has actively created while al Qaeda still thrives and plots in Pakistan. Osama bin Laden has practically become part of our political process and moron commentators on TV are wondering just how he will affect this election, perhaps with another “October surprise” like his endorsement of John Kerry in 2004, which some say swung the election to Bush The Younger for a second disastrous term. Other TV jackasses speculate that Bush will pull the capture of bin Laden out of his hat like Houdini to get John McCain elected instead of the heavy favorite in the polls, Barack Obama. Why anyone would vote one way or another because of our sworn enemy remains a mystery.
So perhaps on this 25th anniversary of the war against the United States by medieval-minded fundamentalists, it is fitting that we are about to elect a new president. Hopefully, Barack Obama and his cabinet will come up with a coherent strategy for battling terrorism and catching Osama bin Laden that doesn’t involve invading and occupying innocent nations. It would actually be quite difficult to do any worse than Bush The Younger, who never made any plans beyond his initial gut reactions, which were invariably completely wrong anyway. Impulsive behavior doesn’t make any more sense in politics and warfare than it does anywhere else. Our enemies plan long and carefully for each attack. We can at least do the same. Vote for Barack Obama for a fresh set of eyes to tackle this old problem.