“…to provide a presence in Beirut, that would in turn help establish the stability necessary for the Lebanese government to regain control of their capital.”
25 years later, bombing in Beirut still resonates
By Rick Hampson, USA TODAY
A quarter-century later, the sergeant of the guard that morning says he can still see the face of the man driving the truck.
Sgt. Stephen Russell was sitting in his guard booth outside a barracks in Beirut.
He was one of about 1,600 Marines who’d been sent to Lebanon as neutral peacekeepers but found little peace to keep. He says he heard something snap behind him and a diesel engine revving.
What he saw, at 6:22 a.m. that bright Sunday in the fourth decade of the Cold War, was the future, coming straight at him, in the form of a 5-ton truck. It was Oct. 23, 1983, a day Ronald Reagan called the saddest of his presidency, maybe his life.
The truck would shatter the Marines’ building with a bomb more powerful than 12,000 pounds of TNT — the biggest non-nuclear explosion since World War II, the FBI concluded.
It would kill 241 servicemembers, including 220 Marines — the Corps’ bloodiest day since Iwo Jima. It would drive the U.S. out of Lebanon and lead some, including al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, to conclude that when America gets its nose bloodied, it pulls back.
For Americans, Beirut was a seminal moment on a timeline that led to the 9/11 attacks, Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond. It was a first shot in a clash with a militant, fundamentalist Islam — exemplified by groups such as Hezbollah and nations such as Iran — that would replace Soviet communism as the USA’s chief adversary.
May those who planned and executed this attack suffer eternally. [Wikipedia]