Now here’s a dog that did not bark. This past week was the 30th anniversary of two significant events in late 20th century U.S. foreign policy. I missed it. You probably missed it. It’s like it didn’t even happen.
October 23rd, 1983. Ronald Reagan was President of the United States.
What stood out then, at least on television, was the toll of 241 dead at Marine BLT Barracks at Beirut Airport. Yet on the 30th Anniversary last week, in 2013, nothing was done to commemorate those losses. Not a word on network news or the commentary shows. The total number of deaths from four truck bombs there was 398. And it was carried out to get revenge for months of the U.S. Navy shelling Arab villages.
Corporate media made no mention of the Beirut, Lebanon invasion — despite that the CBS program 60 Minutes is taking time tonight to replay the Benghazi attack and street riot that killed 4 on September 11, 2012.
No comparisons allowed.
Earlier on, NBC had Reagan’s Secretary of State, George Shultz, on Meet the Press. He claimed, quite fantastically, that Ronald Reagan was undefeated in his foreign military adventures. Shultz stated as well that the Grenada invasion on 25-October-1983 was “the first use of the American military overseas since Vietnam.”
That Grenada sideshow was landed 2 days after the Marine BLT disaster.
Corporate media goes all in for Pearl Harbor Day when December 7th rolls around. That happened when a Democrat was in the White House.
And when Lebanon 1983 is mentioned, for such as resume material, the bombings are blamed on Hezbollah. That is beyond absurd. In 1983 there was no Hezbollah — getting revenge with these bombings is what let the Revolutionary Guard bring in 1,500 picked troops and get Hezbollah up and running as an effective military force.
Maybe Rep. Darrell Issa should have his committee investigate it. Then it might get enough press to inform our current debate about the use of drones against foreign governments — to the extent, that is, that we’re even having that debate at all.
I’m going to publish more from the Daily Kos article — one that, based on the comments, seems to have some problems in its recounting of the history of Hezbollah, problems that should not detract from the main point — because it’s such a resplendent smack in the head.
Hezbollah and the continuing influence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in Lebanon have to be assessed as continuing pieces of Reagan’s legacy.
Invading Lebanon gave the Iranians an opportunity they could never have generated on their own. Where else could they have killed 63 + 241 + 64 + 30 and mostly Americans without inviting a Shock-and-Awe devastation dropped on Teheran ???
63 — victims at the embassy 18-April-1983
241 – victims at the Marine barracks 23-October-1983
64 — victims at the French barracks 23-October-1983
30 — victims at Tyre for the Israelis 3-November-1983398 total
Note that the first truck bomb hit in April. Then there is a six-month gap before our Marines and the French were hit.
There’s a lot to be learned about the bombings, coming in part from Iranian sources. We can skirt the details of the killings. Bombing is brutal. The result does not resemble what you see in movies.
President Reagan created this revenge scenario when he ordered use of dozens of 5-inch naval guns to level Arab villages above Beirut. He was advised to do this to silence portable 81mm mortars. In subsequent analysis, these mortars were mounted in the beds of pickup trucks and moved around, avoiding the naval guns. Reagan knew nothing about the weapon systems, he was enraged that the Arabs attacked his Maronist Christian allies. Eventually Reagan went on to shelling with the big guns of battleship New Jersey. You can imagine what that did ashore.
Photos of the victims, including children, ran to torn up bodies and body parts. Houses were shattered by the dozens.
You think the pics from Abu Ghraib lit up the victims’ countrymen ??? Those pics from Lebanon changed everything. Everything in the Middle East. What had been a United Nations Peacekeeping operation went over the Dark Side, slaughtering innocents by the hundreds.
You’re not a “Peacekeeper” when you lob 300 16-inch shells a day at villages from battleship New Jersey. You’re no longer “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
The Iranians used liquid-butane-and-PETN by the ton to take revenge. It counted twice: for the naval shellings and to punish Reagan for support for Saddam Hussein during the ongoing Iran-Iraq War.
That type of bomb creates a thermobaric shock wave that rivals a small nuke. It powders concrete. It kills human beings at up to a 1-mile distance.
Reagan solved his immediate political problem after the disaster by invading Grenada, plus having removal of a benign polyp during a colonoscopy headlined as a “cancer scare.”
Reagan and his team were very, very good at PR.
Add it all up. The man got 398 people killed by the truck bombs. And another 1,500 killed between U.S. and French soldiers who were shot by snipers and Arab civilians and maybe a couple dozen militiamen and two women that the U.S. was trying to kill. Imagine a Democrat doing that. Roughly 10 to 20 times the body count for non-Al-Qaeda killed by the Bush and Obama drones.
Ronald Reagan had decided that he wanted to tell his domestic Christian political allies that he had taken sides during that round of the Lebanese civil wars. They did vote for him.
Reagan came out of this mess, all finished and done by Christmas of 1983, with the public seeing him as the one feel sorry for. “Poor Ronnie had a cancer scare.”
Between 1980 and today Reagan has gone forward to being perceived as a combo of Paul Bunyan and Johnny Appleseed. The broadest of hoaxes has been created around him. It is a wonder.
The line “Tear down this wall!” is credited with powers like Jehovah parting the Red Sea. Thing is, Reagan never did one thing substantive to bring down Communism. Pope John Paul II was The Man for that work.
You could think from the tales of his hoax that Reagan had won a war — any war, not Operation Urgent Fury aimed at Grenadian police and a Cuban construction crew — and belongs up on Mt. Rushmore.
Simple fact: in Lebanon, Reagan surrendered. It was the best way forward, but it was still a surrender. He got into a fix where he had to run away.
He ran out from Lebanon right after the bombings. He turned tail. U.S. forces were withdrawn — except for the Navy ships that kept on pounding villages. The Cult of Personality for Reagan moved forward without pause, certain that media would never breathe a word about what was happening.
And now the American dead from 1983 in Lebanon are dishonored. Forgotten. Put out of the corporate media/GOP approved history of our modern era. Never to be mentioned again.
All of this ignominy is necessary to serve the structured political hoax they’ve built to glorify Ronald Reagan. Such is today’s Republican Party and their allies.
God bless the souls of all the dead from that misadventure in 1983.
I think that it was unnecessary for the author to get quite as partisan as he did towards the end. (Too many Democrats also bow to Reagan’s supposed strength in foreign policy.) But I think it’s worth noting that, for many of us who came of age in the late 70s and early 80s, the bombing of Lebanon and the unjust distraction of the invasion and subjugation of tiny and hapless Grenada were big deals. The former in particular is a big reason why, when we see boastful nationalistic PR slogans such as “These Colors Don’t Run,” we say to ourselves (or sometimes out loud) — “but … but … what about the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon?” And we often find that other people don’t remember, or even believe, that it happened.
If you want myth, it’s easy had. Truth takes a little more effort. Truth is: Reagan retreated from Lebanon under fire 30 years and a few days ago — and it was the right call because our policies of the preceding years gave him little choice. It just doesn’t fit with our national sense of ourselves — but that’s no reason to redact it from our shared history. It mattered — and much of the rest of the world remembers it, even if we do not.