The Beirut Barracks Bombing–which took place 30 years ago today and killed 241 American servicemen–may be one of the few tragedies in recent history, whose immediacy has only grown with time. Though it’s been distilled through countless political prisms, the story, which involves the United States, bloody civil war in the Levant, Hezbollah, Iran, and terrorism is one that hardly sounds distant and incomprehensible. There remains a past-is-prologue essence.
Matthew Levitt at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy offered this for some context:
The attack on the Marine barracks was not only the single-largest nonnuclear explosion since World War II, it was also the deadliest terrorist attack against Americans up to that time.
And the legacy of that moment haunts us to this day.
The attacks, perpetrated by Hezbollah under orders from Iran, announced the arrival of the Lebanese Shiite group as a potent, anti-Western terrorist force supported and directed by Tehran. Today, despite warming relations between the United States and Iran, Hezbollah remains a weapon in Iran’s arsenal, a means to pursue the agenda of the Islamic Revolution in Syria and in terrorist operations around the world.
President Obama issued a statement just moments ago. Here’s a slice.
“Thirty years ago today, 220 Marines, 18 sailors, and 3 soldiers lost their lives to Hizballah suicide bomber who attacked the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. Minutes later, 58 French paratroopers lost their lives when a second Hizballah suicide bomber attacked the French barracks.
“This despicable act of terrorism was the deadliest single-day death toll for the U.S. Marine Corps since the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima. Our Marines and their fellow service members were serving in Beirut as part of a multinational force during the Lebanese civil war, to help bring stability to a troubled region and to defend our strategic interests in the Middle East. They came in peace.
“Our 241 servicemembers will be remembered in ceremonies at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, at the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon, and in homes around the United States.”
For what it’s worth, it seems important to note that President Obama did mention Hezbollah’s responsibility for the two October 23rd attacks.