Columnist Cal Thomas used a recent column to advocate the Reagan approach to dealing with terrorism and threats to our national security. He wrote, “On the day of Ronald Reagan’s Inauguration in 1981, Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini released 52 American hostages he had held for 444 days. He had kept them that long because he realized a weak and indecisive President Jimmy Carter?wasn’t going to employ force to get them back. The ayatollah rightly feared Mr. Reagan might turn Iran into a parking lot if he didn’t let our people go.”
That sounds good, but the fact is that about two years later, on October 23, 1983, Iran ordered and carried out the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon, killing 241 American military personnel. The Reagan response was to withdraw from Lebanon. No military retaliation was ordered.
A trial was recently held in Washington, D.C. at which detailed evidence was presented of the Iranian role. Much of this evidence was known to the Reagan Administration at the time. The trial involves a case brought against Iran by attorney Steven Perles on behalf of the families of many of those Marines who were killed. Under U.S. law victims of terrorism can sue state sponsors of terrorism and collect damages from the assets that the terrorist regime may hold in the U.S. The trial featured a video-taped deposition of a former terrorist insider named “Mahmoud,” who said that Iran ordered the terrorists to attack the U.S. Marines and French troops in Lebanon, and that the driver of the truck carrying the bomb was an Iranian. Former CIA officer Robert Baer testified that there was no doubt that Iran was behind it. He said the bombing was an act of war.
Dr. Reuven Paz of Israel testified that before the Marine barracks bombing, Israel had intercepted a message from the government of Iran to its Ambassador in Syria, calling for military attacks on the foreign forces in Lebanon, including the Americans. Paz, who worked for the Israeli security service known as Shin Bet, said the intercepted message was provided to the CIA. Admiral James Lyons, who was Deputy Chief of Naval Operations at the time, testified that he received a copy of the message, which described the need for a “spectacular action” against the Marines. But he received the message two days after the bombing.
Sergeant Steve Russell, who was a guard at the embassy on that day, said he had been warned about a possible car bombing of the barracks literally hours before it happened. He warned others, and stayed alert. But, as a “peacekeeper” under restrictive rules of engagement, he carried an unloaded gun and the compound was surrounded only by concertina wire. The car bomber drove through all of this into the barracks.
On Meet the Press on March 16th, Vice President Cheney brought up the Marine barracks bombing, saying it was an example of the “unfortunate practice that we’ve often failed to respond effectively to attacks on the United States.” So when will Iran pay for this crime? There’s no statute of limitations on the crime of murder, and U.S. troops now sit next to Iran in neighboring Iraq.