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CNN Presents: Marine Barracks Bombing
Aired July 29, 2006 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Carol Lin and happening now in the news. Secretary of State Rice back in the Middle East tonight. Her first stop in Jerusalem where she met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
And a new message from Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah. He says Israeli efforts to oust his fighters out of Southern Lebanon are doomed to fail. And Hezbollah fires more than 90 rockets in to northern Israel Saturday, wounding a dozen people. And another round of Israeli air strikes hits near the Lebanese/Syrian border. The damage closed the main crossing between the two countries.
I'm Carol Lin. More news in 30 minutes. CNN PRESENTS: Marine Barracks Bombing. It starts right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You would you think that over a period of 23 years that the memory of the barracks bombing would have faded. It hasn't.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This just in from Beirut. At least 40 U.S. Marines and 10 French soldiers are dead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The concussion from the blast just picked me up and threw me backward.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You feel like this has to be a nightmare.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You could hear about a thousand people screaming, Help me, God help me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The nation's capital went into official mourning for those who died in the bombing of the Marine compound in Beirut.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just signalled a new kind of warfare that we were not in 1983 prepared to deal with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN ROBERTS, HOST: I'm John Roberts in northern Israel. After nearly three weeks of bombs and missiles raining down on Lebanon and here in Israel, the world stares once again at a looming catastrophe in the Middle East. Many have a terrible sense of deja vu, memories of one horrific day in October of 1983. The bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut killed 241 American servicemen, and the reverberations from that attack are still being felt today.
How did it happen? And what have we learned from it? You're about to find out.
(voice-over): Before the terror, there was calm. Colonel Timothy Geraghty was the Marine commander in Beirut.
COL. TIMOTHY GERAGHTY, U.S. MARINE CORPS (RET): It was Sunday morning, and I got up usually at dawn, you know, then I went outside and just walked around, and it was very quiet.
ROBERTS: Major Robert Jordan was the Marine public affairs officer.
MAJ. BOB JORDAN, U.S. MARINE CORPS (RET.): I could hear the birds singing. And it was a nice, cool morning, and I decided I'd just pull my blanket up and roll over and get another 20 minutes of sleep or so.
ROBERTS: Staff Sergeant Randy Gatto (ph) reported to Jordan.
STAFF SGT. RANDY GATTO, U.S. MARINE CORPS (RET.): It was so nice, I thought, you know, I'm going to go get a cup of coffee before I do anything. So I was about halfway to the barracks, and I turned around and went back to the command operations center, got a cup of coffee.
ROBERTS: Lance Corporal Jack Anderson had finished his watch and planned to get some sleep.
LANCE CPL. JACK ANDERSON, U.S. MARINE CORPS (RET.): It was a Sunday, you know, and Sundays were a little more relaxing.
ROBERTS: Then, at 6:22 AM...
JORDAN: Half asleep, I heard this loudest, flat sound that I've ever heard. I had never heard a noise that loud in my whole career. And this steel door that was beside me, it blew in and it just missed me.
GATTO: And then all of a sudden, there was this enormous thud. And about three seconds later, I could feel this heat drawing my face back, and a couple seconds after that, the concussion from the blast just picked me up and threw me backwards.
ROBERTS: Gatto's decision to get a cup of coffee had saved his life.
GATTO: So I turned and high tailed it back to my boss, Major Bob Jordan.
JORDAN: And his eyes were like saucers, and I said, Sergeant Gatto, what's going on? And he said, Sir, the BLT's gone. GATTO: And he said, you know, that -- that's like saying the twin towers are gone. I mean, it's not something you expect somebody to say to you.
ROBERTS: The massive four-story structure, considered to be one of the safest in Beirut, was reduced to a one-story mass of rubble, a tomb for hundreds of Marines, sailors and soldiers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We grabbed cots and stretchers and whatever we could find, and we went down and started extricating the wounded and the dead.
ROBERTS: Remarkably, Corporal Jack Anderson slept through the explosion, a three-story fall, and survived.
ANDERSON: My first conscious thought after the bombing was waking up on the ground, with a couple of pieces of concrete sort of in a lean-to position above me.
ROBERTS: That delicate balance saved Anderson's life. Had either slab landed on him, he would have been crushed to death.
ANDERSON: I was sort of in delirium and shock. Obviously, probably took a pretty severe blow to the head, if you fall three floors and land on the asphalt, you know? So I sort of made my way, crawled out through the concrete and got out, and you know, sort of looked around. The building was completely devastated. There were body -- bodies laying around. There were, you know, bodies -- body parts laying around.
All of my buddies just got killed. I was -- you know, my best friend was one floor below me in the same room and didn't make it. That took a long time to -- you know, took a long time to get over that.
ROBERTS: The United States had sent its best into Beirut to keep the peace, but in a matter of seconds, that all changed when they became victims of a chilling new tactic of terror. Gerold Butt was a BBC radio correspondent in Beirut.
GERALD BUTT, FORMER BBC RADIO CORRESPONDENT: Here was the first concrete proof, in my mind, anyway, that the conflict in Lebanon had moved up several notches. Here we were dealing not with bombs in a conventional sense, shelling, sniping, that we had got used to, here were people who were prepared to give their lives for the cause, and if necessary, cause the deaths of hundreds of people.
ROBERTS: Coming up, the real beginning of the war on terror.
ROBERTS: At the time of the Marine barracks bombing, Lebanon was a nation on the brink. The United States had stepped in to help, to keep the peace, but the humanitarian mission was ill-fated. Years of civil war and political turmoil would soon turn deadly for the U.S. CNN's Brent Sadler was there.
BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In its heyday, the early 1970s, Beirut was known as the Paris of the Middle East, more than a million tourists a year. And there was international intrigue.
RICHARD MURPHY, FORMER ASST. SECRETARY OF STATE: It was a field day for the intelligence operatives of the world.
SADLER: Richard Murphy was an assistant secretary of state in the Reagan administration.
MURPHY: Everybody was busily trying to develop sources of intelligence and having a fine time spying on each other.
SADLER: In 1975, Lebanon fell into civil war. Tensions over how the country's religious groups -- Sunnis, Shiites Jews and Christians -- shared political power had reached the breaking point. Each political and religious group had its own militia.
SANDRA MACKEY, AUTHOR, "LEBANON: A HOUSE DIVIDED": This war was just brutal, but the real brutality of it came because the various religious groups all had foreign sponsors, and they're the ones who provided the weapons and firepower that really enabled these militias to just absolutely decimate each other.
AMIN GEMAYEL, FORMER LEBANESE PRESIDENT: It was the era of the cold war.
SADLER: Amin Gemayel, a Christian, was president from 1982 to 1988.
GEMAYEL: The cold war was everywhere, except in Lebanon. In Lebanon, it was a hot and very hot war.
SADLER (on camera): Although sporadic fighting is continuing, the area is now said to be safe, but no one knows for how long it will be...
As a correspondent covering that war, I saw it spiral out of control, witnessing the Paris of the Middle East becoming the powder keg of the Middle East.
(voice-over): The war would claim 150,000 lives.
MACKEY: If they were killed or maimed or houses destroyed, whatever, so be it, as long as your particular group survived.
SADLER: One group in the middle of the turmoil was the Palestinians. Thousands came to Lebanon as refugees from the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. And in 1971, the Palestine Liberation Organization moved to Lebanon.
MURPHY: Yasser Arafat was the leader. He took up residence in Beirut And they had training camps. They had territories which were theirs to run.
SADLER: Palestinian forces took control of parts of Beirut and southern Lebanon.
GEMAYEL: They exploited our democracy. They exploited our pluralism, our freedom, to establish their own stronghold in Lebanon.
SADLER: The Palestinians' stronghold in southern Lebanon became a base for guerrilla attacks against Israel, and that scared the Lebanese.
MURPHY: They were very conscious that Israel was operating on a hair trigger.
SADLER: That trigger was pulled in June of 1982. Israeli forces stormed into Lebanon.
MACKEY: They actually went into Beirut, surrounded the city, and put the city under siege for over two months, and just devastated the city.
SADLER: What evolved that August was a deal: a multi-national force, Americans, French and Italians, would come to Lebanon as peacekeepers. It allowed Arafat and the PLO safe passage out of Lebanon.
MURPHY: So the mission was accomplished, and the Marines were gone in something like two to three weeks.
MACKEY: The idea was, you send this multi-national force in, you evacuate the Palestinians, and then that would stabilize the area. Well, it didn't work.
SADLER: Four days after the Marines pulled out, Lebanon's president-elect, a Christian, was murdered in an explosion at his party's headquarters. The next day, Israeli forces moved deeper into Beirut. And the day after that, Christian militia units allied with Israel massacred hundreds of Palestinians in a poor refugee area called Sabra and Shatila.
MURPHY: They were innocent men, women and children in that refugee camp who were hunted down like animals. And after that, everything was up for grabs, which led to a plea.
GEMAYEL: Lebanon can no longer endure!
MURPHY: Send the Marines back. We need them. You've got to help.
SADLER: When we come back, U.S. troops drawn into a deadly drama.
SADLER (voice-over): Beirut, September 29, 1982, U.S. Marines are hailed as heroes, returning once again to Lebanon to help keep the peace. Twelve hundred U.S. Marines led a multi-national peacekeeping force of Italian, French and British soldiers. After nearly 10 years of a brutal, bloody civil war, Beirut had become synonymous with destruction, but there was a widespread hope that change was on the horizon.
BUTT: There was a sense of optimism. And at first, the Americans, the British and the Italians, they were very much welcomed by the population at large. One could see Americans driving around the center of Beirut, and they're waving to people, going to bars, going to restaurants, and so on.
SADLER: President Ronald Reagan emphasized that American troops were there to spread peace, not to engage in more violence.
RONALD WILSON REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the days ahead, they and forces from France and Italy will be playing an important but carefully limited non-combatant role. The parties to the plan have agreed to this role, and they have provided assurances on the safety of our forces.
MARK PERRY, CONFLICTS FORUM: It was simply a presence. It was thought if the United States was there, everything would calm down and that we would not have to involve our soldiers in combat.
SADLER: At first, the Marines kept a low profile. They spent most of their time clearing the beach of land mines securing their position at Beirut's international airport. With their men and resources stationed in one place, the Marines were in the middle of a firestorm. But their presence alone was not enough to end the fighting between warring factions that were as native to Lebanon as the sea and the soil.
GERAGHTY: We were static, in an international airport, without control outside of our wire. Security was generally deteriorating pretty fast. We were a vulnerable target. We all were.
SADLER: But soon, despite all declarations of neutrality, the Americans were caught in the crossfire, or worse, taking direct fire.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have the Amal, the Druze and the Syrians, and we don't feel so safe that -- because they're around.
SADLER: For the Marines at the airport barracks, under strict orders to keep their firearms unloaded, it was a source of huge frustration.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They should update the rules of engagement because we'll be out here and we get fired at, we have to wait to get permission to fire back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without a loaded magazine, we don't have as much of a chance, I believe, to defend ourselves. SADLER: It was also a huge frustration to President Reagan and his closest advisers, who press for a more active role for the troops.
ROBERT MCFARLANE, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We were opposed in that concept by Cap Weinberger, secretary of defense, who felt very strongly that the Marines should not be involved in what would amount to combat operations.
SADLER: While Weinberger won that round, it was a hollow victory. Increasingly, the men once hailed as heroes were being branded the enemy. Suddenly, Marines were taking hits. Americans were seeing the sad pictures of more and more caskets coming home. But nothing could prepare them for April 18, 1983. A car bomb explodes in front of the U.S. embassy in Beirut, killing 63 people.
REAGAN: Let us here, in their presence, serve notice to the cowardly, skulking barbarians in the world that they will not have their way.
SADLER: In the aftermath, calls to bring the Marines home grew louder.
BARRY GOLDWATER, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: We're not helping one bit, risking the lives of American Marines serving over there, trying to keep peace, when they've got a bunch of jackasses who want to kill each other. I'd get out of there and let them shoot.
SADLER: But President Reagan disagreed.
REAGAN: We have vital interests in Lebanon, and our actions in Lebanon are in the cause of world peace.
SADLER: When the U.S. warships launched shells into the mountains overlooking Beirut, Marine colonel Timothy Geraghty immediately knew his men were in danger.
JORDAN: Colonel Geraghty called headquarters and objected to that order to use naval gunfire. He said, Sir, you have to understand, they have 750 artillery pieces. At any moment, if they unleash them, we know we are going to be dust. And when that first shell comes over, our neutrality is gone.
GERAGHTY: Certain decisions were made that were escalating our mission there. We were firing in direct support of the Lebanese army on an operation that clearly was outside of the realm of our mission. I think that was a significant move that created this perception among other Lebanese forces that we were just another super-militia.
SADLER: The peacekeepers were vulnerable and unprepared.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was like having your hands tied and having someone shoot at you. There's really no place to run.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've had smalls arms before, but nothing like this. And yes, it's nervous. Blood pressure goes up. Your muscles start to spasm a little bit. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It wears (ph) me (INAUDIBLE) every day. Can't do nothing now. What can do you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you ever worry there might be something so big that, you know...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't (INAUDIBLE) That's the first thing running in my mind is, Are (ph) my people enough to handle that? You felt that vibration, and that was over there.
ROBERTS: When we come back, the unimaginable, the anatomy of a suicide bombing.
CAROL LIN, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Coming up in 30 minutes on "Larry King Live", 25 years after his murdered son's abduction, John Walsh of "America's Most Wanted" sits down with Larry for an intense hour.
I'm Carol Lin in Atlanta. More news in 30 minutes. Right now, back to "CNN Presents: Marine Barracks Bombing."
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR, CNN PRESENTS: The plan was as ruthless as it was daring. A delivery truck, a high-tech bomb, an unsuspecting target. October 23rd, 1983, the Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, Lebanon.
Who was behind the suicide attack? And how did they pull it off? We get down to the details of that deadly day.
ROBERTS (voice over): Sunday, October 23rd, 1983. It's just after 6:00 a.m.
The night before had been calm, but as the sun creeps over the mountains, guards remain on high alert. They'd been warned to be on the lookout for suspicious vehicles.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, they were shooting Marines, Marine patrols couldn't go through the southern suburbs, it's a lot like Iraq today.
ROBERTS: At their airport headquarters, many of the Marines are still in bed. That Sunday morning, reveille is replaced by a massive explosion.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We interrupt this program to bring you this bulletin, this just in from Beirut.
ROBERTS: According to a report compiled by the Department of Defense, this is how the attack unfolded.
At approximately 6:20 a.m., a yellow Mercedes-Benz water delivery truck turns off an access road on to the parking lot of the Marine barracks. It then circles several times as it picks up speed. Suddenly, the driver crashes through a barbed wire fence, driving between two Marine guard posts without drawing fire.
Seconds later the truck plows through a gate and crashes into the barracks. The bomb is detonated. The force of the explosion reduces the building to rubble, crushing many inside.
ADMIRAL JAMES LYONS, U.S. NAVY (RET.): This was the largest non- nuclear explosion since World War II. Somewhere between 15,000 and 21,000 pounds equivalent TNT. It was an eight-foot crater in the ground there. It just blew everything apart.
ROBERTS: Twenty 20 seconds later, a second explosion. A car bomb rips through the barracks of the French peacekeeping force just a few miles away, killing 58 paratroopers. Rescue efforts continue for days. At times, hindered by sniper fire. Retired Colonel Timothy Geraghty was the Marine commander in Beirut.
COL. TIMOTHY GERAGHTY, U.S. MARINES (RET.): The ground was moaning, because there were survivors in there.
ROBERTS: The United States had suffered the largest loss of military life in a single incident since Iwo Jima; 220 Marines, 18 navy sailors and three army soldiers, killed by a lone suicide bomber.
GERAGHTY: This was such an overt, pure, naked act of terrorism. We had absolutely no warning something of this magnitude had hit us.
ROBERTS: Back home, a mourning nation demanded answers. How did it happen? Who was responsible? Should the U.S. strike back? A full scale investigation began immediately. Retired Lieutenant General Lawrence Snowden served on the investigation into the attack.
LT. GEN. LAWRENCE SNOWDEN (RET.): We had every reason to believe that Hezbollah was the unit that did the job. And we do know that the operation had the support of the Syrian government, and the Iranian government.
ROBERTS: Hezbollah denies any responsibility. Mark Perry has studied Hezbollah for years, and has discussed the bombing with several members.
MARK PERRY, CONFLICTS FORUM: In the talks I've had with them in Beirut, they say the United States is not our enemy. We do not have American blood on our hands. We do not want to have a conflict with the United States. I would place the barracks bombing at the doorstep of Iran.
ROBERTS: A civil case in 2003 did just that. The judge ruled the suicide bombing was carried out by Hezbollah, with the approval and funding of Iran. Retired Admiral James Lyons testified U.S. officials intercepted a message from the Iranian ambassador to Syria.
LYONS: This is the smoking gun. There was proof positive to coordinate their attacks against the multinational force, and in particular, the United States Marines.
ROBERTS: The court also heard the videotaped testimony of the Hezbollah member known as Mahmoud.
Mahmoud described how Hezbollah ambushed a water truck en route to the compound, a similar truck laden with very sophisticated explosives, continued on to the barracks. The driver would later be nicknamed "Smiling Death" by a Marine guard who recalled the bomber's chilling expression as he crashed through the gates, just before the explosion.
SNOWDEN: It was unfortunate that so many troops were allowed to be in that building at one time.
GERAGHTY: I was criticized quite severely, one, for having that many Marines in a single building. I had absolutely no choice. We were taking shelling. It was considered to be one of the safest, sturdiest buildings in Beirut.
ROBERTS: Marine commanders were also criticized for having guards with empty weapons.
SNOWDEN: There was a real concern that if there was an accidental discharge of a weapon, some, quote, "innocent civilian" might be killed or wounded in that parking lot, but in hindsight, it was not a good idea.
ROBERTS: As the list of suspects narrowed, U.S. officials say this man, Imad Mughnieyeh (ph) was the master mind. Mughnieyeh (ph) was Hezbollah's security chief at the time of the bombing.
ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA AGENT: Oh, he's much better than bin Laden because he stays off television, he doesn't identify himself. And you don't ever see a defector from his inner circle, or you know, one that lives very long.
ROBERTS: Coming up, the U.S. response to terror, paralyzed by White House in-fighting.
ROBERTS: Saturday, October 22nd, President Ronald Reagan was in Augusta, Georgia, playing a round of golf on the fabled course that is home to The Masters. Late that night, National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane got a phone call.
ROBERT MCFARLANE, FMR. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: At about 2:00 in the morning, I got a call from the vice president, Vice President Bush, that the Marines had been bombed in Lebanon. The president, I awakened him at about 2:00 in the morning, and advised him of it. He was shattered by the event.
ROBERTS: The president was in his pajamas when he met with McFarlane and Secretary of State George Schultz.
MCFARLANE: The president listened and physically was drained. After a long pause he asked, "Bud, how did it happen? Who did it? How can we deal with this?"
ROBERTS: Get tougher, take on the terrorists, they decided, as Reagan flew back to Washington at first light. Vice President George Bush rushed to Beirut to the bomb site. He left little doubt that the U.S. would retaliate.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're not going to let a bunch of insidious terrorists, cowards, shape the foreign policy of the United States.
ROBERTS: That same week, the U.S. invaded the small Caribbean nation of Grenada, a minor crises now largely forgotten.
RONALD REAGAN, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In Lebanon, we have some 1600 Marines.
ROBERTS: On national television, when he turned from Grenada to Beirut, Reagan rattled the sabers.
REAGAN: Those who directed this atrocity must be dealt justice and they will be.
ROBERTS: He rejected a Marine withdrawal.
REAGAN: If we were to leave Lebanon now, what message would that send to those who foment instability and terrorism.
ROBERTS: His words became empty promises, abandoned within months.
MCFARLANE: Well, I wrote that language, and I took it seriously at the time, and intended and believed that he intended to fulfill it.
ROBERTS: At the end of the week, the first caskets began coming home. The next week, on a damp and dreary day, Ronald and Nancy Reagan went to the Marine base at Camp LeJuene to mourn, along with a grieving nation.
MCFARLANE: He always took very personal the loss of life of any American, especially servicemen.
ROBERTS: By now, American intelligence had traced the seeds of the attack to a barracks in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, where Hezbollah was holed up. The Navy was ready to strike back.
LYONS: We went ahead and made up the plans. We had the photography. It was a great radar target. There's nothing else around. And we were going to take out all 250 of them.
MCFARLANE: The president called the National Security Council together. He was convinced himself that the target was responsible in the Bekaa Valley, that Hezbollah had done the deed, and that's where they trained and were armed.
There were arguments, disagreements. Weinberger disagreed, thought it would have a very negative impact on our relations in the Arab states. The president said, "Well, I believe we have to do this."
LYONS: We had the planes loaded. It would have been a minute and a half strike, in and out in a minute and a half, and we would have sent the message that everybody was waiting for us to send. We never got the orders to launch.
MCFARLANE: I was awakened at home by the situation room, with the word that the attack had been aborted. I was speechless. I said, "By whom?" and I was told the Secretary of Defense. I was thunderstruck. I went down to the office and called Cap right away and asked him, what in the world happened? He said, "Well, Bud, I believed it was a bad idea, and it would have done us great harm." and I said, "Cap, the president of the United States approved this."
ROBERTS: When McFarlane told Reagan, he said the president was at a loss for words. That Cap Weinberger, now deceased, had been a close friend and ally of Reagan since their California days. Reagan would forgive and forget.
MCFARLANE: At the end of the day, the president was so captive really to his feelings of loyalty for Secretary Weinberger that he let it cloud his judgment.
ROBERTS: The terrorist attacks continued. Soon, new truck bomb attempts at the French and American embassies in Kuwait. In Beirut, the Marines were hunkered down behind new defensive barriers, doing little or nothing. The White House seemed paralyzed.
MCFARLANE: And Cap said we simply ought to withdraw.
ROBERTS: While the fighting in Lebanon grew worse, Reagan was talking tough, right up until the end. In a radio address early in February, he called the situation in Lebanon "difficult."
REAGAN: But that is no reason to turn our backs on friends and to cut and run. If we do, we'll be sending one signal to terrorists everywhere. They can gain by waging war against innocent people.
ROBERTS: Yet only three days later, the president would order the Marines out. No speeches this time. The announcement was handed out, as Reagan landed in California, to go on vacation at his ranch.
By February 26th, just four months after the bombing, the Marines had retreated from Beirut, back to ships offshore. Survivor Jack Anderson was glad to see his fellow Marines heading for home, yet was disappointed.
JACK ANDERSON, FMR. U.S. MARINE: I really wanted to see us do something to the people responsible for the car bombing. You know, hopefully in the end, they get theirs, but not at the hand of the Marine Corps this time.
ROBERTS: Coming up, Beirut's deadly lesson for today's war on terror.
LYONS: As soon as we suffer casualties, we will cut and run. We are a paper tiger.
ROBERTS: U.S. Marines approaching sacred ground, Beirut, Lebanon, where 23 years ago they lost so many of their own. But for these Marines, touching ground has even more meaning, because so many belong to the same unit attacked in 1983.
Like their comrades before them, these Marines have come in peace. Their mission? To evacuate Americans. Still, the lore of Lebanon is not forgotten. It is here where the Marines paid the ultimate price.
PERRY: Would you think that over a period of 23 years that the United States military, the memory of the barracks bombing would have faded. It hasn't.
When Secretary Rice talks about perhaps a peacekeeping force, the first question in a U.S. officer's mind is, does that mean us? No one in the military wants a replay of 1983.
ROBERTS: Retired Lieutenant General Lawrence Snowden called the barracks bombing an act of war.
SNOWDEN: We wanted to strike attention in the hearts of the Defense Department, and others, that this is a way of warfare that we've got to face in the future and we're ill-prepared at this moment to deal with it.
REAGAN: I received the report of the Long Commission last night --
ROBERTS: President Reagan a day before the report went public.
REGAN: The report draws the conclusion that the United States and its military institutions are by tradition and training, inadequately equipped to deal with the fundamentally new phenomenon of state-supported terrorism. I whole-heartedly agree.
ROBERTS: Again, Reagan promised to stand firm.
REAGAN: Now, one fact, though it's already obvious, the problem of terrorism will not disappear if we run from it.
ROBERTS: But that's what the U.S. did. Four months after the bombing, the Marines left Lebanon.
MCFARLANE: I think he understood very well the withdrawal of American forces, anywhere, at any time, is a negative signal, a sign of weakness. Shortly thereafter he acknowledged that we're going to pay a price for this downstream.
ROBERTS: At a price that, many believe, the U.S. is paying for today.
SNOWDEN: I think the terrorists had good memories, and they remember that, when we were pushed up against the wall, and they successfully attacked us like that, there was a demand for the troops to come home, and they did.
MCFARLANE: To absorb such a horrific loss as the Marines suffered in Beirut, without reacting, implies that you can attack the United States and not pay a price for it. That we're too weak, irresolute, politically paralyzed, and that is intolerable for a great power.
ROBERTS: Somalia, 1993, a Blackhawk down, 18 soldiers killed after a fire fight with local militia. This picture of a soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu had an enormous impact on public opinion. Six months later, President Clinton pulled the troops out. A decision that Osama bin Laden later claimed emboldened him to strike out at America.
OSAMA BIN LADEN, FOUNDER, AL QAEDA (through translator): After a little resistance, the Americans left after achieving nothing. They left after claiming they were the largest power on earth. They left after some resistance from the powerless, poor, unarmed people whose only weapon it s their belief in Allah, the Almighty.
LYONS: As Osama bin Laden has often pointed out, as soon as we suffer casualties, we will cut and run. We are a paper tiger.
ROBERTS: This cut and run reputation weighed heavily on President George W. Bush who, in 2003, sounded resolute, promising to withdraw from Iraq only when the mission is complete.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They want us to leave Iraq before our work is done. They want to shake the will of the civilized world. In the past, the terrorists have cited the examples of Beirut and Somalia, claiming that if you inflict harm on Americans, we will run from a challenge. In this, they are mistaken.
ROBERTS: And what about the survivors of that terrible day, 23 years ago in Beirut?
MAJOR BOB JORDAN, U.S. MARINE CORPS (RET.): The lesson learned, on my point, is that, number one, you cannot make peace where peace does not exist. The only way you can make peace is to win.
GERAGHTY: These things take time. We are the good guys and trying to spread democracy. It may not all work out, and so on, but you're providing an opportunity for people to do that.
LANCE CPL. JACK ANDERSON, U.S. MARINES CORPS (RET.): Yeah, we lost some damned good people, but they died for a good reason. And, you know, the memory of those guys is not forgotten, certainly not by the likes of me. Really the first guys in there fighting the war on terrorism.
ROBERTS (on camera): The anniversary of the Marine barracks bombing will be marked again this year, for the 23rd time that the Beirut National Memorial. Veterans and family members of those killed will gather in Jacksonville, North Carolina, home of Camp LeJuene for a candlelight vigil and a reading of the Beirut victim's names.
I'm John Roberts in northern Israel. Thanks for joining us.
LIN: I'm Carol Lin with a look at what's happening now in the news. Secretary of State Rice is back in the Middle East tonight, and her first stop was Jerusalem, where she met with Israeli Prime Minister Ahud Olmert. There's still no ceasefire or diplomatic plan to stop this conflict.
A new message from Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, says Israel's efforts to oust his fighters from southern Lebanon are doomed to failure. And Hezbollah fired more than 90 rockets into northern Israel Saturday, wounding a dozen people, and another round of Israeli air strikes hit near the Lebanese-Syrian border. The damage closed the main crossing between the two countries.
Next on "Larry King Live" a bittersweet anniversary for John Walsh, the host of "America's Most Wanted." He sat down with Larry for an intense hour about the 25th anniversary of his son's death.
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