Lies and intelligence failures should disqualify GOP Iraq comments
Imagine how heads would be exploding on Fox News and imagine the faux outrage from GOP lawmakers in front of TV cameras if the Obama administration had ignored intelligence that an outside terrorist group was going to attack Americans.
No, I’m not talking about the Bush administration’s failure to read the intelligence briefing titled “Bin Laden determined to strike In U.S.” before the Sept. 11 attacks. We all know how that fiasco and lack of action turned out.
No, I’m talking about how those inside the Reagan administration in 1983 ignored the intelligence from the National Security Administration about an upcoming attack on U.S. Marines on Oct. 23, 1983. Two suicide bombers drove trucks into two buildings housing U.S. and French troops in Beirut, Lebanon, where U.S. forces were part of a multinational group of peacekeepers in Lebanon. In all, 241 U.S. servicemen were killed, as well as 58 French servicemen, six U.S. civilians, and more than 20 Lebanese civilians. It was the biggest single-day death toll for the Marines since World War II in the Battle of Iwo Jima. Another 128 Americans were injured, and 12 later died.
Less than one month earlier, the NSA had intercepted a message from Iranian intelligence directing the Iranian ambassador in Lebanon to “take spectacular action against U.S. Marines.” This comes from a book called Peacekeepers at War: Beirut 1983 — The Marine Commander Tells His Story, by Marine Col. Timothy J. Geraghty, who commanded U.S. forces in Lebanon at the time.
In June 1982, Israel had invaded Lebanon, which was in the midst of a civil war. Israel wanted to create a buffer zone between Israel on one hand and the PLO and Syrian forces in Lebanon. The presence of U.S. forces — even in a multinational peacekeeping role — created ill will among Lebanese Muslims, who assumed the Americans were on the side of the Israelis and the Christian-led forces of the Lebanese government.
On Sept. 19, 1983, the U.S. launched a missile strike against the Syrian-supported Druze PSP, radical Palestinians, and assorted Muslim militias who were fighting the Lebanese Armed Forces. Some of the U.S. missiles hit innocent bystanders. Said Geraghty in his book, retelling the event: “My gut instinct tells me the Corps is going to pay in blood for this decision.”
The Marines did pay — in blood. By the next March, President Reagan had pulled all U.S. forces out of Lebanon. Despite heated rhetoric and talk of retaliation from U.S. officials, no counter strike was ever launched. A little-known group called Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the October attack, a group with ties to Iran and Syria that ultimately turned into Hezbollah, although Hezbollah and both countries deny any involvement to this day.
And that NSA interception of intelligence asking for payback against U.S. Marines? It wasn’t delivered to the Marine unit until Oct. 26, 1983, three days after the attack.
So let’s recap: 241 U.S. servicemen killed. No retaliation. A complete U.S. troop pullout, and continued violence in the region. Yes, there was a fact-finding commission, but ultimately, no one paid a political price, and certainly not anyone in the Reagan administration. Instead, the nation’s hearts went out to the families of those 241 servicemen.
(The Reagan administration, of course, had moved on to bargaining with Iranian terrorists holding Americans hostage in Lebanon, selling arms to Iran in exchange for the release of the seven hostages and later illegally using the proceeds to fund the contras against the democratically elected government in Nicaragua. But we digress.)
What’s different today? Today, there’s a Democrat in the White House. Despite the fact that it was the Bush administration who arranged the pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq, the growing sectarian violence in Iraq is obviously President Obama’s fault. Despite the fact that the Bush administration abandoned the search for Osama bin Laden and left it up to the Obama administration to find and kill him (without the help of the false “intelligence” gleaned under torture), that strike doesn’t count.
Despite the capture of the alleged mastermind of the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, that killed four Americans, that capture is nothing but a “distraction,” in the words of talking heads on the Fake News Channel. And Ahmed Abu Khattala has been quoted saying the attack was in response to the inflammatory video, The Innocence of Muslims, an online preview of which was seen all over the Muslim world in the fall of 2012 and caused demonstrations worldwide. Which is exactly what the Obama administration has been saying all along. But I guess the lure of more meaningless hearings is too great to resist for the GOP-led House.
So tell me, media: Why do you keep inviting these liars and architects of failed policy to give their opinions on what is happening in Iraq today?