Friday, October 23, 2009

White House on Beirut Marine Barracks Bombing--Can't Remember Who Murdered 241 Americans

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By Barry Rubin

The White House has just released a very routine but still quite disturbing declaration by President Barack Obama. And it goes like this:

"On the anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, we remember today the 241 American Marines, soldiers, and sailors who lost their lives 26 years ago as the result of a horrific terrorist attack that destroyed the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. The military personnel serving in Beirut were there to bring peace and stability to Lebanon after years of internal strife and conflict. The murder of our soldiers, sailors, and Marines on this day on 1983 remains a senseless tragedy....In remembering this terrible day of loss, we are at the same time hopeful that a new government in Lebanon will soon be formed. We look forward to working with a Lebanese government that works actively to promote stability in the region and prosperity for its people."

The problem is not so much the wording of the declaration but the context in which it's issued. After all, the president of the United States has access to U.S. intelligence. And U.S. intelligence knows:

--That the bombing was carried out by cadre of Hizballah under the guidance of Syria and Iran.

--Today, attacks are being carried out against U.S. military personnel in Iraq under the guidance of Syria and Iran, and

--Iran is trying to stage such attacks in Afghanistan.

--The current and previous Iranian defense minister were involved in the attack: Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar (defense minister,  2005-2009) was head of the  Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps force in Lebanon and in charge of carrying out the attack while his successor, General Ahmad Vahidi, was involved in planning the attack.

--Hizballah was involved in other attacks on U.S. citizens and servicemen in Lebanon.

--It is also the anniversary of the killing of three U.S. security agents by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who the Palestinian Authority never punished and Hamas is now protecting. There is no apparent effort by the U.S. government to bring these killers to justice or to press the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to cooperate in doing so or to punish them for not doing so.

All of these forces, however, are left anonymous. No one is named for involvement in that "horrific terrorist attack." And, of course the attack was not "senseless" but part of an Iranian-Syrian-Hizballah campaign to take over Lebanon and drive U.S. influence out of the region. In fact, it was counted as a great victory for these forces since it showed America's vulnerability to being hit by terrorism--an inspiration for September 11?--and did succeed in paralyzing the U.S. effort in Lebanon. Ultimately, this led to the withdrawal of the peace-keeping forces altogether, paving the way for Syria's turning Lebanon into a satellite state for two decades at a great financial and strategic profit. .

None of these attacks were perpetrated by al-Qaida, the only group that remains a target of this administration's version of a war on terrorism, a phrase which is no longer used.

It is bad enough the administration doesn't say any of this. Is it aware of these factors at all?

Indeed, the president's advisor on terrorism is on record as saying that Hizballah is no longer a terrorist group, which opens the door for U.S. contacts in future.

This raises the question of the declaration's final sentence. Let's repeat it:

"We look forward to working with a Lebanese government that works actively to promote stability in the region and prosperity for its people."

While negotiations are complex and ongoing, the government being discussed for Lebanon would include a large contingent of Hizballah cabinet ministers and would give Hizballah veto power over government decisions.

Now it could be argued that this would not constitute, in U.S. eyes, a goverment promoting stability and prosperity. But who knows? Without even naming Hizballah as an adversary, however, the implication is that the United States does not oppose a government including Hizballah, which is one more step toward having such a government.

Consider just one such additional case. Colonel William Richard Higgins, kidnapped by Hizballah men while serving with UN peacekeeping forces in southern Lebanon in 1988, horribly tortured, turned over to the Iranians and murdered. Does the White House remember him?

So 241 U.S. servicemen died 26 years ago. Who killed them? Will the murders be punished in any way or will the groups and states that stood behind the attack be rewarded? On this, the declaration is silent.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

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