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Behind the marine barracks bombing - Lebanon

By: Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich 

09/09/07 "ICH" -- -- As Americans we have a particular mindset.   Our belief in our altruism would be tolerable were it not so dangerous, especially when White House occupants threaten the stability of the world.  The danger lies in that we  believe that no matter what the U.S. policy, be it coups, sabotage, or illegal wars, America is always in the right and it is the ‘other’ that is evil.   Our irrational support of the government’s implausible and unacceptable actions has always been without scrutiny or self-examination.   

In the latest fiasco, a US Federal court, ruled that Iran should pay $2.65bn to the families of the 241 marines killed by Hezbollah in Lebanon in 1983[i].  It is worthwhile making a simple parallel before delving into the policies and facts of the matter. 

Iran’s support of Hezbollah is akin to U.S. support of Israel although Israel is supplied with an inordinate amount of military goods, including bunker-busters. Israel deliberately killed U.N. peacekeepers in last year’s 33-day war[ii].  Given that the U.S. deliberately stopped the cease-fire and supplied Israel not only with arms, but a carte blanche to kill at will, which country should be sued for the death of the peace keepers?  The U.S., Israel, or is the U.N. the ‘other’ evil? 

But this article is not dealing with the atrocities of Israel and American terrorism, for there are far too many of them to recount, it was simply stated as an analogy to invalidate the law suit against Iran.  As to the facts… 

Upon taking office, Ronald Regan decided to launch a ‘second Cold War’ in the Middle East.  He moved combat forces into the region and armed ‘allies’ while initiating a strategic cooperation agreement with Israel.  The assassination of Sadat made the U.S. jittery and it rewarded those Middle Eastern governments that joined the ‘Strategic Consensus”.   This displeased Israel as it enjoyed the status of being the predominant ally of the U.S.    The administration’s campaign against “international terrorism” provided ‘justification’ for Israeli strikes into Lebanon under the pretext of challenging terrorism.   The ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ signed by Weinberger and Ariel Sharon in Late November set the stage for a joint military collaboration between Israel and the U.S.[iii]   

Israel occupied Lebanon, but its invasion met with a wave of protests from within Israel.   June 25, 1982, Haaretz  editorial:  Professor Yehoshwar Porat openly challenged the rationale for the Israel’s attack on Lebanon.            

it did not even result from the need to retaliate against Palestinian shellings of the Galilee, because there was no such shelling since and agreement [cease fire agreement between the Palestinians and the Israeli government].  So what was the reason?  I think the Israeli government’s {or more precisely, its two leaders’) decision resulted from that cease fire.”[iv]    

The papers printed many such protests.  Perhaps this is why the academia in this country is under attack from the current White House occupants. 

Initially, on August 20, U.S. Marines landed in Beirut with a clearly defined mission - to supervise the evacuation of the PLO guerillas.   This was accomplished at the end of the first week of September.  There was no longer a need for a peacekeeping force.  ‘Mission accomplished’.  However, 19 days later, after the Israeli invasion and occupation of West Beirut, and the brutal Sabra – Sahtila massacres under the supervision of Ariel Sharon, a larger US force returned to Beirut – this was with a very different mission in mind.  Theirs was not only to secure the airport, but to help the new Gemayel regime ‘consolidate’ power .    

Per the Reagan strategy, the additional forces were showing a permanent US presence in the Middle East, more pertinent to the events,  some 100 field grade US Army and Special Forces officers were training “the most highly motivated” Lebanese brigades, that is, those with strong Phalangist militia components[v].   According to the ‘Britannica Concise Encyclopedia’, these were the same militias who under Sharon’s supervision massacred 800- several thousand women, children and elderly at Sabra and Sahtila.[vi]    ‘Peace-keeping’ had clearly taken on a new definition. 

By September 1983, U.S. warships were shelling Syrian and Druze militia positions outside Beirut, and Marine ground forces were trading artillery and sniper fire with Shi’a [the Hezbollah are Shi’a] and Druze fighters[vii].    On October 23, 1983, two trucks hit a building housing US Marines killing most – ‘peace-keepers’ 

Iran’s implications in the incident may be that the Islamic regime had proven itself capable of challenging the world’s superpower with a simple religious ideology – Islam.  The Hezbollah had borrowed from the same ideology and resisted the American/Israeli occupation by looking towards Iran as a source of inspiration, but to hold Iran accountable is not only irresponsible, but outrageous.  

There is never any justification for taking the life of another.  The US claims the Marines were simply peace keepers, and in an effort to sweep the dirt under  the rug, given its hostilities with Iran post the 1979 revolution, it has allowed the families to sue the government of Iran.   As expected, the U.S. judicial system has sided not with the law, but with politics, a slap in the face of the people of this county – for policies change, as do international dynamics, but violating our laws to suit the whims of administrations’ policies is tragic for the nation.  

It is time for the American public to open their eyes to the abhorrent policies of their government and as a democratic society direct the actions of the policy makers.  Only then will we seize to cover the mistakes of our government by vindicating the ‘other’.

Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich has lived and studied in Iran, the UK, France, and the US. She obtained her Bachelors Degree in International Relations from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. She is currently pursuing her education in Middle East studies and Public Diplomacy. Soraya has done extensive research on US foreign policy towards Iran and Iran’s nuclear program. She can be reached at sorayau@earthlink.net

NOTES


[i] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6984365.stm
[iii] Lawson, Fred. MERIP, No128, The Deadly Connection; Reagan and the Middle East 9Nov. Dec. 1984) pp 27-34

 

[iv] Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 11, No. 4, [Also Vol. 12, no. 1]. Special Issue: The War in Lebanon. (Summer - Autumn, 1982), pp. 214-221.

[v] Lawson, Fred.
[vii] Lawson, Fred.

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