View Full Version : Us Veteran Of Beirut

10-19-02, 04:04 PM
On October 25, 1983, in Beirut, Lebanon, then Vice-President George W. Bush, Sr., walked the perimeter of what was at the time called the worst terrorist attack on Americans ever.

Two days earlier, on October 23, a dump truck loaded with 2,000 pounds of dynamite strapped around gas cylinders was driven into a four-story barracks filled with sleeping Marines and sailors. The ensuing explosion would topple the building into a one and a half story pile of rubble, twisted metal and concrete. After weeks of digging through the rubble, the final death toll was 241 men.

Vice President Bush was the highest-ranking government official to personally tour the aftermath. I was a Marine Corps photojournalist who, by chance, happened to be the only person with a camera when he did it. I stayed very close to him, and got some very tight shots. I saw something in his eyes that day, and captured it on film, that has stayed with me over the span of 18 years that has passed since then.

What I saw was that he really, deeply understood what terrorism is. It hurt him to the soul, and I could see it coming through his eyes. I also think he understood the awesome responsibility to be the Commander-in-Chief of the United States armed forces and send men and women into harms way.

I gained a lifetime of respect for Mr. Bush that day. He dared to put himself in the line of fire to come and see for himself the carnage that terrorism can bring. I personally believe that, when he became President, his actions during Desert Shield/Storm were directly affected by his visit to Beirut. He ensured that his military was given clear guidance, authority to carry out their mission, and the weapons and equipment support that ensured overwhelming superiority on the battlefield. The results speak for themselves.

It is interesting and ironic that now, 18 years later, his son is waging a war on terrorism that probably involves many of the same terrorists who were involved in the Beirut bombing. As an American, I have great confidence in George W. Bush, Jr., because I believe his father is in the background, giving guidance. And I choose to believe that as George Jr. was growing up, he absorbed a healthy respect for the duties as Commander-in-Chief.

From 1982 to 1984, thousands of service members, mostly Marines and sailors, were assigned to Beirut as part of a multi-national peacekeeping force. They were sent there as "Peacekeepers," a dubious title in a land that had not seen much peace for centuries. For two years they attempted to carry out their peacekeeping mission of maintaining a forceful presence, but not look too offensive in nature; a dubious mission for a force that trains to engage in offensive military actions. Interestingly, in 1958 Marines also went into Beirut with a similar mission, but with much less disastrous results.

The full story of the military mission in Beirut is worthy of a book, but the point here is that on Oct. 23, 1983, terrorism touched the lives of hundreds of families, friends and fellow service members. In taking the lives of 241 brothers, sons, fathers, and friends, terrorists created a cell of people who have sworn never to forget.