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Republicans in Retreat


The first explosion woke me up from a sound sleep. It was early on a Sunday morning in November of 1983. this was not a small explosion. I could feel it all the way through my body. The second one was even stronger, but both explosions were not the normal dynamite or small-scale explosions most Beirut residents had become used to. I had survived the Beirut Embassy explosion the previous April ­ but these bombs were different from the apparently “soundless” truck bomb blast I had experienced then. In the Embassy bombinb my ears had apparently shut down to keep from bursting when almost 20 Americans and scores of local Embassy employees and residents been senselessly killed.

So these new explosions woke me up with a start and an immediate sense of dread. I needed to find out what they were; something inside me told me that these two explosions, so close together and so strong that they shook me to the bones, were another violent statement of political rage. It didn’t take long to find out that locations of these awful terrorist blasts were the barracks of the poor sleeping Marines, American and French, who had been sent to help keep the peace. These victims were the brave sweet boys whom I had met on different occasions, most poignantly when they came to guard the US Embassy after an earlier bombing. In many respects, these soldiers, attacked in their beds, had been the victims of an even more cowardly act of terrorism.

These soldiers ­ "boys" -- as I had always called them, had been asleep when their attackers struck. Their guards had not even had effective weapons to stop the suicide truck bombers. Hundreds died. The pictures on the television were horrifying as their burned and battered bodies were taken from the destroyed buildings by their comrades and the local emergency personnel.

A few days later, I was lucky enough to personally visit a few of the survivors, hold their hands and comfort them as feeding tubes were snaked down their throats; these brave boys who came to stop warring factions so far away from the cornfields and basketball courts of their hometowns in the United States. One, a magnificent young African-American was in a coma the whole time. He never woke up and died before I could ever look into his eyes and tell him that he wasn’t alone and how grateful I was for his sacrifice.

Did all this happen under a cowardly Democratic president? Did those Marines have an “indecisive, morally ambiguous, overly analytical liberal” in charge of their country when the decision was made to send them to a far away country to keep peace with weapons which had no bullets? No, their Commander in Chief was President Ronald Reagan. The terrorists responsible were members of Hezbollah among whose sponsors was Iran.

And so did righteous Ronald Reagan step up to the challenge of chasing down who did this? Not at all. Within a few months, Reagan would pull out all of the peacekeeper Marines from Lebanon and within a few years Reagan would be selling arms to Iran to raise money to buy weapons to fund the Contras in Central American ­ against U.S. law. Members of his Administration would also soon be lying to Congress about it. The terrorists would learn an important lesson -- that America could be driven from its commitments with bombs.

So the next time a Republican tries to blame what happened on 9/11 on the events in Lebanon, Somalia or elsewhere for why terrorists think that Americans lack the resolve to defend themselves, think of those hundreds of dead Marines. Think about those Iran arms sales and remember that it was Ronald Reagan who failed to stand up to international terrorism.