Skip to main content

Today Mitt Romney is set to deliver what is being characterized as an important foreign policy speech to an audience at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia. He is expected to draw a "stark contrast" between a Romney foreign policy and that of his would-be predecessor. Exhibit "A" is expected to be the violent assault on our installation that resulted in the deaths of American personnel.

And he has good grounds to do so.

In fact, prior to the attack on our people, the President himself was specifically warned that placing Americans in an unstable, civil war-torn Middle Eastern country barely existing with a dysfunctional government was a situation ripe for terrorist opportunity.

He ignored the advice, and Americans died as a result.

But the year was 1983. The country was Lebanon, not Libya, and Mr. Romney's would-be predecessor was Ronald Wilson Reagan.

In the attack on the American Marines barracks, the death toll was 241 American servicemen: 220 marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers, along with sixty Americans injured, representing the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Marine Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima of World War II, the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States military since the first day of the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War, and the deadliest single attack on Americans overseas since World War II.[
President Reagan responded by calling it a "despicable act:"
U.S. President Ronald Reagan called the attack a "despicable act"[17] and pledged to keep a military force in Lebanon
Indeed, a despicable act it was. And it was entirely predictable.

Years later Caspar "Cap" Weinberger, Reagan's Secretary of Defense at the time of the attack bitterly recalled "imploring" Reagan to pull the Marines out of a situation he considered untenable:

A former defense secretary for Ronald Reagan says he implored the president to put Marines serving in Beirut in a safer position before terrorists attacked them in 1983, killing 241 servicemen.

"I was not persuasive enough to persuade the president that the Marines were there on an impossible mission," Caspar Weinberger says in an oral history project capturing the views of former Reagan administration officials.

*  *  *
[H]e said one of his greatest regrets was in failing to overcome the arguments that '"Marines don't cut and run,' and 'We can't leave because we're there'" before the devastating suicide attack on the lightly armed force.

"They had no mission but to sit at the airport, which is just like sitting in a bull's-eye," Weinberger said. "I begged the president at least to pull them back and put them back on their transports as a more defensible position."

Reagan, well into his first term and eager to establish his hawkish foreign policy credentials in the face of a persistent recession, ignored Weinberger.  But it was not Reagan, but the military who took the fall.
Shortly after the barracks bombing, President Ronald Reagan appointed a military fact-finding committee headed by retired Admiral Robert L. J. Long to investigate the bombing. The commission's report found senior military officials responsible for security lapses and blamed the military chain of command for the disaster. It suggested that there might have been many fewer deaths if the barracks guards had carried loaded weapons and a barrier more substantial than the barbed wire the bomber drove over easily.
Notably absent was any organized attempt by Democratic Congressional House members to investigate the Administration's knowledge of the military's defense strategy regarding the barracks.

But there was much more reason to expect an attack than simply the concern of Caspar Weinberger.

In April, 1983, only six months prior to this attack, our Embassy in Beirut was attacked by a suicide bomber.

The 1983 U.S. embassy bombing was a suicide bombing against the United States embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, on April 18, 1983, that killed 63 people, mostly embassy and CIA staff members, several soldiers and one Marine. 17 of the dead were Americans. It was the deadliest attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission up to that time[.]
Reagan's response was to call the bombing a "cowardly act":
U.S. President Ronald Reagan on April 18 denounced the "vicious terrorist bombing" as a "cowardly act," saying, "This criminal act on a diplomatic establishment will not deter us from our goals of peace in the region."[5]
After both of these discrete attacks, the Administration moved our Embassy to a supposedly more secure location:
Following the attack, the embassy was moved to a supposedly more secure location in East Beirut. However, on September 20, 1984, another car bomb exploded at this embassy annex, killing twenty Lebanese and two American soldiers.
It's not clear what adjective or adverb President Reagan used to describe this third attack.  But I trust it was a powerful one.

The Congressional response, again, was muted, no doubt in deference to the President, the inherently hazardous nature of keeping an American presence in a war zone, as well as the human scope of the tragedy:

The House Foreign Affairs Committee April 19 voted to approve $251 million in additional economic and military aid for Lebanon, as requested by the administration. But it attached an amendment to the bill that would force the White House to seek approval for any expanded U.S. military role.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee followed suit April 20, approving the aid request but attaching an amendment that required the president to obtain congressional authorization for "any substantial expansion in the number or role of U.S. armed forces in Lebanon or for the creation of a new, expanded or extended multinational peacekeeping force in Lebanon." If Congress did not act jointly on such a request within 60 days, however, the increase would then take effect automatically.

But apparently that was then, and this is now.   As Fox News dutifully reports, candidate Romney is chomping at the bit to leap into the fray and cast blame:
“I believe obviously what happened was a tragic failure. There had been warnings of a possible attack. There had been requests on the part of  … diplomats there to have additional security forces there,” Romney said on Fox News. “We expected candor and transparency from the administration and we didn’t get it.”
Darrell Issa, who in 1983 was less concerned about foreign policy and more interested in selling car alarms, has announced his intention to proceed with a full-blown investigation:
Congressional Republicans’ top inquisitor, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), on Tuesday jumped into the bitter fight over last month’s attack in Benghazi, calling for a hearing on allegations of lax security at the U.S. Consulate there...[.]
Issa's own lack of interest in embassy security doesn't seem to bother him:
Since retaking control in 2010, House Republicans have aggressively cut spending at the State Department in general and embassy security in particular. Chaffetz and Issa and their colleagues voted to pay for far less security than the State Department requested in 2011 and again this year.
It's always instructive to look back and see how times have changed.

Or perhaps it's only instructive to reflect on who occupies the Oval Office and the Congress.

You can contribute to President Obama's re-election campaign here.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Renee, MichaelPH, Best in Show, zane, CJB, filkertom, itsbenj, teacherken, native, Cali Scribe, Powered Grace, NYmom, kainah, BigOkie, theboz, Bob Love, bosdcla14, tommurphy, Debby, Shockwave, Minnesota Deb, Sherri in TX, donna in evanston, Wintermute, billlaurelMD, eeff, dash888, MarkInSanFran, exNYinTX, expatjourno, bookbear, zeitshabba, regis, Paulie200, RubDMC, eyeswideopen, Gustogirl, concernedamerican, Marc in Oakland, TracieLynn, sponson, indybend, kalihikane, annrose, jem6x, whenwego, sharman, ask, CoolOnion, biscobosco, PBnJ, mrblifil, farmerhunt, roses, khloemi, paulitics, pollbuster, Ignacio Magaloni, jalbert, thea lake, kitebro, TheCrank, CocoaLove, sidnora, lmnop, pollwatcher, Quege, tidalwave1, psnyder, TexDem, NYC Sophia, Miss Jones, figbash, solliges, Damnit Janet, DSC on the Plateau, Steven Payne, Sychotic1, defluxion10, Catte Nappe, lcrp, riverlover, Sophie Amrain, zerelda, ybruti, Sembtex, bobnbob, Hillbilly Dem, parryander, tomjones, NapaJulie, valadon, xxdr zombiexx, thereisnospoon, Sassy, Armand451, weelzup, soros, maybeeso in michigan, radarlady, 3goldens, Tinfoil Hat, NoMoreLies, subtropolis, OpherGopher, PBen, labwitchy, Bcre8ve, myeye, Brooke In Seattle, Dobber, Unforgiven, fixxit, eru, sallyfallschurch, uato carabau, Kayakbiker, machka, sofia, Phil S 33, markdd, sunbro, kaliope, SBandini, Lisa Lockwood, turdraker, peacestpete, noweasels, xaxnar, RJDixon74135, Philpm, Nowhere Man, buddabelly, golem, myboo, 417els, Mr Bojangles, Clytemnestra, BlueInARedState, tobendaro, dharmafarmer, hungrycoyote, Yellow Canary, technomage, smokeymonkey, Rolandz, AoT, KenBee, Naniboujou, Wary, raincrow, luckydog, Lefty Coaster, blueoasis, global citizen, philipmerrill, 4Freedom, JVolvo, bleeding heart, boatsie, tommyfocus2003, ER Doc, doinaheckuvanutjob, middleagedhousewife, anninla, Clive all hat no horse Rodeo, Dreaming of Better Days, SD Goat, chgobob, Brunette, markthshark, Nulwee, cpresley, asilomar, Ken in MN, Cronesense, xgz, Habitat Vic, Loudoun County Dem, tgypsy, moodyinsavannah, ColoTim, jds1978, Mary Mike, la urracca, wildweasels, Matt Z, newpioneer, bnasley, jedennis, millwood, carpunder, pioneer111, Wreck Smurfy, Rumarhazzit, uciguy30, GeorgeXVIII, skod, Empower Ink, gizmo59, JDWolverton, jwinIL14, rogerdaddy, JeffW, TX Freethinker, Port City Moon, HappyinNM, OleHippieChick, mamamedusa, Youffraita, Mr Stagger Lee, Involuntary Exile, bythesea, elwior, filby, lineatus, Akonitum, mikeconwell, Lujane, rssrai, tofumagoo, royce, pamelabrown, evora, triplepoint, Jeff Y, codairem, Gemina13, TexanJane, msdobie, SteveS Austin, 59stevenm, Nica24, dmhlt 66, shortgirl, lissablack, statsone, oldliberal, Fiddlegirl, maggiejean, prettygirlxoxoxo, multilee, bluemoonfever, artmartin, Ran3dy, Ripeness Is All, Kansas Born, Rick Aucoin, litoralis, ceebee7, mjkellett, divineorder, CanyonWren, maryabein, Ohiodem1, WakeUpNeo, shalca, DefendOurConstitution, elziax, MKSinSA, TheOpinionGuy, aj2k, papahaha, johnosahon, Leslie in KY, COwoman, kevinpdx, IreGyre, notksanymore, 57andFemale, haremoor, Tortmaster, astral66, schnecke21, futureliveshere, collardgreens, BlueOak, Amber6541, commonmass, coppercelt, political junquie, marabout40, eXtina, estreya, drainflake77, gramofsam1, Tea and Strumpets, blueyescryinintherain, jethrock, secret38b, on board 47, Crabby Abbey, LOrion, plankbob, Eddie L, JoanMar, ItsSimpleSimon, anonevent, DerAmi, sharonsz, Texnance, nirbama, MsGrin, BlueFranco, Floande, Loose Fur, wwjjd, Actbriniel, Quantumlogic, Onomastic, Jane Lew, annieli, meralda, Acktiv, I love OCD, oldmilitant, kayak58, vahana, freesia, Olympia, Intheknow, Nicci August, FightingRegistrar, marleycat, zukesgirl64, sethtriggs, coffeeprocessingmachine, Cinnamon Rollover, badscience, dle2GA, SueM1121, marianevans, wintergreen8694, antooo, peregrine kate, bluedust, bloomin, Vatexia, SoCalSal, SteelerGrrl, Hekate57, stlsophos, LaurenMonica, stormicats, hamm, Heart n Mind, winterpark, angry marmot, IndieGuy, ahumbleopinion, S F Hippie, Deep Texan, 2thanks, Trotskyrepublican, This old man, mapamp, howarddream, doroma, Buckeye54, cuphalffull, sexgenderbody, FrY10cK, dotdash2u, elmaji, Hammerhand, nuclear winter solstice, Shawn Russell, nomandates, DamselleFly, Sam Sara, remembrance, glorificus, poopdogcomedy, weck, averblue, northerntier, bwtsang, Icicle68, Smoh, Rooe, MBishop1, sparkysgal, Kombema

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site