On 23 October 1983, terrorists bombed the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 241 U.S. service members and injuring hundreds more. Thirty years later court transcripts recounting the day continue to haunt. “The truck crashed through the concertina wire barrier and a wall of sandbags and entered the barracks. When the truck reached the center of the barracks, the bomb in the truck detonated. The resulting explosion was the largest non-nuclear explosion that had ever been detonated on the face of the Earth.” Subsequent investigations revealed that the bombing was a deliberate test of Western will to fight large-scale, Iranian-led Islamic terrorism.
In 2003, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth ruled that Iran, its president, its Ministry of Information Security, and Hezbollah—Iran’s proxy in Lebanon—were responsible for the bombing. “These actions arise from the most deadly state-sponsored terrorist attack made against American citizens prior to September 11, 2001,” Lamberth wrote in a memorandum opinion. The ruling stems back to the well-intended but ill-fated 1982–4 U.S. involvement in the Beirut peacekeeping mission where a United Nations-sanctioned multi-national peacekeeping force was formed at the request of the Lebanese government to help quell fighting in Lebanon’s civil war. The 1983 incident was not just an attack against America, but the entire peacekeeping effort in Beirut. In addition to American casualties, French peacekeepers were bombed at the same time, killing 58 paratroopers.