Friday, December 21, 2007
CHRISTMAS IN BEIRUT
Journal Entries from the Battlefield
BY Brian G. Lukas
Editor’s note: The name Beirut became a one-word symbol for the war torn Middle East of the late 1970s. Civil war had erupted in Lebanon in 1975, the result of clashes between Christian and Muslim groups, including members of the Druse religious sect and the Palestine Liberation Organization, and had escalated over several years. In 1982, Israeli troops invaded Lebanon; the two countries had already fought south of Beirut. As well, Syria had occupied the country since 1976. In 1983, the United Nations dispatched a multinational peace-keeping force, including U.S. Marines, to Beirut. The Marines left Beirut within a year because of terrorist attacks; on Oct. 23,1983, a truck loaded with explosives crashed into the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit Headquarters compound, killing 241 Marines.
“The Marines in Beirut seem to have gotten lost in the history books . . . they had a difficult mission,” says TV photographer Brian Lukas. He, along with news anchorwoman Angela Hill and editorialist Phil Johnson, all of WWL-TV/Channel 4, traveled to Beirut in late 1983 to cover Louisiana Marines stationed there at Christmastime. Lukas kept journal entries of his tense times there, excerpted here.
Christmas 1983 was just a few weeks away. I would travel to Beirut with Angela Hill and Phil Johnson to film and edit stories on local Marines from the New Orleans area. It was a time before portable satellite uplinks and the Internet, so we carried videotaped messages from the Marines’ families back in the United States. Our ambitious itinerary also included production of a documentary about this war-torn area. But as fighting between the various factions escalated, that idea was abandoned. Armed militias set up roadblocks in various sections of Beirut. The Islamic Jihad decided to add another element to its arsenal of terror and brutality: kidnapping Westerners.
•If there is hell on earth, it is here in Beirut. At the same time that I arrived in Beirut, the French Embassy was hit by a car bomb, with 20 people killed. Later that night, a French military base was blasted by a bomb-laden truck. Ten French soldiers were killed, and 23 were hurt. The explosion lit up the whole area. Terror – it is sheer terror. I can see it on the faces of the residents who walk cautiously on the streets. Here in Beirut, teenagers carry assault rifles, mainly M-16s. On the streets, women cradle their children tightly in their arms, begging any Westerners for help. The city smells like death. There is a stench of rotting corpses and smoldering trash strewn about from buildings destroyed by the fighting in the streets. To realize the inhumanity of war, you have to look deep in the faces of the civilian population. Then, if you dare, look deep into their eyes. There you will find the horror of war absorbed deep within the soul. I look into many eyes here in Beirut.
•In the eyes of the young Marines, I can see the uneasy and uncomfortable situation they are in. The U.S. Marines’ position at the Beirut International Airport keeps them under daily sniper and artillery attack. I remember when I was in Washington, D.C., for a White House press function when many of these same Marines from the 22nd Marine Amphibious Unit invaded Grenada, a tiny island in the Caribbean. Now I am here in hell with them. The Marines, politically, are not invaders but are so-called “welcome guests,” strategically placed in Lebanon on a peace-keeping mission with the French and Italians as part of a multinational force. Our Marine contact is Capt. Dennis Brooks, the Marine public-information officer on the base, always “spring-loaded to say yes.” He remarked that the various militias near the Marine positions use their tanks like small arms fire: They quickly maneuver the tanks in firing position, release a shell and maneuver back quickly, then repeat the operation. Maximum destruction, I thought to myself. Total destruction was evident when we passed the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps – hundreds, perhaps thousands of Palestinians were killed here: men, women, and children. Our driver remarked, solemnly, that they were executed. The refugee camps are leveled, nothing remains, and where the victims of this civil war sought relief from the terror of war, only the bare reddish-brown earth remains visible from the nearby dusty road. Their graves are not even marked. It is as if they were never born.
•At night there is no time to dream; the evenings are fitful with the sounds of rifle fire. My bed is level with the window. Crazy, I thought, there are snipers on the roofs – one shot through the window and that’s it. I tried to sleep on the floor, but there is no sleep at night. The sounds of sniper fire and the thud of muffled mortar and artillery rounds are trying to find any “peace-keeper’s” position near the Avenue de Paris, the long, winding road facing the Mediterranean Sea.
•At one time Beirut played the Paris of the Middle East; now it plays a sorrowful tune of despair. My hotel in Beirut is owned by the Nassai family, Palestinian owners of the Commodore Hotel. The Commodore Hotel is on the Muslim side of Beirut. On the Christian side, the owner of the Alexandre failed to pay protection money to the thugs and every conceivable terrorist seeking consideration for the hotel’s existence. As a result, somebody exploded a huge car bomb in its parking lot, destroying the hotel. I couldn’t help but notice the line of cars ringing the Commodore Hotel here in Muslim West Beirut. Sometimes the cars were two or three deep. I quickly learned that these vehicles were buffers to prevent any car-bomb attacks on the Commodore. The ring of vehicles and payoffs couldn’t stop the instruments of distant destruction. My hotel room in the Commodore is on the fourth floor, room 405. I could not enter the room without noticing the shift in the door and several large cracks running down the length of the wall. A little later that day, I learned that room 405, my room, had been hit by a rocket-propelled grenade just two weeks earlier.
•There is no sanctuary in this city. It’s a sad place and a sad time. Beirut is a city defined by fear, a city bisected by the green line – Christians in the East, Muslims in the West. This is a noisy, depressing, dangerous and disconcerting place to work. I tried not to sleep last night. It’s been several nights since I’ve had any sleep. The last thing I wanted was to be asleep when a car bomb went off and then to be buried under the rubble of concrete and steel from the top five floors. I often fall asleep at the dinner table. Veteran journalists from Europe and the U.S. networks in the hotel remark that this is one of the scariest wars they’ve covered. There is no “commuting” to this war; death and destruction are all around us.
Blackened pockmarks of war are carved into the façade of every building. The city is gravely wounded. And now a new threat is employed by the terrorists: They are kidnapping journalists and teachers at the American University in Beirut. A note was posted on the front bulletin board as we left the hotel. It was a warning from the Islamic Jihad. In very simple words, the note said that all Westerners must leave Beirut or “we will make the ground under your feet move.” It was a direct threat to destroy the hotel where the Western press reported the war. This is the same group that claimed responsibility for bombing the U.S. Marine base here in Beirut, and the U.S. embassies in Beirut and Kuwait.
•The war is escalating now. (A few months later, the Commodore Hotel would be completely destroyed by shelling and car bombs.) The American Embassy was heavily damaged by another car-bomb attack. Forty people were injured, and eight were killed in the suicide attack. The front of the embassy building, facing the seashore, is covered in what appears to be a seven-story green shroud. It hides the embassy’s exposed interior from probing eyes or people that pass through the zigzagged row of 55-gallon metal drums filled with dirt. The metal drums are defenses against another suicide attack. Marines are positioned throughout the building. Another contingent of Marines is stationed just across the street from the embassy. An American flag blew quietly in the wind next to a Marine guard watching the pedestrian movement in front of the embassy. The image of the American flag and the Marine standing with the sun setting on the Mediterranean Sea gave the drab gray seashore kind of a splendid appearance. In a melancholy way I felt a strong connection with home. The obvious presence of the American flag waving in the warm breeze made me feel very thankful that I live in and would return to the United States shortly. And if there is ever an image of the Marines in Beirut that will be forever stamped on my mind, it is that one single Marine and the American flag rippling in the wind next to him.
•On the corniche, in front of the American Embassy, the Marines are routinely targeted by snipers. It becomes very nerve-racking that at any time death may come by a sniper. As I filmed the area I noticed a small bunker with several Marines standing guard. One of them was Cpl. Brad Pellegrin from Slidell. It is the Christmas season, and he is making the best of a very bad situation by lining his bunker with makeshift ornaments. I forgot that we were nearing Christmas.
We were carrying messages from Cpl. Pellegrin’s family to give to him. It was a videotaped message to him from his wife, mother and child. As we showed the message to him I noticed an interesting effect on the other Marines . . . they gathered closer together to hear the family’s greeting to Brad. Closer the Marines came when Brad’s son said, “Daddy, I love you and miss you.” We played the videotape again and again. That’s when I realized that Brad’s family was now family to all the Marines that gathered to watch his videotape in front of the destroyed American Embassy. His family was their family; his son was their son or daughter. The Marines had a Christmas family now . . . and it was amazing to witness a little bit of loneliness disappear as they looked on. Christmas is family . . . even in Beirut.
•The makeshift Christmas ornaments lining the bunkers in front of the destroyed U.S. embassy were a welcome relief. It was a simple reminder of the hope that peace existed. Off in the distance, on the Mediterranean Sea, the sunset cast a shadow on the battleship New Jersey. The broad, flickering light from her was the firepower from her massive guns unleashed on the Druse militias, who rocketed the Marine base at the International Airport on Beirut’s southern edge. We would find out that a Marine was severely wounded; later he died.
•Overnight, hooded Shiite Muslims and their Druse allies drove Lebanese army units from most of their checkpoints on the Muslim West Beirut commercial thoroughfares and residential neighborhoods. I woke up to a very loud mechanical clanking just outside my hotel. The sounds of Lebanese military tanks rolling pass the hotel window quickly eliminated the little rest I hoped to get.
•Reports indicate at least 90 people killed last night and more than 300 wounded in the fighting; in just two days more than 160 people were killed, mostly civilians caught in the cross-fire. It’s a sickness – hatred is a cancer destroying everything here.
•At the Marine base this morning I could see the visible impact of the shelling by the U.S. 6th Fleet on the mountain range surrounding the base. Huge billows of smoke rose as the shells hit their targets. Cpls. Herbert McKnight and Greg Nelson, both from the New Orleans area, said the Marine base was shelled by rockets overnight. Herbert was stationed in a sandbag bunker on the rooftop of the base. This bunker, accessible only by a ladder, is the highest point on the Marine base. It also appears to be a very vulnerable position, an obvious target for a sniper. Cpl. Nelson, from Slidell, manned a .50-caliber machine gun overlooking the Kalda mountain range near the rear of the base. Cpl. Brian Campbell, only 19 years old and from Lafayette, was quickly unloading supplies from a helicopter. The copters didn’t stay long . . . they couldn’t – mortars usually found their targets. Brian, Greg and Herbert, these young Marines, were reminders that wars are fought by the very young, often placed in horrific circumstances and forced to grow up quickly. Several times I asked them to move their helmet up so I could see their eyes while filming. “Son, can you move your helmet up just a little?” I said. I would later say, “Marine, would you push your helmet back just a little?” Eighteen, 19 years old . . . here in hell, when others of their age are probably wrapping Christmas presents and acting goofy back home.
But on the Marine base at the Beirut International Airport, the one focal point no one can pass without some reflection of what happened months earlier is the huge crater. That crater once housed the Marines in a four story building. Every time I moved past it, I thought of the young men like Greg, Brian and Herbert, and then I said a small prayer for the families of the 241 Marines that died here.
•The Marine base alarm is sounding. The Druse militias are firing mortars now. In a few seconds, we must make the decision to stay on the Marine base during the shelling and miss our satellite deadline or leave and walk into the chaos and madness of the streets. We decide to leave. A condition-1 alert has been initiated . . . there are incoming mortar rounds in the distance, and the front gate will be locked shortly. The Marine base is the target.
We had to leave quickly. But as I left the Marine base I noticed a small memorial in front of the former Marine barracks. Despite the imminent danger, I couldn’t help but stop, notice and film the small bouquet of light blue flowers ringed around a Marine-issued camouflage hat. Above the flowers was a small, white sign facing east, toward the city of Beirut. The small sign simply described the Marines’ mission in Beirut: To the “24th MAU, they came in peace.”
It’s a dangerous world out there. •
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
We will never forget and will always hunt you down
Iranian intelligence official visits Lebanon
Monday, 17 December, 2007 @ 6:32 PM
Beirut - A senior Iranian intelligence officer arrived in Lebanon the week of Dec. 9, and Imad Mughniyah , Hezbollah official in charge of foreign operations accompanied the officer to his meetings there, Stratfor sources said Dec. 16.
The two have held continuous talks with Hezbollah foreign operations officers in meetings attended by Hezbollah security chief Wafiq Safa. They later traveled to the town of Nabi Sheit in the northern Biqaa, then met with Syrian intelligence officers led by Brig. Gen. Ali Diab in Hezbollah training grounds in Shara near the border village of Janta.
Imad Mugniyah, a senior member of the Hezbollah militant organization has been living in Tehran . Sometimes described as a "master terrorist", Mugniyah has been implicated in the 1983 bombings of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut , and U.S. Marine and French peacekeeping barracks, which killed over 350, as well as the 1992 bombings of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires . He was also linked to numerous kidnappings of Westerners in Beirut through the 1980s, most notably that of Terry Anderson. Some of these individuals were later killed such as U.S. Army Col William Francis Buckley.
Sources: Stratfor , Ya Libnan
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
FROM THE RIGHT »
Not anger, not seeking war - but desire to remember the fallen
In response to Roger Ray's article of last Wednesday, for openers, I question his reference to me as his comrade. Although my enlistment predated that of the Marines who were killed in Beirut in 1983, those men who put their lives on the line and lost them were my comrades. Every Marine who reads this knows what I mean. Roger Ray likely does not. That isn't all that he doesn't get.
His statement that "?he (James Regions) seems to be interpreting his painful memories to indicate that we must do to them what they did to us? until they decide they are not mad at us anymore," is cause for concern. Anyone who believes that this is only about someone deciding they are "not mad anymore" does not understand the mind-set of the Islamic terrorists.
He then makes the statement, "But the more important point for me, the one which I would love for James Regions to realize, is that 24 years after that lone bomber killed 220 Americans, he is still hurting, mourning and angry about it. And he wants us to be angry, too, angry enough to go to war over it." Puhleeze. Do we really need another amateur, pseudo psychoanalyst?
He is, with that remark, being disturbingly disingenuous — perhaps, deliberately — by creating a straw man out of an article that said nothing about being angry or going to war. He then used that misrepresentation to launch into a litany about the "wrongness" of the war in Iraq, including costs in dollars and lives.
My article was in no way about Iraq. It was about memorializing dedicated Marines and being alert. It was written on the anniversary of the massacre of the Marines in the Beirut barracks, just over a month past the anniversary of the 9/11 massacres, and had three purposes.
It was written, primarily, to honor the memory of those heroic Marines who died serving their country. I wanted others to remember their sacrifice, if only for a few moments, on the anniversary of their deaths and sent the News-Leader pictures of the bombing in hope that they would be printed. They were not.
The second purpose was to remind readers that acts of terrorism such as the Beirut bombing and the 9/11 sites are not likely going to stop. Terrorists will not stop when we leave Iraq. They would not have stopped if we had not invaded Iraq. They will not stop until Israel is annihilated and the Great Satan, the United States, is an Islamic nation.
The third reason for the article was to say that we have a hard time comprehending the depth of their dedication, since our devotion seems to be to watching television programs like dancing with stars and reality shows — which was the opening point of the article.
One of the most important things that we can do is to not forget. To forget and let our guard down is an open invitation to terrorists to strike again. Neither the Beirut bombing nor 9/11 is a drama with a solution to be found within two hours, not counting time for commercials.
The terrorists fear displeasing Allah much more than they fear anything or anyone else. They will, gladly, die for their beliefs. We have a hard time understanding their depth of dedication, hatred and fear, but we can remember it.
Pulitzer Prize-winner and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorial page editor Paul Greenberg made these observations in last week's tribute to Doris Lessing, 2007 Nobel literature laureate, "?we still have trouble recognizing evil as it gathers, or even when it is upon us. And so our reaction to it keeps veering between astounded panic and familiar laxity."
"The more far-seeing of our leaders have told us that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, but eternal is a long time. We grow tired. We nod off. Maybe if we ignore the threat, it will go away. We miss our isolation and imagine we can return there, retreat behind our oceans and be safe. It is a temptation, and every time we yield to it, we are shocked awake." Greenberg is absolutely right.
Back to the last week's response to "From the Left," to infer from my article that I want war because of hurt and anger is more than insipid isogesis; starting with a belief and finding purportedly supporting documentation. There is none. Perhaps Roger Ray needs to simply state his positions without misusing another writer's article as a pathetically phony pretext.
James Regions lives in Springfield. "From the Right" appears every Tuesday. Coming Wednesday: "From the Left."
Thursday, October 25, 2007
“By their courage on the battlefield, and constant risk of danger, today’s Marines honor every one of their forebears who died defending our country,” McConnell said. “We continue to fight terror today with a steady hand, even if it is at times paired with a heavy heart. And we are proud of the brave men and women who fight for their country.”
On October 23, 1983, two truck bombs struck separate buildings in Beirut housing U.S. and French members of the Multinational Force who were stationed in Lebanon during the Lebanese Civil War. The attack killed 241 American Marines, sailors and soldiers. Several hours later, an organization called Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack.
“I rise today in honor of the 241 U.S. Marines, sailors and soldiers who were killed in a despicable suicide bombing attack on the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. That attack occurred 24 years ago today on October 23, 1983.
President Ronald Reagan had dispatched U.S. forces in 1982 to maintain the peace in Lebanon. On the morning of October 23, one Lebanese terrorist drove a truck packed with explosives through three guard posts and a barbed-wire fence, straight into the lobby of the U.S. Marine Corps’ headquarters.
The bomb exploded with the force of 18,000 pounds of dynamite. It transformed the four-story cinderblock building into rubble.
It was so powerful, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia later described it as ‘the largest non-nuclear explosion that had ever been detonated on the face of the Earth.’
Some of the men and women lost that day were murdered in their sleep. Others, who saw the truck come crashing in, may have seen the face of the enemy as their last sight on Earth.
Either way, 241 Americans wearing their country’s uniform were killed in a brutal attack that shocked America and the world.
Terrorists and their favorite tactic, the suicide attack, are still with us today.
Thankfully for America, so are the United States Marines.
Founded in 1775, the U.S. Marine Corps has been ‘at the tip of the spear’ in every one of this nation’s wars. And they will never be stopped by a terrorist’s suicide attack.
This November, the country will celebrate the Corps’ 232nd birthday, and thank them for defending our freedoms.
By taking the fight to the terrorists, wherever they hide, the Marines have put terrorists on the defensive, making it less likely they will hit us again here at home.
By their courage on the battlefield, and constant risk of danger, today’s Marines honor every one of their forebears who died defending our country.
Mr. President, America still remembers her brave men and women lost in the Marine barracks bombing of 1983. We honor them and their families for their sacrifice.
We continue to fight terror today with a steady hand, even if it is at times paired with a heavy heart. And we are proud of the brave men and women who fight for their country against the would-be terrorists of today and tomorrow.”
Marine witness to devastating attack now helping fellow wounded warriors
By DENNIS YUSKO, Staff writer
Click byline for more stories by writer.
First published: Tuesday, October 23, 2007
COLONIE -- Darrel Franklin saw the world change 24 years ago today in Beirut. It ended up changing his own world, too.
The Marine from Arbor Hill was standing guard in Lebanon at 6:22 a.m. Oct. 23, 1983, when a suicide bomber detonated a truckload of explosives at the Marines' barracks, killing 241 U.S. military members.
The lance corporal not only survived the era's first major terrorist attack, but also the personal difficulties that followed.
He got a job as a mail carrier, but battled post-traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism for years. Now Franklin, 44, has a second career helping a new generation of wounded warriors at Stratton Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Albany.
Working in the center's drug and alcohol rehabilitation program has made Franklin feel better about the memories of the thunderous blast in Beirut and the friends he lost, he says.
"I found out that by taking my experiences, pains and heartaches and sharing them with other people, I can be a tool for them," he said in his Latham home, which he shares with his wife, Angela, and two daughters.
Franklin's personality mixes black and military pride, and he wants to spend the rest of his life helping young African-Americans and combat veterans. But for Franklin, it's been a long road to rebirth.
He grew up on Colonie Street in Albany with his mother and sister, and always wanted to be a Marine. He signed up at age 17 and left for boot camp four days after graduating from Albany High School.
"School wasn't my thing," Franklin said.
After being assigned to bases in California and Okinawa, Japan, for a year, Franklin volunteered for a multinational peacekeeping mission in Beirut in 1983. The U.S. had entered Lebanon after Israel invaded the country and a civil war broke out.
Franklin and others made daily patrols around the Beirut region. He endured sniper fire and other attacks from what he believes were Hezbollah fighters. Members of Hezbollah were blamed for the bombing that blew the four-story cinder-block building into rubble and crushed many inside.
Franklin was standing about 400 yards away from the blast, which ultimately caused President Ronald Reagan to withdraw U.S. troops from Lebanon.
"They shook the ground beneath our feet," Franklin said. He remembers feeling anger, emptiness and a desire for revenge when he saw coffins carrying dead Marines being loaded onto a plane.
Franklin returned to the United States in December 1983. He re-enlisted and got married the next year.
But something was brewing within him. Franklin had trouble sleeping, often waking in a heavy sweat. At a military parade, he hit the ground in a panic at the sound of a cannon shot.
After he got back, he took a job with the U.S. Postal Service. He soon started drinking to numb his anxious feelings.
In 1990, at the urging of both his wife and mother, Franklin got help from the Albany Veterans Center on Central Avenue. He went to individual and group counseling for stress and anxiety.
1Franklin was inspired to go to college after he attended the Million Man March in Washington, D.C., in 1995. Over the next decade, he earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Sage Colleges, the latter in community psychology and counseling. The VA hired Franklin two months ago.
"I can always trust that he's working with the best interest of the veteran at heart," said Kirsten Danfourth, acting program manager. "His compassion and the work he does definitely stems from his own experience as a veteran."
Franklin says he wants to help veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts who are suffering from similar problems. He says he still lives a "guarded" life.
"I want to let the guys and girls know that you can live with it and be productive," Franklin said. "You face a lot of stuff. It isn't easy. But you can become aware of trigger signs and make changes."
Yusko can be reached at 581-8438 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Think back to the many heroes we lost that day. Think of the enemies that ran us out of Lebannon, and remember that these are the same enemy we fight today. Hizballah, Syria, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The list goes on. These are the same enemies trying to defeat us in Iraq today.
Our enemy has been at war with us now for more than 24 years. Only since 9-11 have we recognized this fact and begun to fight back.
Right Wing Nut House » BEIRUT BARRACKS BOMBING ANNIVERSARY
The driver of the yellow Mercedes Benz truck in Beirut that awful day 24 years ago knew precisely where to go. According to intelligence reports, two members of what was then the underground terrorist organization known as Hizbullah had mapped the layout of the Marine barracks so that the suicide bomber could carry out his mission to maximum effect. He knew the Marines pulling sentry duty had pocketed their ammo clips thanks to some ridiculous rules of engagement. And he was aware that there were no barriers protecting the structure so that his truck laden with 12,000 pounds of explosives would only have to crash through ordinary wood and plaster in order to be positioned perfectly so that detonation would have catastrophic effects on the building.
The truck had apparently been prepared with the help of Syrians and Iranians in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon where several Revolutionary Guard units had been stationed under Syrian protection. An NSA intercept revealed at a trial that convicted the Islamic Republic of Iran of being behind the attack, stated that a message sent from Iranian intelligence headquarters in Tehran toAli-Akbar Mohtashemi, the Iranian ambassador in Damascus and directed the Iranian ambassador to get in touch with Islamic Amal which has since been identified as the military arm of Hizbullah at the time, and instruct him to “take spectacular action” against the Marines.
Read the whole horrible story, because remembering what happened is half of preparing for what is next. We can’t go through life pretending that there isn’t a huge fanatical movement in the world praying for our destruction. Sticking your head in the sand is not what these heroes deserve on the anniversary of their murders.
And now we face the same decision that Reagan faced then. Do we run, or do we stand and fight? Do we allow the forces of militant jihadism to force us to leave with our tail between our legs, and wait for the next bombing or hijacking? Or do we keep kicking their asses wherever we find them?
Reagan, and the rest of this nation, made the mistake of thinking this war wouldn’t follow us home if we just got the hell out. Today we know from experience that this simply isn’t the case. They always come back home. Victory is the only option. Harden the fuck up and quit your bitching..
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One Response to “Remembering: The Beirut Barracks Bombing Anniversary”
1. Solo Says:
October 24th, 2007 at 6:23 am
It would be good if people would look back and remember. Too many I’ve talked to think that Islamic terrorism started on 9/11/01.
By Lt Col P
23 Oct 1983, the same day as the Beirut bombing, a scratch joint task force assaults and takes the island of Grenada, overthrowing its tinpot Marxist government and ejecting Cuban soldiers and workers.
The Navy history website has a nifty little account of the campaign.
Meanwhile, Fox and Echo companies [of 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines] merged north of St. George's and secured a flat, stadium-like area called the Queen's Racecourse, which the Marines dubbed "LZ Racetrack" (LZ standing for landing zone). The battalion landing team commander set up headquarters there.
"We did a lot of humping today," said Marine Captain Mike Dick, Fox Company commander, after the first day of the operation. He looked over his men and added in a low tone, "It's quite a bit different from Camp Lejeune. We're doing this for real and for keeps."
Make that Capt Mike Dick, VMI '77, now Colonel, USMC, retired.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
By Trista Talton - Staff writerPosted : Tuesday Oct 23, 2007 17:31:24 EDT
JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — They gently brushed their fingertips across the stone where the names of the men who died on a peacekeeping mission in Lebanon in 1983 are engraved.
On Tuesday, families and friends gathered around the Beirut Memorial here once again to commemorate the 24th anniversary of the day terrorists drove a bomb-laden truck into the headquarters building for the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, killing 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers.
The crowd — filled with an assortment of Marines, sailors, airmen, soldiers, mothers, fathers, wives, children and survivors of the blast — looked toward the wall as speakers talked about that fateful day.
Maj. Gen. Robert Dickerson, commander of Marine Corps Installations-East and the ceremony’s guest speaker, told the story of one survivor, Lance Cpl. Jeffrey Nashton, who was fighting for his life on a hospital bed in Germany when he and other survivors were visited by then-Commandant Gen. P.X. Kelley.
Nashton could not see or speak and could barely hear. When Kelley knelt by his bedside, Nashton reached out a hand and brushed his fingers over the general’s star-collared shirt.
Nashton signaled he wanted to write something. He was handed a pen and paper and scribbled two words — “Semper Fi” — before handing the paper to Kelley, Dickerson said.
“Jeffrey feels guilty, as many of you do today, that he survived,” Dickerson said. “Don’t feel guilty. It’s your memory. It’s their legacy you’re maintaining.”
Dickerson rattled off a long list of terrorist attacks dating back to November 1979, when the U.S. Embassy in Iran was taken over by militants. He spoke of various embassy attacks throughout the years, the bombing of the Cole and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“The lessons learned in Beirut are relevant today,” Dickerson said. “These cowards are still out there. These cowards — these terrorists — are global. And they fear democracy.”
Posted by Semper Fi Mom at 10:34 AM
Friday, October 19, 2007
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The annual ceremony honors the loss of three local men in a 1983
By ANGIE SCHMITT
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
STRUTHERS — A memorial that honors those killed in the Beirut bombing of 1983 stands about 4 feet high on the bank of Lake Hamilton here.
Centered around a circular flagstone, the memorial holds the names of the 14 Ohioans who lost their lives in the bombing that killed 241 Marines, sailors and soldiers deployed on a peacekeeping mission in Lebanon that year.
"It just says 'Peace Keepers Memorial,'" said Richard Mitchells, commandant of the Tri-state Marine Detachment of the Marine Corps League, "because that's what they were — peacekeepers."
Family members of the three area men killed that day will return to this site Sunday, as they do every year near the anniversary of that date, Oct. 23, 1983.
A ceremony in honor of all those killed in the attack will begin at 1 p.m. with a call to attention and the posting of the Marine colors, said Mitchells, a Greenford resident who organized the event. Then, military officials will perform a ceremonial changing of the flags; one American, one POW, one Marine and one Navy.
A traditional memorial service will be held with a 21-gun salute. After that, New Castle resident Shirley Kirkwood will be among the family members invited to place a wreath on the stone in honor their lost loved ones.
Kirkwood's son, Shenango High School graduate James McDonough, was killed when a truck loaded with 2,000 pounds of dynamite crashed through the gates of the multinational force barracks, where hundreds of troops, mostly Marines, were sleeping.
After all these years, fall is still a painful time of year for Kirkwood, a 69-year-old mother of six. Exactly one month before the bombing McDonough, her oldest child, had celebrated his 21st birthday.
"It's just like it was yesterday," said Kirkwood. "When you lose a son like that, you can't get over it."
Struthers resident Edward Johnston was instrum ental in bringing the memorial to Struthers in 1993. His son, Edward Anthony Johnston, also of Struthers, lost his life in the attack. He was 22. The third local victim was Niles resident Stanley Sliwinski.
Meeting at this site, year after year, the three families have become friends, Johnston said. And all three are expected Sunday, including Sliwinski's daughter and widow.
Though the experience isn't exactly pleasant for Johnston, he said he still appreciates the solemn annual gathering.
"I'm glad to see that people do attend," he said. "It makes you feel good."
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
By K.C. MYERS
October 09, 2007
SANDWICH — To say John Santos suffered during his military service would be an understatement.
In the early morning hours of Oct. 23, 1983, the lifelong Sandwich resident fell asleep in the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut and woke up buried in debris, unable to hear and suffering from a concussion and a fractured skull.
And he was one of the lucky ones. Approximately 241 service members died, most of them fellow Marines, when a suicide bomber drove a truck loaded with explosives into the barracks. It has been called the most deadly act of terrorism to U.S. citizens prior to Sept. 11, 2001.
Last month, almost 24 years after the bombing, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth awarded $2.65 billion to nearly 1,000 survivors of the bombing and their families, to be paid by the Islamic Republic of Iran. The judge stated that Iran clearly aided and backed the terrorist organization Hezbollah, which carried out the attack.
It's now up to the U.S. government to decide if and when to release Iranian assets frozen here and in other U.S.-friendly countries. There seems to be the political will to punish Iran for its participation in terrorist attacks, so the chances of the victims receiving this money are good, according to Washington, D.C., attorney Richard D. Heideman of Heideman Nudelman & Kalik, which represented some of the families.
Nine months too late
All this should be good news to Santos, 45, who has five children and cannot work because of back injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.
But here is where his luck really ran out. Santos didn't find out about the lawsuit until his daughter, now a junior at Sandwich High School, came across a reference to the litigation while researching the Internet for a book her teacher recommended. Her discovery, in January, came nine months too late.
A law enacted in 1996 that allows Americans to sue nations that the State Department considers sponsors of terrorism for damages suffered in terrorist acts effectively expired in April 2006, Heideman said.
Santos contacted Heideman's office as soon as he heard, but was told he had missed the deadline.
The judge found Iran liable back in 2003, but the suit made big news last month when Lamberth awarded the actual damages. Santos called a fellow survivor living in Massachusetts. The man (who asked that his name not be published) told Santos he was expecting $2 million to $5 million from the suit.
"Oh, I went ballistic," Santos said.
Santos cannot understand how no one — not the attorneys themselves nor fellow survivors — contacted him during all the years the lawsuit was in process.
"It's not like I moved or have an unlisted home number," said Santos, who graduated from Sandwich High School in 1980 and returned to his hometown following his military service.
Santos suffers back problems from crushed discs, a result of being thrown and then buried in debris following the bombing. He also has disfiguring facial scars and is missing part of an earlobe, he said.
"But that's nothing compared to what I've gone through with PTSD," he said.
Santos, who received a Purple Heart, recalls passing body parts as he walked out of the destroyed military base. He can no longer go into restaurants or malls for fear he may have a panic attack, he said.
The attorneys searched for other survivors and families by posting notices on the Internet, but they mostly worked through a national support group, the Beirut Veterans Association, Heideman said. Santos, however, said he was never involved with the association because it's mostly for family members of the deceased, he said.
"For a long time, I didn't want to face it because I felt guilty that I lived," he said.
A very active member of that group, Chris Devlin, lives in Westwood. She is the mother of Michael Devlin, who died in the bombing at age 21.
Devlin said she found and alerted many survivors and family members in the Bay State, including the man who told Santos he expected $2 million to $5 million.
But she never found Santos.
"I don't know how I missed him," she said of Santos. "I feel ever so badly about it."
Privacy laws hampered her ability to search, she said.
"We were not privy to names and current addresses," Heideman said.
After the damages portion of the lawsuit was announced in September, a number of people contacted Heideman's office saying they'd survived or are family members of the deceased, Heideman said. They too claimed to not know about the lawsuit, he said.
"We are evaluating the situation," Heideman said of the additional possible plaintiffs. "It's a matter we are reviewing."
This is about the only glimmer of hope for Santos and others like him.
"It's not so much about the money," Santos said. "I just feel dishonored. ... The worst part is, my daughter feels so guilty for showing me that letter (on the lawsuit). The children are now the victims of the bombing. That's the last thing I ever wanted."
K.C. Myers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BLOG EDITOR'S NOTE!!!!!
"The attorneys searched for other survivors and families by posting notices on the Internet, but they mostly worked through a national support group, the Beirut Veterans Association, Heideman said. Santos, however, said he was never involved with the association because it's mostly for family members of the deceased, he said."
THE BEIRUT VETERANS OF AMERICA IS AND HAS ALWAYS BEEN FOR THE VETERANS,AND FAMILY MEMBERS
Saturday, October 06, 2007
Thu. 04 Oct 2007
The Washington Times
By Lynn Smith Derbyshire and Judith C. Young
On Oct. 23, 1983, the government of Iran sent a truck bomb into the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, destroying the building like a child smashing play-doh. Two hundred and forty-one men were killed, and countless others were wounded. It was mass murder.
It took three weeks to dig through the rubble and identify all the dead. The families of these victims, U.S. Marines and servicemen who were sent to Lebanon as peacekeepers, sat in front of our television sets and wept, and waited, and prayed — and waited and prayed, and wept again, desperate for news of those we loved.
For 24 years, since that horrible day, that horrible moment, the government of Iran has literally been getting away with murder.
In May 2003, after a trial that weighed the evidence of Iran's role in the bombing, the victims of Iran's state-sponsored terrorism and their families saw the first step toward justice. A U.S. district court found the government of Iran liable for organizing and funding the Beirut attack. And just last month, after a four-year process of painstakingly reviewing the claims of the hundreds of victims, that same court awarded damages in excess of $2.6 billion to the victims and their families.
Does this decision mean that Iran will finally be held to a measure of accountability for its sponsorship of terrorism? Well, not exactly. That is because several court decisions have held that legislation which Congress passed in 1996, giving victims of terrorism a federal cause of action, does not allow victims to attach assets held indirectly by terrorist states, even if these assets can be proven to be controlled for the benefit of the terrorist states. Terrorist states have used these decisions to hide their assets from victims seeking damages.
This has prompted Sens. Frank Lautenberg, New Jersey Democrat, and Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, along with 25 other cosponsors, Democrats and Republicans, to introduce S. 1944, the Justice for Victims of State-Sponsored Terrorism Act. And in recent days, despite continued opposition from the State Department, even as Iran's leaders were thumbing their noses at the United States last week at the United Nations, members of Congress have rallied to this cause, with the Senate unanimously agreeing to include the Lautenberg-Specter bill as an amendment to the defense authorization. The measure is now in conference with the House and must be signed by the president.
This bill sends a strong and clear message to terrorist states such as Iran: You cannot murder Americans without consequences anymore. You can and will be held accountable. America and Americans now have one more tool in the world war on terror. The cost of state-sponsored terrorism is about to go up.
Will Iran be hurt by losing more than $2 billion of their investments abroad? Absolutely. The Iranian reaction to the court's recent decision was very public and very critical. They don't want to be held accountable for what they do. They don't want our nation to have laws that can deter them from supporting terrorist acts. They don't want to face the possibility that their government, currently under mounting domestic criticism for its mismanagement of its economy, may lose investments that generate significant income.
Maya Angelou said: "History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again."
Governments such as Iran have been perpetrating acts of terrorism, and supporting terrorist organizations long enough. Today we say to them: no more.
None of us want the events of Oct. 23, 1983, to be repeated; they have been repeated far too many times already. The Achille Lauro, Robert Stethem of TWA Flight 847, the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, the U.S.S. Cole, September 11, Madrid, Bali, and on and on.
In the Old Testament, the prophet Jeremiah says there is "Lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; She refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.
"But God says to her, "Restrain your voice from weeping... because there is hope for the future." Time does not heal wounds; only hope can heal wounds.
This legislation will hold Iran accountable for the murder of the men who were killed and wounded on October 23, 1983. And if we can accomplish that, then we believe that we will truly have hope for the future.
Lynn Smith Derbyshire lives in Oak Hill, Va. Her brother, Marine Capt. Vincent Smith was killed in the 1983 Beirut bombing. Judith C. Young lives in Moorestown, N.J. She is the mother of Marine Sgt. Jeffrey Young, who was killed in the 1983 Beirut bombing.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Thanks to Mr. Daly for his timely article on the Piece of Garbage, that recently flew in from Iran, I believe he calls himself the President of Iran now, 25 years ago he was nothing more than a murderous thug, and nothing has changed in the meantime.
No way to forget terror with Iran's president in your face
Sunday, September 23rd 2007, 4:00 AM
As the unrelentingly offensive president of Iran flies into JFK today, we should remember five beautiful sons of our city who were murdered at an airport far from home.
* Lance Cpl. Terrence Rich of Brooklyn.
* Lance Cpl. Steven Jones of Brooklyn.
* Lance Cpl. Warren Richardson of Brooklyn.
* Cpl. Obrian Weekes of Brooklyn.
* Lance Cpl. Dennis Thompson of the Bronx.
The five were killed along with 236 other Marines in a suicide attack on their barracks at the edge of Beirut International Airport on Oct. 23, 1983.
The CIA determined that the 12,000 pounds of explosives were furnished by Iran, whose hothead of state arrives among us today.
If Mahmoud Ahmadinejad looks a little smug, one reason may be that the United States did exactly nothing about the murder of those 241 Marines in revenge for our support for Saddam Hussein back then.
And, when 9/11 did rouse us to the reality of terrorism, Ahmadinejad was no doubt delighted to see the Bush Administration use the attack on the World Trade Center as a pretext to go after Iran's old enemy Saddam.
Iran commemorated its eight-year war with Iraq with a big parade yesterday that featured a new Ghadr-1 missile, whose name means "power." There were also the requisite signs indicating that the enemy of Iran's enemy is still its enemy.
"Death to America!"
Ahmadinejad was expected to board a plane later for America, to New York in particular. He will be moving through our city's streets under our protection even as his operatives set roadside bombs in Baghdad to murder our troops.
Iran almost certainly had nothing to do with 9/11, but it also almost certainly is aiding Shiite insurgents in killing G.I.s in Iraq. Ahmadinejad's current pals in this clandestine effort include Imad Fayez Mugniyah, the mastermind of the Beirut bombing that killed 241 Marines nearly a quarter century ago.
The number goes up to 242 if you include another New York Marine, Eddie Quail of upstate Hopewell Junction. Quail was eating in the chow hall at the four-story barracks in Beirut when the whole world seemed to explode around him.
"He didn't know if there was a nuclear war or the world had ended," a friend said yesterday.
Quail spent 2-1/2 days trapped in the rubble, not even knowing which way was up or down. He had somehow held onto a metal cup and he kept rapping it against the concrete.
Finally, somebody heard him. Quail was extracted alive, but part of his mind remained in the rubble. He was left alone in his terror as the country quickly forgot the attack.
"Like it never happened," the friend said.
A decade after the bombing, Quail's knees still shook when he sat.
"You would see it in him," the friend recalled. "He was the nicest, kindest guy, but he was a nervous wreck all the time."
Quail attempted to take his life by slicing his wrists. A few months later he ran in front of a truck and was killed.
"I guess it was a suicide," his friend said.
Word of Quail's death reached the Rev. Mychal Judge, then the FDNY's chaplain. Judge contacted the Marine Corps, which dispatched an honor guard to a modest funeral that ended with everyone holding hands in prayer.
Four years later, Judge himself became a victim of terrorism at the World Trade Center. Neither the Iranians nor Saddam had anything to do with that attack, but part of the blame rests squarely on all of us who were so quick to shrug off the terrorist attacks of the past.
The world did not change on 9/11. We just got a lesson in the world as it really is.
But, even now, people imagine that when we finally leave Iraq we will not still be at war, that the world will not still include Osama Bin Laden and Mugniyah. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's only virtue is he does not let us forget he is around.
While we are busy being outraged by Ahmadinejad's request to lay a wreath at Ground Zero, we should take the time to lay wreaths of our own at the graves of those five murdered Marines from New York, and one more for Eddie Quail.
Monday, August 20, 2007
By Richard Gazarik
Monday, August 20, 2007
It was Oct. 23, 1983, when the largest non-nuclear explosion ever detonated sent Marine Lance Cpl. Terry Valore, of Slickville in Westmoreland County, flying into a wall as his barracks disintegrated around him in Beirut, Lebanon.
Valore was a member of the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit, which was part of a multinational United Nations peacekeeping force assigned to Lebanon when Hezbollah terrorists, backed by Iran, drove a truck filled with explosives past a Marine checkpoint. They crashed the truck into the barracks, killing 241 Marines, soldiers and airmen.
Nearly 24 years later, Volare could be on the verge of payback.
He is lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Islamic Republic of Iran. In March, a U.S. District Court judge in Washington entered a judgment against Iran that could allow Valore and relatives of Marines killed in the attack to recover damages.
story continues below
Now they have to collect.
A bill proposed Aug. 2 in the U.S. Senate -- Senate Bill 1944, the Justice for Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Act -- would allow the plaintiffs to recover damages from Iranian assets frozen by the United States. The bill is before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"We're trying to put pressure on Congress to get it to a vote," said Valore, 45.
The former Marine, who was burned over 90 percent of his body, said, "it's been a long, tough road" to get to this point.
He said terrorists have been "exploiting loopholes" in the law by hiding behind sovereign immunity, which shields foreign governments from lawsuits.
"I've had my ups and downs every day," he said. "I lost a lot of good friends and would love to see their families get some monetary gain from it."
His attorney, Daniel Gaskill, of Rockville, Md., said the Senate bill would make exceptions to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which bars lawsuits against other nations. The exceptions include state-sponsored terrorism, kidnapping, extrajudicial killings, torture, hostage-taking and aircraft sabotage.
In entering the judgment, U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth wrote that Valore and the other 44 defendants "have established by clear and convincing evidence" that Iran was responsible for the attack. He added that the "elements of civil conspiracy are established between the defendants in this case and the actual perpetrators of the attack."
Lamberth said the evidence linked Iran through its Ministry of Information and Security to Hezbollah, which U.S. military officials say is now being backed by Iran in attacks on American forces in Iraq. The judge ruled that Iran provided money and support for the terrorists who planned and carried out the Beirut attack.
Lamberth will decide on the amount of damages at a hearing Sept. 7, Gaskill said. A court-appointed special master would determine individual amounts for Valore and the other plaintiffs.
"We don't know what the judge will decide," Gaskill said. "My guess is he will go about $3.3 billion. Whatever number he gives us, it's like one less roadside bomb that the Iranians will have money to spend on."
Gaskill, himself a former Marine, said the legislation is needed so his clients can recover damages from the Iranian assets held by the United States. He said an act of Congress is needed to gain access to the frozen funds since he is barred by law from suing the U.S. government to force their release.
According to court records, Hezbollah packed a 19-ton truck with explosives and disguised it as a water delivery vehicle that routinely arrived at Beirut International Airport, where Valore's unit was stationed. Hezbollah hijacked the real water truck and sent in the fake. The truck crashed through sandbags and concertina wire surrounding the barracks and detonated about 6:25 a.m., when many of the Marines were sleeping. The blast left an 8-foot-deep crater and leveled the four-story barracks.
"What resulted was the largest non-nuclear explosion ever detonated up to that time," Lamberth wrote.
Valore was on guard duty when the explosion occurred. The blast slammed him into a pillar, which kept him from being blown outside and buried when the building collapsed.
In his ruling, Lamberth said the physical and psychological toll on the survivors and families is incalcuable.
"This court acknowledges that there is little it can say to effectively convey to the (families) of these brave servicemen how deeply sorry it is for their losses." He said the attack "remains a tragedy that will never be forgotten."
"Parents and children alike were lost that day. Families were torn apart, never to become whole again. The physical and emotion and psychological scars suffered by these victims will undoubtedly endure long after the issuance of a judgment in this case."
In 2003, the families of the 270 victims of Pan Am Flight 103 settled their lawsuit against Libya for $2.7 billion after Libya admitted responsibility for the 1988 bombing as the plane flew over Lockerbie, Scotland.
Other lawsuits are pending in New York involving the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and United Flight 93 in Shanksville, Somerset County.
Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism in 2003 filed a $116 trillion lawsuit against a company run by the family of Osama bin Laden, Sudan and a number of Saudi princes, alleging they helped finance the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. The case is pending.
Valore said he plans to see the case through to the end.
"I got one shot at this," he said. "We all got one shot. I plan on changing history with this law. I almost lost my life over there. I can't let them win."
Richard Gazarik can be reached at email@example.com or (724) 830-6292.
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Remember America's heroes on July 5th too
It’s because of these men that we continue to have a 4th of July to celebrate, and we should remember them the other 364 days of the year as well. Their stories are the foundation of our country and embody the very flag everyone is waving around this week.
Their hardships could be written about, talked about and spread all over the world a million times over, and it still wouldn’t be enough.
|Heroes managed to live while defending our country and flag. Countless people have died for that flag, and a majority of their stories will never be told. Don't forget them. / Submitted photo|
|Marine Colonel Mitchell Paige and Chet Decker|
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Retired Master Sergeant Kenneth Whitehead was finally awarded a Bronze Star in 1999 for his life-saving actions in Vietnam in 1966. He was on watch, while many of his fellow Marines slept in tents nearby. Suddenly a grenade flew out of nowhere. Whitehead said he wasn’t even thinking when he picked up the live grenade and hurled it away from the tents. Just as he was realizing what he had done, he saw enemy soldiers advancing on him. That’s when he put his rifle into his shoulder and began killing those that wanted to kill him.
During an interview, Whitehead told me through tears about a battle earlier in the war when advancing enemy soldiers were so numerous that it seemed like a turkey shoot. He was shooting them with his pistol from just a few yards away as they attacked his tank. Whitehead drove the tank down an enemy trench line, crushing numerous enemy soldiers and burying several alive. Twelve U.S. Marines were killed in the battle. Whitehead said the war still goes on inside him – feelings of guilt for being a survivor and feelings of guilt for having killed scores of human beings.
And then there is the Marine who stands out most in my mind – former Corporal Paul Rivers, now a U.S. Marshall. I first met him during a ceremony in 1997 that marked the 14th anniversary of the Marine Corps barracks bombing in Beirut, Lebanon. Rivers was lying in his bunk gathering himself to get out of bed and into uniform for duty. He remembers a tremendous light and waking up pinned under concrete with a plumbing pipe melting onto his face. Rivers ended up in a Lebanese hospital next to dead and dying Marines. He remembers the screams. Of more than 100 servicemen on his floor in the barracks, he is one of two that lived.
Rivers cried when he told me his story, about how everyone in the room with him, including his best friends, perished. When he told me, “My brothers would have wanted me to carry on,” I cried with him.
Rivers carries the weight of being one of a handful of surviving Marines in that 1983 terrorist attack that killed 241 American servicemen. Surely many who were sleeping never even knew what hit them. You can be damn sure that he remembers those patriots that surely did not want to die for their country but did anyway.
That American flag that sometimes seems to only be waved during holidays like the 4th of July is ours. Many people didn’t need to earn the right to wave that flag, because brave men like Mitchell Paige, Kenneth Whitehead and Paul Rivers did that for them.
Those heroes managed to live while defending our country and flag. Countless people have died for that flag, and a majority of their stories will never be told.
In a certain way, the gracefulness and beauty of our flag blowing in the wind tells those stories.
Don’t forget them.
Saturday, June 09, 2007
At Haditha Hearing, Dueling Views of a Battalion Commander
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif., June 7 — Through three combat deployments in Iraq, a Bronze Star and numerous combat ribbons, Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani’s Marine Corps career has been defined, it seems, by terrorist bombs.
In October 1983, news of the attack by Muslim extremists on a Marine Corps barracks in Beirut that killed 241 service members compelled Colonel Chessani, then a teenager from Rangely, Colo., to embrace Christianity and, later, to follow two brothers into the service. In November 2005, Colonel Chessani was a battalion commander in Haditha, Iraq, when a roadside bomb planted by Sunni Arab insurgents killed one of his marines and wounded two others.
Infantrymen under his command, seeking to engage the enemy, instead killed 24 civilians. Last year, the Marine Corps charged Colonel Chessani, 43, and three other officers with dereliction of duty for failing to investigate the episode properly and relieved him of his command.
In a military hearing into whether he should face a formal court-martial, witnesses and military documents have helped paint two contradictory portraits of Colonel Chessani, the highest-ranking Marine officer charged since the Iraq war began more than four years ago.
On one side, battalion officers and enlisted men testifying under oath described Colonel Chessani, who at the time of the Haditha killings was on his third combat tour in Iraq, as a physically courageous leader whose integrity was beyond question.
“Lieutenant Colonel Chessani is by far the strongest moral leader I’ve ever worked with,” Sgt. Maj. Edward T. Sax, the battalion’s senior noncommissioned officer, testified last week. Maj. Samuel H. Carrasco, the Third Battalion’s operations officer, said Colonel Chessani’s “truthfulness is beyond reproach.” On Tuesday, Colonel Chessani’s adjutant, First Lt. Mark E. Towers, called him “a godly man” who spent a half-hour every morning in Iraq quietly reading the Bible in his quarters.
On the other side, Marine prosecutors have used testimony from Colonel Chessani’s subordinate and superior officers to portray him as a touchy and incurious field commander who, instead of investigating, sent deceptive reports about the Haditha killings up the chain of command.
Colonel Chessani never asked for a detailed briefing about how and why the marines killed 24 civilians, according to testimony, and did not inspect the scene of the killings, despite a report to superiors that he had.
Three months later, responding to questions about the civilian deaths from a Time magazine reporter, Colonel Chessani sent an e-mail message to his regimental commander that inaccurately stated that several AK-47s were found in a home where marines had killed several women and children, military documents show.
Major Carrasco, under questioning from prosecutors, also described Colonel Chessani as angrily shouting, “My men are not murderers!” after Major Carrasco and another battalion officer advised him, on Jan. 29, 2006, to open an inquiry into the killings.
Amid all the courtroom characterizations of him during the past week, Colonel Chessani, slightly built and with thinning gray hair, sat stone-faced at the defense table in his desert fatigues, jotting notes but rarely talking even to his lawyers.
By all accounts, including his own sworn statements to military investigators examining his response to the civilian killings, Colonel Chessani anguished over the casualties his marines suffered that day in Haditha — the most violent and chaotic day in the battalion’s combat tour.
From a command post about seven miles from Haditha, he viewed insurgent movements via video from an aerial drone and directed several attacks and counterattacks by marines against insurgents in residential areas around the city, according to testimony this week. Colonel Chessani visited one battle site later that day, but did not inspect the homes where 19 of the 24 civilians were killed by grenades and rifle fire.
In a sworn statement to military investigators in March 2006, Colonel Chessani said he never suspected that the killings were improper under the American laws of war, because they followed an attack by insurgents that, he believed, was intended to provoke lethal return fire by marines in a residential area.
“I believe the enemy picked the ground where he wanted to attack us,” Colonel Chessani said in a statement dated March 20, which has not been officially released. “They were — they had set this up so that there would be collateral damage.”
He later added, “Enemy had picked the place, he had picked the time and the location for a reason. I believed he made a definite choice in where it was and thought that, you know, he wanted to make us look bad.”
Marine prosecutors have suggested that Colonel Chessani was, in fact, so intent on not letting insurgents use the civilian deaths against the marines that he ignored evidence that his troops, under sporadic small-arms fire, had violated rules of engagement in killing civilians in their homes.
In a statement he gave on March 26, 2006, to an investigator from Naval Criminal Investigative Service from the base in Asad, Iraq, Colonel Chessani admitted, in stoical, confessional language, that he could have trained his marines better.
“Looking back, I could have done a better job preparing the marines for this deployment as it relates to R.O.E. training,” his statement said, using the abbreviation for rules of engagement. That might have included using live-fire training that required infantrymen to discern enemy targets from civilians.
Perhaps the most important arbiter of Colonel Chessani’s actions in Haditha is Col. Christopher Conlin, the investigating officer who will recommend whether the charges should proceed to a court-martial. Colonel Conlin, a former Iraq battalion commander presiding over his first military hearing, has made several comments that suggest a critical view of Colonel Chessani.
For example, last week, Colonel Conlin told a witness that many other battalion commanders would have joined their troops in the battle area on the day of combat in November 2005, instead of remaining miles away.
On Tuesday, Colonel Conlin asked Lieutenant Towers, who was a battalion legal adviser in Iraq in 2005, if a report by Colonel Chessani’s staff to the regiment stating that the colonel had examined the scene of the civilian casualties “implied that he went there.”
Lieutenant Towers answered firmly, “Yes, sir.”
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
* News Date: 2/20/07
* Source: The Washington Times
The Syrian regime is just as complicit as Iran in moving forward hostile activities specifically designed to kill Americans. The evidence is there and widely acknowledged by those in the know, but U.S. political and military leadership have proved hesitant to publicly pursue a tandem case against both Iran and Syria, despite the very prominent linkages that exist between the two in fermenting a wide spectrum of terror operations targeting U.S. forces.
The recent implication of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Qods Force in facilitating the movement of deadly weapons and “super” IEDs specially designed to inflict maximum casualties and penetrate armor speaks to only one half of the real story.
Regional intelligence services and inside sources from within Sunni officer corps opposed to the Assad regime have identified major foreign-fighter training camps in northern Syria and just outside Damascus overseen by Syrian Military Intelligence and run by former Iraqi Ba’athi Generals and senior Saddam Fedayeen commanders.
One major foreign fighter camp exists in the Latakia province in northern Syria, a mountainous area replete with Syrian Military Intelligence facilities and wide swaths of ostensibly government property closed to the public. The Iraqi officer in charge there is one Maj. Gen. Majid Sulayman. Yet another such camp exists 40 kilometers to the west of the border town of Qamishli, which lies in the Kurdish area in the northeastern tip of Syria bordering Iraq and Turkey; it is run by Maj. Gen. Qays al-Adhami. The al-Shaybani camp lies 30 kilometers south of Damascus and also trains foreign fighters. The al-Ikhals camp lies in the heart of the Qaysun mountain range near Damascus.
The al Qaeda connection is not that far removed. Arab papers report that the recent movement of large numbers of al Qaeda in Iraq fighters from Syria into Palestinian refugee camps in northern Lebanon and Beirut are sounding alarm bells that the Syrian security services are preparing to use these heavily armed and visibly well-funded cells to launch attacks against the anti-Syrian democratic government of Lebanon.
These cells are directed by Syrian extremists such as Shakir Absi, Abu Qa Qa, Sheikh Hashem Minqara and Abu-Khalid Imlah, who have historical ties with Syrian intelligence; all were formerly imprisoned in special detention centers run by the Political Security Directorate and then suddenly released by the good graces of Syrian security around the same time in 2005. Absi and Imlah maintain the strongest ties to Syrian intelligence. Absi — a former officer in the Syrian air force — and Imlah — the former head of SMI — supported Fatah al-Intifadah — who later created his own Fatah al-Islam offshoot.
What’s more, European security services are warning that senior al Qaeda leadership figures Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi and Atiyah Abdul-Rahman have tasked al Qaeda assets in the Levant to prepare for major international operations targeting Western Europe and even the U.S homeland. Operational planning is said to be progressing with potential targets already cased out. And these are just the Sunni extremists that the Syrians support.
Mr. Chizari, one of the major IRGC commanders netted by Coalition Forces in December, was present in Damascus a month prior to his capture where he was meeting with senior Syrian leadership and the Lebanese Hezbollah officials in charge of a specially designated “Force 2800″ which focuses on supporting fellow radical Shi’ite groups like the ones responsible for the recent kidnapping and execution of four U.S. soldiers in Karbala.
Mr. Chizari is the deputy for Iraq operations to Brig. Gen. Qasim Soleimani, who in turn heads Qods Force external operations and is strategic guide to IRGC activities in the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. The super IEDs, also known as explosive formed penetrators, would never have proliferated so widely in Iraq had it not been for the work of IRGC officials like Gen. Soleimani and Mr. Chizari. Gen. Soleimani’s other right-hand man, Ja’afar al-Ibrahimi, aka Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, also attended these meetings. Muhandis is a senior Badr Brigade operator with close ties to Hezbollah and a central node to the IRGC supply network to anti-U.S. Shi’ite militias in Iraq. Mr. Muhandis was also recently identified by the United States as being behind the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Kuwait in the early 1980s as well.
The Syrian-Iranian regime terror connection is further underscored by Gen. Soleimani’s participation in high-level discussions on a monthly basis with Syrian leadership, including Assad’s brother and brother-in law.
Imad Mugniyeh, the infamous Hezbollah special operations super-terrorist who still retains a $5 million bounty on his head — placed by the FBI due to his role in planning the Marine barrack and embassy bombings in Beirut in 1982 — is also said to attend these meetings. Sources say that Mugniyeh was designated by Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah as the head of Force 2800.
The case is apparent and it goes beyond the circumstantial. The Syrian regime is not merely dabbling in terror sponsorship in an ad hoc manner. This is a concerted and strategic effort designed to inflict the maximum punishment upon the United States and its allies, not just in the region but across the globe.
The full scope and depth of regime involvement in enabling acts of self-sustaining terror might never be known. But enough indicators have subsequently arisen within the shadow of Iran’s own pernicious designs against the United States and struggling democratic allies in the Arab world, to realize that, left unchecked, we might find ourselves suddenly overwhelmed and outflanked by an enemy that, for the sake of expediency, was ignored.
Farid N. Ghadry is president of the Reform Party of Syria.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
His friend, Hezbollah spiritual leader and Specially Designated Global Terrorist, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, is the man who gave the fatwa (religious decree) okaying the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, murdering over 241 Americans.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Asleep in Exhaustion, on a Sofa or on Pavement
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By ASHLEIGH BANFIELD
Published: January 16, 2007
I USED to think that being a war correspondent was one of the most difficult jobs in TV journalism. It is, without a doubt, the most dangerous one.
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Ashleigh Banfield on assignment in Tehran. She is now a co-anchor on Court TV News.
Before I flew to Islamabad in September 2001 to cover the American war on terror, the president of NBC News warned me about the perils of covering a conflict. “This is one of the most refused assignments in the history of NBC News,” he said.
As a precaution, and in concert with no fewer than three other executives, we agreed it would be a good idea to tone down my blond highlights to avoid standing out.
But it was the airline I credit for going native. After my luggage disappeared en route, I visited a local store and bought scarves and the traditional dresses called Salwar-kameez. Noting the Pakistani soldiers barricading our hotel, I felt much safer blending in with the locals, and after a while other Western reporters — particularly women — began to do the same thing.
Clothing wasn’t the only thing not to be taken for granted. So was sleep. I have slept in cars on my way to interviews. I’ve fallen asleep underneath the camera, between all-night live shots. I even took a nap on the sofa in the office of former Israeli Prime Minister, Shimon Peres. It was rather embarrassing when he walked in, woke me up and told me it was time to do the interview.
Perhaps the worst, and most uncomfortable, place I have ever fallen asleep was in a parking lot in Beirut. I was working on a story about the United States Marine barracks that were bombed in 1983 during the Lebanese civil war. The authorities had decided to level the barracks and pave over the area, leaving it a nondescript parking lot. There is no reference to the 241 marines who were killed there.
When we arrived, the police barred us from rolling until they had verified our official permission. After a 12-hour flight and a lot of waiting, I was so exhausted I simply laid my head on the concrete and fell asleep. No blanket, no pillow, no pride. I woke up to the police clearing us out. They refused to let us get the pictures.
But last year, I discovered that being a war correspondent is not the most difficult job on earth. Traveling with a 12-pound baby is.
Just recently I was on my way from New York to Fort Myers, Fla., carrying a diaper bag, a stroller, a car seat, a bag filled with toys, bottles and formula and my now 1-year-old son, Fischer. At the checkpoint, an agent ordered me to disassemble the stroller and put it through the X-ray machine. That proved to be virtually impossible while holding my son.
“Could you please hold him for me?” I asked. “I can’t break down the stroller without your help.”
The agent shook his head. “No, ma’am.”
“It’s either that, or we put my son through the X-ray machine.”
Seeing the absurdity of the situation, the agent grinned and held Fischer for me. If he could navigate a baby through airport security, he may have a future as a war correspondent.
By Ashleigh Banfield, as told to Christopher Elliott. E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.