Vice President Mike Pence and White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster paid tribute Monday American service members, including 220 Marines, on the anniversary of the truck bombing, The Hill reports.
“The Beirut’s barracks bombings was the opening salvo in a war that we have waged ever since, the global war on terror,” Pence said, speaking from the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C.
In the early morning of October 23, 1983, a huge explosion demolished the compound of U.S. Marines stationed near the Beirut International Airport, killing 241 U.S. service members in total.
This was the second such attack against a U.S. target in Lebanon that year. In April, a car bomb had severely damaged the American Embassy, killing 63 people, including 17 Americans.
“The Beirut’s barracks bombing was the opening salvo in a war that we have waged ever since, the global war on terror,” Pence said, speaking from the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C.
The bombing linked to Iran was the deadliest attack against U.S. Marines since the battle over Iwo Jima in February 1945.
The ceremony and parade at the Marine Barracks in Washington included families of service members who died in the attack. Investigations and research work published much later revealed that in 1983 Iran was organizing the Lebanese Hezbollah and the twin bombings in Beirut were done, at least partly using Hezbollah assets.
Pence described the enormity of the truck bomb in his remarks.
“Within seconds — within just moments the driver detonated his deadly cargo, the light of the dawning sun was virtually eclipsed by what was described as the largest non-nuclear explosion in the history of the world.”
Iran has always strongly denied any links to the Beirut bombings, but in 2004 a memorial column was erected in Tehran’s Behesht Zahra cemetery, commemorating the “Martyrs of the Marines Operation”.
Although this was sponsored by a little known group, but in Iran’s tightly controlled security environment no group could build a politically sensitive memorial without some sort of tacit approval by the state.
The vice president then emphasized the Trump administration efforts against Hezbollah.
“Earlier this year, under President Trump’s leadership, our law enforcement arrested two Hezbollah operatives in New York and Michigan. And earlier this month, our administration announced rewards for information leading to the location, arrest, and conviction of two of Hezbollah’s senior-most leaders, including Fuad Shukr, one of the masterminds behind the bombing of the Marine Corps barracks.”
Pence, however, focused on Iran’s role, saying that Hezbollah is merely a proxy for “the leading state sponsor of terrorism”. He highlighted President Trump’s new and tougher policy on Iran, saying that the president has put Iran on notice.
“This President will not sit idly by while the ayatollahs in Tehran plot more attacks like the horrific attack that we remember today.”