September 21, 2023
In observance of the 40th anniversary of the Beirut Barracks bombing of 1983, a panel will discuss the history of the Lebanese civil war, American military intervention and the value of remembrance.
- James Breckenridge, U.S. Army War College;
- Michael Gaines, Beirut Veterans of America; and
- Mireille Rebeiz, Dickinson College.
In 1975, civil war erupted in Lebanon and opposed the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Muslim fighters to Lebanese Christian militias. The PLO was launching military attacks on Israel from Lebanese soil. On June 6, 1982, Israel Defense Forces, under the orders of Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, launched Operation Peace for Galilee and invaded Lebanon to end these attacks and eliminate the PLO.
Upon Lebanese request, a Multinational Peacekeeping Force (MNF) was created to oversee the departure of the PLO from Lebanon. The MNF was composed of American, French, Italian and British military. Iran responded to Israel’s invasion of Lebanon and the MNF’s arrival by training Shiite fighters whose immediate goal was to expel all foreign forces out of Lebanon.
On October 23, 1983, witnesses reported a yellow Mercedes speeding toward the barracks. Loaded with more than 10.000 pounds of explosives, it flattened a concrete building that housed American troops. Two hundred and forty-one American servicemen died that day. Minutes later, an identical attack hit the French barracks and killed 58 French paratroopers. On February 7, 1984, President Ronald Reagan pulled the American troops from the MNF.
To this day, the Beirut barracks bombing remains the deadliest single-day attack for the United States Marine Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945. The Islamic Jihad, a pro-Iranian Shiite group, claimed responsibility for the attacks. This group was allegedly linked to Hezbollah, which, along with Iran, denied involvement.
This panel will discuss the history of the Lebanese civil war and the American military intervention from 1982 to 1984. The Beirut barracks bombing is an important event in American history, one that is often disregarded and forgotten, and yet it is loaded with meaning and lessons in counterterrorism. The panel will emphasize the value of remembering the past and honoring the sacrifices of the Beirut veterans. The program is sponsored by the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues and cosponsored by the Departments of History and French & Francophone Studies, as well as Dickinson's military-science and Middle East studies programs. It is also part of the Clarke Forum’s Leadership in an Age of Uncertainty Series. For more information, visit the Clarke Forum website.