President and Nancy Reagan file by the flag-draped caskets of victims of the April 18, 1983, bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon in an April 23, 1983 file photo. Photo courtesy Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 18, 2008 – Twenty-five years after terrorists detonated a massive car bomb, killing 52 people at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, President Bush urged unity in condemning terrorism he said continues to threaten the United States.
The Islamic Jihad Organization, today known as the terrorist group Hizballah, launched the April 18, 1983, attack that left 17 Americans and 35 Lebanese citizens dead. Those killed included Marine Cpl. Robert V. McMaugh, an embassy guard, and Army trainers Sgt. 1st Class Richard Twine, Staff Sgt. Ben H. Maxwell and Staff Sgt. Mark E. Salazar.
Employees of the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development and members of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Middle East contingent were also killed.
President Ronald Reagan quickly denounced the “vicious terrorist bombing” as a “cowardly act” that would not deter U.S. goals of peace in the region.
Bush marked the anniversary of the Beirut embassy bombing in a statement released yesterday remembering those killed and honoring the sacrifice of their family and friends and those wounded in the attack. He called the anniversary “a timely reminder of the danger U.S. diplomats, military personnel and locally employed staff bear in their service to the the United States.”
“Since the Beirut attack, we and citizens of many countries have suffered more attacks at the hands of Hizballah and other terrorists, backed by the regimes in Tehran and Damascus, which use terror and violence against innocent civilians,” Bush said. “All nations should condemn such brutal attacks and recognize that the purposeful targeting of civilians is immoral and unjustifiable.”
The bombing was the deadliest terrorist attack the United States had ever faced in its history, although more attacks were to follow.
The Beirut embassy bombing opened a new chapter in attacks against Americans overseas. Six months later, on Oct. 23, 1983, two truck bombs struck barracks in Beirut that houses U.S. and French members of the Multinational Force in Lebanon. The attacks, which occurred 20 seconds apart, killed 241 U.S. Marines, as well as 58 French servicemen and six civilians.
Other embassy attacks were to follow: in 1998 on the embassies in Dar es Salaam,Tanzania; and Nairobi, Kenya; and in 2002 on the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan.
Bush noted that the people of Lebanon have remained resilient despite living the better part of three decades living under the threat of violence, assassinations and other forms of intimidation.
“They and their leaders continue to work for a peaceful and democratic future, even as Syria, Iran, and their Lebanese proxies seek to undermine Lebanese democracy and institutions,” he said.
“The United States will continue to stand with the Lebanese people and their government as they struggle to preserve their sovereignty and independence, seek to bring justice to victims of terrorism and political violence, and seek election of a president committed to those values,” Bush said.
White House Statement