Rumsfeld Remembers Lessons of Marine Barracks Bombing
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 23, 2003 - Twenty years ago, a suicide bomber
drove a truck into the Marine Barracks at the Beirut International
Airport in Lebanon. When the explosion cleared, 241 Marines and
sailors were dead.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the lessons learned from
that horrific experience still have resonance today. Rumsfeld spoke
during a press briefing at the Pentagon today.
After the attack in 1983, Rumsfeld became President Reagan's
special envoy to the Middle East. As such, he saw the aftermath
of the attack and the nature of the terrorists that perpetrated
"It was an enormously violent event," Rumsfeld said. He said
the immediate reaction was to put up cement barricades around buildings
housing American troops to preclude another attack.
"The next thing was that terrorists started using rocket- propelled
grenades and lobbing them over those barricades," he said. "The
barricades are fine for trucks; they are not so fine for airborne
As a reaction to that, the embassies along the Corniche in downtown
Beirut put up wire mesh so that "when the rocket- propelled grenades
hit the mesh, they'd bounce off," he said.
That worked, so the terrorists started going after "softer" targets - men
and women going to and from work. "The point is that terrorists
go to school on you, and they adjust their tactics," he said.
They still do. Terrorists can attack at any time, at any place,
using any technique, and "free people are not able to defend at
every place, at every moment of the day or night, against every
conceivable type of technique," Rumsfeld told reporters.
The secretary said the only way to defeat the terrorists, is
to take the war to them. He said free people must go after terrorists
where they live and hide, and free nations must go after terrorist
financiers and those who harbor and assist terrorists.
The United States must go after the root causes of terrorism,
he said, and must stop people from wanting to join terrorist organizations. "That's
the president's policy, and it's the correct policy," Rumsfeld
The secretary said the people of the Defense Department look
at successful terrorist attacks -- against the Marine barracks,
the USS Cole and the dorm in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, for example
-- and each attack reinforces the idea that free people cannot "hunker
down and find a way to hide and defend against what's happening
in this world."