A. Principal Findings.
DOD Directive 2000.12 defines terrorism as "the unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a revolutionary organization against individuals or property, with the intention of coercing or intimidating governments or societies, often for political or ideological purposes." The terms are not further defined, but unlawful violence commonly refers to acts considered criminal under local law or acts which violate the Law of Armed Conflict.
The bombing of the BLT Headquarters building was committed by a revolutionary organization within the cognizance of, and with possible support from two neighboring States. The bombing was politically motivated and directed against U.S. policy in Lebanon in the sense that no attempt was made to seize Marine positions or to drive the Marines from the airport.
The BLT Headquarters building provided the greatest concentration of U.S. military forces in Beirut. The lawless environment in Beirut provided ideal cover for collecting intelligence on the target and preparing the attack. The expertise to build a bomb large enough to destroy the BLT Headquarters building existed among terrorist groups in Lebanon, as did the necessary explosives and detonating device. The availability of a suicide driver to deliver the bomb significantly increased the vulnerability of the BLT Headquarters building.
For the terrorists, the attack was an overwhelming success. It achieved complete tactical surprise and resulted in the total destruction of the headquarters, and the deaths of 241 U.S. military personnel.
The Commission determined that the 23 October 1983 bombing met the criteria of a terrorist act as defined in DOD Directive 2000.12. While those responsible appear to qualify as a revolutionary organization, the Commission notes that the formal DOD definition of terrorism does not include conduct or participation in such acts by sovereign States. Since at least indirect involvement in this incident BY Syria and Iran is indicated, the Commission
The use of terrorism to send a political or ideological message can best be understood when viewed from the mindset of a terrorist. The strength of that message depends on the psychological impact generated by the attack. This, kin turn, largely depends on the nature and breadth of media coverage. The political message in the 23 October 1983 attack was one of opposition to the U.S. military presence in Lebanon. An attack of sufficient magnitude could rekindle political debate over U.S. participation in the MNF and possibly be the catalyst for a change of U.S. policy. There were ample military targets in Beirut that were vulnerable to terrorist attack, but the symbolic nature of the BLT Headquarters building, and the concentration of military personnel within it, made it an ideal terrorist target of choice. The building was extremely well-constructed and located inside a guarded perimeter. This apparent security, however, may have worked to the advantage of the terrorists because the target, in fact, was vulnerable to a very large truck bomb delivered by a suicidal attacker. The first challenge would be to gain access to the USMNF perimeter at the parking to south of the BLT Headquarters building. once there, the barbed wire barriers could not prevent a large truck from penetrating the perimeter into the compound. Civilian traffic around the airport aided in reaching the parking lot undetected. From that point on, the terrorists had reasonable confidence of succeeding. First, there would be the symbolic success of penetrating the guarded compound. Second, the bomb was of such size that once through the perimeter, it would cause sufficient damage and casualties to have a major psychological impact and receive worldwide media coverage.
From a terrorist perspective., the true genius of this attack is that the objective and the means of attack were beyond the imagination of those responsible for Marine security. As a result, the attack achieved surprise and resulted in massive destruction of the BLT Headquarters building and the deaths of 241 U.S. military personnel. The psychological fallout of the attack on the U.S. has been dramatic. The terrorists sent the U.S. a strong political message.
The Commission concludes that the 23 October 1983 bombing of the BLT Headquarters building was a terrorist act sponsored by sovereign states or organized political entities for the purpose of defeating U.S. objectives in Lebanon.
II. INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM
A. Principal Findings.
While the figures vary according to collection criteria, overall there has been a three to fourfold increase in the number of world-wide terrorist incidents since 1968. The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) notes that over the past decade, 53 percent of all recorded terrorist incidents were directed against U.S. personnel and facilities. Terrorism against military personnel and facilities is becoming more frequent. According to DIA figures, incidents in which U.S. military personnel or facilities were targeted jumped form 34 in 1980, to 57 in 1981, to 67 in 1982.
In addition, there is a growing lethality of terrorism. According to the Rand Corporation, the number of terrorist incidents involving fatalities has been increasing about 20 percent a year since the early 1970's. Of this number, incidents involving multiple fatalities have risen approximately 60% this year, as compared to a 37% average increase of the previous three years. Through November 1983, there have been 666 fatalities due to terrorism, compared to 221 in 1982 and 374 in 1981. Even excluding the massive carnage of the 23 October 1983 bombing of the BLT Headquarters building in Beirut, terrorism has already killed more people in 1983 than in any other year in recent history (See Figure 9-1).
Terrorism is deeply rooted in the Eastern Mediterranean region. Mr. Brian Jenkins, a recognized expert on terrorism, calls this area "the cradle" of international terrorism in its contemporary form. He notes that the ideological and doctrinal foundations for campaigns of deliberate terrorism, which exist today in Lebanon, emerged from the post-World War II struggles in Palestine and the early guerrilla campaigns against colonial powers in Cyprus and Algeria.
Certain governments and regional entities which have major interests in the outcome of the struggle in Lebanon, are users of international terrorism as a means of achieving their political ends. Such nationally-sponsored terrorism is increasing significantly, particularly among Middle Eastern countries. The State Department has identified 140 terrorist incidents conducted directly by national
NUMBER OF INCIDENTS RESULTING
IN MORE THAN FIVE FATALITIES
THROUGH 30 NOV 83
The Commission concludes that international terrorist acts endemic to the Middle East are indicative of an alarming world-wide phenomenon that poses an increasing threat to U.S. personnel and facilities.
III. TERRORISM AS A MODE OF WARFARE
A. Principal Findings.
The political/military situation in Lebanon is dominated by a host of diverse national, subnational and local political entities pursuing their own ends through an expedient but orchestrated process of negotiation and conflict. The spectrum of armed conflict in Lebanon is bounded by individual acts of terrorism on one end and formal conventional operations on the other. Within these boundaries, warfare continues on three levels: conventional warfare, guerrilla warfare and terrorism. As discussed in PART FOUR of this report, the conflict in Lebanon is a struggle among Lebanese factions who have at their disposal regular armies, guerrillas, private militias and an assortment of terrorist groups. The terrorist groups themselves are openly assisted or covertly sponsored by sovereign states, political and religious factions, or even other terrorist groups.
There is little about conflict in Lebanon that reflects the traditional models of war. The distinctions between war and peace are blurred. The use of military force varies from constrained self-defense by the MNF participants to terrorism by others. Military successes are therefore temporary and hard to measure. Ceasefires have become an inherent part of the process, providing exhausted belligerents with needed respite to regroup, mobilize patron support or switch to a more suitable form of struggle; all of which ensure that the armed struggle will continue in this open-ended fashion.
In Lebanon, violence plays a crucial role in al an opponent's political situation. Therefore, the solutions are political ones in which the losers are not defeated, but maneuvered into a politically untenable position. Terrorism is crucial to this process because it is not easily deterred by responsive firepower or the threat of escalation. Terrorism, therefore, provides an expedient form of violence capable of pressuring changes in the political situation with minimum risk and cost.
The systematic, carefully orchestrated terrorism which we in the Middle East represents a new dimension of warfare. These international terrorists, unlike their traditional counterparts, are not seeking to make a random
The terrorists in Lebanon and the Middle East are formidable opponents. in general, they are intensely dedicated and professional. They are exceptionally well-trained, well-equipped and well-supported. With State sponsorship, these terrorists are less concerned about building a popular base and are less inhibited in committing acts which cause massive destruction or inflict heavy casualties. Armed with operational guidance and intelligence from their sponsor, there are few targets beyond their capability to attack. Consequently, they constitute a potent instrument of State policy and a serious threat to the U.S. presence in Lebanon.
The Commission believes that terrorism as a military threat to U.S. military forces is becoming increasingly serious. As a super power with world-wide interests, the United States is the most attractive terrorist target, and indeed, statistics confirm this observation. Terrorism is warfare "on the cheap" and entails few risks. It permits small countries to attack U.S. interests in a manner, which if done openly, would constitute acts of war and justify a direct U.S. military response.
Combating terrorism requires an active policy. A reactive policy only forfeits the initiative to the terrorists. The Commission recognizes that there is no single solution. The terrorist problem must be countered politically and militarily at all levels of government. Political initiatives should be directed at collecting and sharing intelligence on terrorist groups, and promptly challenging the behavior of those states which employ terrorism to their own ends. It makes little sense to learn that a State or its surrogate is conducting a terrorist campaign or planing a terrorist attack and not confront that government with political or military consequences if it continues forward.
U.S. military forces lack an effective capability to respond to terrorist attacks, particularly at the lower ends
State sponsored terrorism poses a serious threat to U.S. policy and the security of U.S. personnel and facilities overseas and thus merits the attention of military planners. The Department of Defense needs to recognize the importance of state sponsored terrorism and must take appropriate measures to deal with it.
The Commission concludes that state sponsored terrorism is an important part of the spectrum of warfare and that adequate response to this increasing threat requires an active national policy which seeks to deter attack or reduce its effectiveness. The Commission further concludes that this policy needs to be supported by political and diplomatic actions and by a wide range of timely military response capabilities.
The Commission recommends that the Secretary of Defense direct the Joint Chiefs of Staff to develop a broad range of appropriate military responses to terrorism for review, along with political and diplomatic actions, by the National Security Council.
IV. MILITARY PREPAREDNESS
A. Principal Findings.
Not only did the terrorist's capability to destroy the BLT Headquarters building exceed the imagination of the MAU and BLT Commanders responsible for the Marine security of the USMNF at BIA, it also surprised the chain of command. From the beginning, the mission statement development and ROE formulation for the USMNF failed to recognize that terrorism is endemic to Lebanon and would constitute a long term threat to the security of the USMNF. The ROE, and supporting instructions, were written to guide responses to a range of conventional military threats.
Preparatory training for a deploying MAU focuses little on how to deal with terrorism. The only instruction the Commission was able to identify was a one-hour class presented to he infantry battalions by the attached counterintelligence NCO and segments of a command briefing by the U.S. Army 4th Psychological Operations Group. USMC counterintelligence personnel are considered qualified in counterterrorism after attendance at a 5-day Air Force course titled "The Dynamics of International Terrorism." This course provides an excellent overview of terrorism for personnel being assigned to high threat areas, but does not qualify an individual to instruct others regarding terrorism, nor does it provide sufficient insight into the situation in Lebanon to prepare an individual for that environment.
Terrorism expertise did exist at EUCOM Headquarters in the form of the Office of the Special Assistant for Security Matters (OSASM). OSASM had responsibility for the Office of Military Cooperation's (OMC) security in Lebanon. The director of that office understood well the terrorist mindset. After inspecting and evaluating the 18 April 1983 bombing of the U.S. Embassy, the SASM concluded in his report that the Embassy bombing was the prelude to a more spectacular attack and that the U.S. military forces present the "most defined and logical target."
Based on that report, USCINCEUR took a number of initiatives to improve the security of the OMC against terrorists. An OMC Lebanon Security Working Group was established under the chairmanship of OSASM, to track the threat on a day-to-day basis and to take appropriate measures to enhance security when the circumstances warranted. Second, a counterintelligence/security
The SASM stated that he met with the USMNF Commander and discussed with him the terrorist threat and his plan to disperse OMC personnel. The SASM did not look at the MAU's security, because he considered it improper to ask an operational commander if he could inspect his security. In addition, the SASM did not have a charter to look at MAU security. This changed on 1 November 1983, when DCINCEUR directed that the OMC Lebanon Security Working Group be redesignated the Lebanon Security Working Group and that its charter be expanded to include all U.S. forces in Lebanon.
Of great concern to the Commission is the military's lack of preparedness to deal with the threat of State sponsored terrorism. The Commission found two different mindsets in Beirut regarding the nature of the threat and how to counter it. The USMNF units at the airport, behind their guarded perimeter, perceived the terrorist threat as secondary and could not envision a terrorist attack that could penetrate their base and cause massive destruction. The Commission found nothing in the predeployment training provided to the MAU that would assist them to make such an assessment. In the Commission's judgement, the Marines were not sufficiently trained and supported to deal with the terrorist threat that existed on 23 October 1983. At a minimum, the USMNF needed anti-terrorism expertise of the caliber that supported the OMC.
OSASM conducted a responsive anti-terrorist campaign that tried to anticipate changes in the threat and take appropriate measures to counter them. Unfortunately, neither USCINCEUR, the MAU nor OSASM saw the need to coordinate their anti-terrorist efforts, nor did they seem aware that different approaches to security were being pursued by the MAU and by the OMC. Approximately 350
Terrorism will continue to be an integral part of conflict in Lebanon and will present difficult challenges to our military forces.
The effective use of military forces in an environment like that in Lebanon needs to be studied and emphasized in our professional military schools. Doctrine, mission development and ROE formulation need to consider the terrorist dimension, particularly as it pertains to the security of U.S. personnel. In the Commission's judgment, organizational support for the USMNF was not sufficiently responsive to the changes in the political/military situation. For missions like this, military organizations have to be tailored to the local environment in a way not required for conventional warfare. If a larger intelligence staff or more area specialists are needed, then the organizations need to quickly provide them. Normal programming and budgeting procedures may not be suitable and could delay necessary responses to the point that mission and security are compromised.
The Commission believes that the responsibility for countering terrorists, or operating in terrorist areas, should not be exclusively assigned to special units. Special units are necessary for certain types of responses, but terrorism is a threat to all U.S. forces and all military personnel assigned overseas can expect to encounter terrorism in some form. Consequently, they need some understanding of the terrorist threat and how to combat it. It is a common practice to send personnel to special survival schools when their duties put them in arctic or jungle environments. The philosophy should apply for hostile environments like that in Lebanon. Such training currently exists in some services for Central America. A similar effort should be considered for Lebanon.
In its inquiry into terrorism, the Commission concluded
the Commission's judgment, too much faith is put in physical defenses. The British heavily fortified their positions in Palestine after World War II but the terrorists continually came up with ingenious methods to penetrate and attack them. The same is true today. Israel, with its excellent intelligence and capability to fight terrorism, still had its security breached and its military headquarters in Tyre bombed.
The Commission concludes that the USMNF was not trained, organized, staffed or supported to deal effectively with the terrorist threat in Lebanon. The Commission further concludes that much needs to be done to prepare U.S. military forces to defend against and counter terrorism.
The Commission recommends that the Secretary of Defense direct the development of doctrine, planning, organization, force structure, education and training necessary to defend against and counter terrorism.