Organization of the report of the DOD Commission on Beirut International Airport Terrorist Act, October 23, 1983 into ten parts reflects the Commission's conviction that a thorough understanding of the circumstances surrounding the bombing of the BLT Headquarters on 23 October 1983 requires comprehension of a number of separate, but closely related, substantive areas. The order of presentation of the several parts is designed to provide a logical progression of information
PART ONE of the report addresses the development of the mission assigned to the USMNF, assesses mission clarity and analyzes the continued validity of the assumptions upon which the mission was premised. PART TWO addresses the adequacy of the rules of engagement that governed the execution of the mission. PART THREE outlines the chain of command that was tasked with the accomplishment of the military mission and assesses its responsiveness to the security requirements of the USMNF in the changing threat environment. PART FOUR examines the threat to the USMNF, both before and after the attack, and assesses the adequacy of the intelligence provided to the USMNF commander. PART FIVE analyzes the security measures that were in force prior to the attack. PART SIX provides a comprehensive recapitulation of the tragic events of 23 October 1983. PART SEVEN describes the security measures instituted subsequent to the bombing and assesses their adequacy. PART EIGHT is a reconstruction and evaluation of on-scene casualty handling procedures, aeromedical evacuation and definitive medical care provided to the victims of the attack. PART EIGHT also addresses the circumstances surround the Israeli of medical assistance and examines the basis for its non-acceptance. PART NINE addresses the 23 October 1983 bombing in the context of
PARTS ONE through NINE consist of one or more subparts providing a recitation of the mission's principal findings of fact in that substantive area, a discussion of the significance of those findings, and, as appropriate, conclusions and recommendations.
In preparing this report, the Commission analyzed those factors bearing upon the security of the USMNF in Lebanon in general, and the security of the BLT Headquarters building in particular. The Commission began with the premise that U.S. participation in the Multinational Force was designed to support the efforts of the United States and its allies to facilitate the withdrawal of foreign military forces from Lebanon and to assist the Lebanese Government in establishing sovereignty and authority over the Beirut area. The Commission did not question the political decision to insert the Marines into Lebanon and did not address the political necessity of their continued participation in the Multinational Force following the 23 October 1983 terrorist attack. Although those political judgements are beyond the purview of the Commission's Charter, and are not addressed in the report, that fact did not impede the work of the Commission in examining the impact of those policy decisions on the security of the USMNF.
The Commission reviewed the responsiveness of the military chain of command as it pertained to the security requirements of the USMNF. The Commission did not conduct an administrative inspection of any headquarters element during the review process.
The Commission's focus was on the bombing of 23 October 1983 and the security of the USMNF both prior to and subsequent to that catastrophic event. The security of off-shore supporting forces was not reviewed in depth by the
II. THE COMMISSION
The five member DOD Commission on Beirut International Airport Terrorist Act, October 23, 1983 was established by the Secretary of Defense on 7 November 1983 to conduct a thorough and independent inquiry into all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the 23 October 1983 terrorist bomb attack on the Marine Battalion Landing Team (BLT) Headquarters at the Beirut International Airport (BIA).
The Commission was established pursuant to the Federal Advisory Committee Act (Public Law 92-463) and was governed in its proceedings by Executive Order 12024 and implementing General Services Administration and Department of Defense regulations. The Charter provided that the advisory function of the Commission was to be completed within 90 days.
The Commission was tasked to examine the rules of engagement in force and the security measures in place at the time of the attack. The Commission was further charged to assess the adequacy of the security measures established subsequent to the explosion and to report findings of facts, opinions, and recommendations as to any changes or future actions.
The Charter specified that the Commission was to be granted access to all information pertinent to its inquiry and authorized the Commission to visit such places as it deemed necessary to accomplish its objective.
The Secretary of Defense directed the Commission to interpret its Charter in the broadest possible manner and tasked the Department of Defense, including the Services, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Defense Agencies, to provide such overall support and assistance as the Commission might require.
The Commission was composed of the following five members:
Admiral Long retired as the Commander in Chief Pacific in July 1983, after 40 years of commissioned service which included combat duty in World War and the Vietnam conflict. He has commanded the USS Sea Leopard; USS Patrick Henry; USS Casimir Pulaski; the Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet; Submarines, Allied Command; and Submarine Force, Western Atlantic Area. Admiral Long has served as Executive Assistant and Naval Aide to the Under Secretary of the Navy; Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Submarine Warfare); and Vice Chief of Naval Operations.
Mr. Murray i son the faculty at Harvard University. He is a former Under Secretary of the Navy and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (International Security Affairs) with responsibilities for U.S. policy toward the Middle East. Mr. Murray has served in various positions in the Defense and State Departments since 1961.
Lieutenant General Palastra is currently the Deputy Commander in Chief, and Chief of Staff, United States Pacific Command. The Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Command is responsible to the President of the United States and the Secretary of Defense, through the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and is the U.S. military representative for collective defense arrangements in the Pacific Theater. Lieutenant General Palastra's 29 years of commissioned service include multiple combat tours in Vietnam, among them duty as an Infantry Battalion Commander.
Lieutenant General Snowden retired as Chief of Staff, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, in May 1979, after 37 years of active service which included combat duty in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Lieutenant General Snowden served as a regimental commander in Vietnam; Director of the Marine Corps Development Center; Chief of Staff, U.S. Forces, Japan; and Operations Deputy of the Marine Corps with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Upon his retirement, Lieutenant General Snowden joined Hughes Aircraft International Service Company in Tokyo where he is currently Vice President, Far East Area.
Lieutenant General Tighe retired from the Air Force and as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency on 1 September 1981 after 39 years of Active and Reserve USAF and U.S. Army duty, which included service in the Southwest Pacific, Korea and Vietnam. Lieutenant General Tighe served as Director, Defense Intelligence Agency for 4 years and as Deputy Director and Acting Director for 2 years. He also held the senior intelligence position at Headquarters, United States Air Force; Strategic Air Command; the U.S. Pacific Command; and Headquarters, Pacific Air Force.
A complete biography of each Commission Member is provided in Annex A.
The Commission convened on 7 November 1983 in Washington, D.C., and developed its plan for conducting the inquiry. Liaison was established by the Chairman with key members of Congress to ascertain any particular areas of interest that they considered useful for the Commission to
The Commission assembled a staff of experts to advise the Commission in the various technical areas that would be encountered. Experts in the fields of intelligence, planning, operations, special warfare, terrorism, command relations, medicine, and international law were assigned as full time staff assistants. Liaison was also established with non-DOD governmental agencies which were involved in, or had special knowledge of, the events leading up to and following the 23 October 1983 terrorist attack.
The substantive information to be gathered necessarily involved highly classified matters of national security concern. Because these matters could not reasonably be segregated into separate classified categories, all witnesses were interviewed in closed session. Principal witnesses with direct knowledge of the circumstances leading to the formulation of the Multinational Force, the development or execution of the mission of the USMNF, or the events of the October attack and its aftermath, were interviewed by the full Commission. Collateral witnesses were interviewed by individual Commission members accompanied by appropriate staff experts.
The Commission and staff assistants were authorized access to all levels of classified information.
The Commission visited USCINCEUR Headquarters in Stuttgart; CINCUSNAVEUR Headquarters in London; COMSIXTHFLT in USS Puget Sound at Gaeta, Italy; CTF 61 in USS Austin offshore Lebanon; and CTF ashore in Beirut. Commission members and staff also visited Tel Aviv, Israel; Rota, Spain; Akrotiri, Cyprus; and Wiesbaden, Germany. During these visits, the Commission received command presentations and technical briefings, interviewed witnesses and acquired written documentation of the events leading up to and following the 23 October 1983 attack.
The Commission arrived in Beirut before the rotation of the MAU from Lebanon. The Commission toured USMNF positions on the perimeter of Beirut International Airport
The Commission approach to the inquiry was to avoid reaching any preliminary conclusions until the fact finding portion of the mission was completed. The Commission recognized, however, that some of its preliminary findings were time-sensitive, and, upon the Commission's return from Beirut, provided the Secretary of Defense with a memorandum regarding existing security procedures for the USMNF.
A second memorandum was forwarded to the Chairman of the joint Chiefs of Staff recommending that the Federal Bureau of investigation's comprehensive briefing on the nature of the explosive devices used in the terrorist attacks on the United States Embassy Beirut and the BLT Headquarters building be received by the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the earliest opportunity.
Al written documentation, including planning documents, operational orders, witness interview summaries, Congressional hearings, media reports, technical analyses and after action reports, was assembled and reviewed by the Commission members or staff assistants. All principals involved in the planning and execution of the USMNF mission, and in the events that preceded and followed the explosions, were interviewed.
The analytical work of the Commission was accomplished by first reviewing all available material in each area of inquiry and then compiling a list of principal findings related to that area. Following discussion of the principal findings, conclusions and recommendations were postulated by individual Commission members and discussed in detail. Using this deliberative process, the Commission reached agreement on each conclusion and recommendation.
I. LEBANON OVERVIEW
Lebanon, a country approximately the size of Connecticut, contains three million people, seventeen officially recognized religious sects, two foreign armies of occupation, four national contingents of a multinational force, seven national contributors to a United Nations peace-keeping force, and some two dozen extralegal militias. Over 100,000 people have been killed in hostilities in Lebanon over the past eight years, including the 241 U.S. military personnel that died as a result of the terrorist attack on 23 October 1983. It is a country beset with virtually every unresolved dispute afflicting the peoples of the Middle East. Lebanon has become a battleground where armed Lebanese factions simultaneously manipulate and are manipulated by the foreign forces surrounding them. If Syrians and Iraqis wish to kill one another, they do so in Lebanon. If Israelis and Palestinians wish to fight over the land they both claim, they do so in Lebanon. If terrorists of any political persuasion wish to kill and maim American citizens, it is convenient for them to do so in Lebanon. In a country where criminals involved in indiscriminate killing, armed robbery, extortion, and kidnapping issue political manifestos and hold press conferences, there has been no shortage of indigenous surrogates willing to do the bidding of foreign governments seeking to exploit the opportunities presented by anarchy in Lebanon.
Yet a picture of Lebanon painted in these grim colors alone would not be complete. Lebanese of all religions have emigrated to countries as widely separated as the United States, Brazil, Australia, and the Ivory Coast, where they have enriched the arts, sciences, and economies of their adopted nations. Lebanon has, notwithstanding the events of the past eight years, kept alive the principle and practice of academic freedom in such institutions as American
There is no sense of national identity that unites all Lebanese or even a majority of the citizenry. What it means to be Lebanese is often interpreted in radically different ways by, stance, a Sunni Muslim living in Tripoli, and Maronite Christian from Brummana, a Greek Orthodox Christian from Beirut, and Drupe from Kafr Nabrakh, or a Shiite Muslim from Nabatiyah. This is because the Lebanon of antiquity was Mount Lebanon, the highland chain running north-south through the center of the country, where Maronite Catholicism had over 1,000 years of relative isolation to develop its own national identity. In 1920, France, which acquired part of the Levant from the defeated Ottoman Empire, added non-Maronite territory to Mount Lebanon in order to create Greater Lebanon, a new state in which Maronites comprised but 30 percent of the population rather than the 70 percent of Mount Lebanon that they had previously constituted.
B. Religious and Political Factions.
Most politically-conscious non-Maronites, especially Sunni Muslims and Greek Orthodox Christians, were opposed to integration into the new state. The idea of being ruled by Maronites was particularly objectionable to the Sunni Muslims who had been preeminent in the Ottoman Empire; hence their attraction to the concept of a unified Greater Syria. When the French were prepared to leave Lebanon, however, the Maronite and Sunni elites were ready to strike a deal. The unwritten "National Pact" of 1943 stipulated that the Maronites would refrain from invoking Western intervention, the Sunnis would refrain from seeking unification with Syria, and Lebanon's political business would be premised on the allocation of governmental positions and parliamentary seats on the basis of the sectarian balance reflected in the 1932 census, i.e. confessionalism. The National Pact set forth what Lebanon was not. It was not an extension of Europe, and it was not part of a pan-Arab state. It did not
Much has been made of the outward manifestations of Lebanese confessionalism. The President of the Republic and Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief are always Maronites; the Prime Minister must be a Sunni; the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies will be a Shiite; and for every five non-Christian deputies there must be six Christians. This allocation reflects the recognition of the founders of independent Lebanon that sectarian cooperation was the key to the country's survival. Lebanese confessionalism was the mechanism which they hoped would facilitate compromise.
The central government rested not only on confessionalism, but on localism as well. Political power in Lebanon traditionally resides in the hands of local power brokers, i.e. Maronite populists, Druze and Shiite feudalists, and Sunni urban bosses. These local leaders draw their political power from grass-roots organization based on sectarian and clan relationships. Local leaders periodically have come together in Beirut to elect presidents and form governments, but none of them are prepared to allow the central government to penetrate their constituencies unless it is to deliver a service for which they have arranged and for which they will take credit. They guard their turf jealously against unwanted encroachments by the central government, whether it is in the form of the civilian bureaucracy or the military. If one of their Maronite number becomes President, the rest tend to coalesce in order to limit his power. The basic institutions of government, i.e. the army, the judiciary and the bureaucracy, are deliberately kept weak in order to confirm the government's dependency. If the local chiefs argue among themselves, especially over issues that tend to pit the major sects against one another, the central government simply stops functioning.
This, in essence, is exactly what has happened. Lebanon had survived earlier crises, but the Arab-Israeli confrontation proved to be a fatal overload for this fragile
Syria had historically supported the PLO and its Lebanese allies but in June 1976, fearing that a revolutionary regime in Beirut would drag it into a war with Israel, intervened on behalf of the Maronite militias. A stalemate was created, and from 1976 until June 1982 Lebanon lay crippled under the weight of de facto partition and partial occupation by Syria. The basic issues underlying the Lebanese civil war were left unresolved.
On 6 June 1982, Israeli forces launched a massive operation against Palestinian forces based in southern Lebanon, an invasion which brought the Israel Defense Forces to the outskirts of Beirut within three days. The three considerations that prompted Israel's assault were (1) putting an end to the military capabilities and political independence of the PLO; (2) putting Israeli population centers in Galilee beyond the threat of hostile actions emanating from Lebanon; and 93) breaking the internal Lebanese political paralysis in a manner that would facilitate official relations between Israel and Lebanon.
In summary, the Government of Lebanon is the creature of confessionalism and localism. Without consensus, any controversial stand taken by the central government will be labeled as sectarian favoritism by those who oppose it.
II. MAJOR EVENTS.
A. June 1982 -- October 1983.
The 6 June 1982 Israeli invasion into Lebanese territory reached the outskirts of Beirut within three days, and by 14 June the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) had linked up with the Christian Lebanese Forces (LF) militia in East Beirut. The 32d U.S. Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU) deployed to waters off Lebanon and on 23 June 1982 conducted the successful evacuation of U.S. citizens from the port city of Juniyah. On 28 June, the LF began moving up the Beirut-Damascus Highway past Jumhur, and on 29 June entered Alayh, killing twelve Druze militiamen. On 30 June, two key "firsts" occurred: the LF entered the Shuf for the first time, and the first Druze-LF artillery duel occurred.
On 2 July 1982, the IDF instituted a military blockade of Beirut, causing intense diplomatic activity aimed at averting an all-out battle for the capital. Ambassador Habib's efforts were successful and some 15,000 armed personnel (Palestinians and Syrians) were evacuated from Beirut under the auspices of a Multinational Force (MNF) consisting of French and Italian contingents and the 32nd MAU. All MNF forces were withdrawn by 10 September 1982.
The assassination of President-Elect Bashir Gemayel on 14 September 1982, followed by IDF occupation of Wet Beirut and the massacre of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians in the Sabra and Shatila camps on 16-18 September 1982, resulted in the agreement of France, Italy and the United States to reconstitute the MNF. On 26 September, the French and Italian contingents reentered Beirut, and on 29 September, the 32d MAU began landing at the Port of Beirut.
The 1,200-man Marine contingent occupied positions in the vicinity of Beirut International Airport (BIA) as an interpositional force between the IDF and populated areas of Beirut.
On 3 November 1982, the 24th MAU replaced the 32d MAU. By 15 November, a DoD team had completed a survey of Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) capabilities and requirements. Marine Mobile Training Teams (MTT) from the USMNF began conducting individual and small unit training for the LAF at BIA. Training of a LAF rapid-reaction f by the USMNF began during the week of 21 December. The last significant event of 1982 was the beginning of negotiations between
On 5 January 1983, the IDF began conducting patrol operations (including reconnaissance by fire) south of Marine positions along the Old Sidon Road. Stray IDF rounds landed on USMNF positions, and there were at least five IDF attempts to penetrate Marine positions during the month. On 2 February, a USMC officer felt obliged to draw his pistol in order to stop an IDF penetration. On 20 January 1983, the Office of Military Cooperation, which had been established in late 1982, was formally opened. On 15 February, the 24th MAU was relieved by the 22d MAU. From 20-25 February, the USMNF, at the request of the Government of Lebanon, conducted emergency relief operations in the Lebanon Mountains in the wake of a mid-winter blizzard and sub-zero temperatures. On 16 March, five Marines were slightly wounded by a terrorist hand grenade in the southern Beirut suburb of Ouzai. Incidents involving IDF elements and USMNF patrols were recorded during the month of March and April as USMNF patrolling was expanded in support of LAF deployments.
On 18 April 1983, the U.S. Embassy in Beirut was destroyed by a massive explosion which took the lives of 17 U.S. citizens and over 40 others. The bomb was delivered by a pickup truck and detonated. U.S. Embassy functions were relocated to the British Embassy and to the Duraffourd Building. The USMNF established a detachment to provide security for both locations.
Fighting between Christian LF and Druze militias in the Shuf spilled over into Beirut in the form of artillery shelling between 5 and 8 May. On 17 May 1983, Israel and the Government of Lebanon signed an agreement calling for the withdrawal of the IDF and the institution of special security measures for southern Lebanon. Israel, however, predicated its own withdrawal on the simultaneous withdrawal of Syrian and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) forces from Lebanon, parties which had not been included in the negotiations. Syria refused to initiate withdrawal of its forces while the IDF remained in Lebanon. The stage was set for renewed violence.
On 30 May 1983, the 24th MAU relieved the 22nd MAU. On 25 June, USMNF personnel conducted combined patrols with the LAF for the first time. On 14 July, a LAF patrol was ambushed by Druze militia elements, and from 15 to 17 July, the LAF engaged the Shia Amal militia in Beirut over a
In July 1982 President Amin Gemayel traveled to Washington and obtained a promise of expedited delivery of military equipment to the LAF. On 23 July, Walid Jamblatt, leader of the predominantly Druze Progressive Socialist Party (PSP), announced the formation of a Syrian-backed "National Salvation Front" opposed to the 17 May Israel-Lebanon Agreement.
In anticipation of an IDF withdrawal from the Alayh and Shuf districts, fighting between the Druze and LF, and between the Druze and LAF, intensified during the month of August. Druze artillery closed the BIA between 10 and 16 August, and the Druze made explicit their opposition to LAF deployment in the Shuf. The LAF also clashed with the Amal militia in Beirut's western and southern suburbs.
As the security situation deteriorated, USMNF positions at BIA were subjected to increased fire. On 10 and 11 August, an estimated thirty-five rounds of mortar and rocket fire landed on USMNF positions, wounding on e Marine. On 28 August 1983, the USMNF returned fire for the first time. On the following day, USMNF artillery silenced a Druze battery after two Marines had been killed in a mortar attack. On 31 August, the LAF swept through the Shia neighborhood of West Beirut, establishing temporary control over the area.
On 4 September 1983, the IDF withdrew from the Alayh and Shuf Districts, falling back to the Awwali River. The LAF was not prepared to fill the void, moving instead to occupy the key junction at Khaldahy, south of BIA. On 4 September, BIA was again shelled, killing two Marines and wounding two others. As the LAF moved slowly eastward into the foothills of the Shuf, accounts of massacres, conducted by Christians and Druze alike, began to be reported.
On 5 September, a Druze force, reportedly reinforced by PLO elements, routed the Christian LF militia at Bhamdun and all but eliminated the LF as a military factor in the Alayh District. This defeat obliged the LAF to occupy Suq-Al-Gharb to avoid conceding all of the high ground overlooking BIA to the Druze. USMNF positions were subjected to constant indirect fire attacks; consequently, counter-battery fire based on target acquisition radar
On 12 September 1983, the U.S. National Command Authorities (NCA) determined that the successful defense of Suq-Al-Gharb was essential to the safety of the USMNF. On 14 September, an emergency ammunition resupply to the LAF was instituted. On 19 September, Navy destroyers provided gunfire support of the LAF defenders at Suq-Al-Gharb. The battleship USS New Jersey arrived in Lebanese waters on 25 September. A ceasefire was instituted that same day and Beirut International Airport reopened five days later.
On 1 October 3, the LAF began to receive additional shipments of APC's, M-48 tanks, and howitzers from the U.S. ; training of LAF recruits and units by the USMNF resumed. On that date, Walid Jumblatt announced a separate governmental administration for the Shuf and called for the mass defection of all Druze elements from the LAF. Nevertheless, on 14 October the leaders of Lebanon's key factions agreed to conduct reconciliation talks in Geneva, Switzerland.
Although the ceasefire officially held into mid-October, factional clashes intensified and sniper attacks on MNF contingents became commonplace. On 19 October 1983, four Marines were wounded when a USMNF convoy was attacked by a remotely detonated bomb parked along the convoy route.
B. 23 October 1983.
At approximately 0622 on Sunday, 23 October 1983, the Battalion Landing Team (BLT) Headquarters building in the Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU) compound at Beirut International Airport was destroyed by a terrorist bomb. This catastrophic attack took the lives of 241 U.S. military personnel and wounded over 100 others. The bombing was carried out by a lone terrorist driving a yellow Mercedes Benz stakebed truck that accelerated through the public parking lot south of the BLT Headquarters building, crashed through a barbed wire and concertina fence, and penetrated into the central lobby of the building, where it exploded. The truck drove over the barbed and concertina wire obstacle, passed between two Marine guard posts without being engaged by fire, entered an open gate, passed around
Almost simultaneously with the attack on the U.S. marine compound, a similar truck bomb exploded at the French MNF headquarters.
C. 24 October -- 30 November 1983
As cleanup and rescue operations continued at the bombing site in the ensuing days, the USMNF came under sporadic sniper fire. Deployment of forces to replace those lost began on the day of the bombing. By the day following, replacement personnel had been airlifted into Beirut. On 28 October, the Secretary of Defense approved the assignment of an additional marine rifle company to the USMNF. That augmenting force was airlifted into Lebanon and deployed at BIA by the end of October.
On 4 November 1983, the Israeli Military Governor's Headquarters in Tyre was destroyed by a suicide driver in a small truck loaded with explosives. There were 46 fatalities. The Israeli Air Force conducted retaliatory strikes later that day against Palestinian positions east of Beirut.
on 8 November 1983, the BLT Company located at the Lebanese Scientific and Technical University was withdrawn to BIA, and subsequently redeployed aboard ship as the USMNF ready reserve.
Ambassador Rumsfeld, appointed by the President on 3 November 1983 to replace Ambassador McFarlane as the President's Special Envoy to the Middle East, began his first Middle East mission on 12 November.
On 16 November 1983, Israelis conducted additional retaliatory air strikes, hitting a terrorist training camp in the eastern Bekaa Valley. The next day, the French conducted similar strikes against another Islamic Amal camp in the vicinity of the northern Bekaa Valley town of
Throughout the 23 October to 30 November period, USMNF positions at BIA were the target of frequent sniper attacks, and occasional, but persistent, artillery, rocket, and mortar fire. On 16 November, four 122mm rockets impacted at BIA. The MAU received small arms fire several times on 19 November, the date the turnover by the 24th MAU to the 22nd MAU was completed.
Persistent and occasionally heavy fighting between the LAF and Shia militias in the southern suburbs of Beirut continued through November. As the month ended, the mountainous Shuf continued to be the scene of frequent artillery and mortar exchanges between the LAF and Druze forces.