COMMITTEE PRINT No. 11A
ADEQUACY OF U.S. MARINE CORPS
SECURITY IN BEIRUT
SUMMARY OF FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS
(Original summary release)
(To Accompany Committee Print No. 11--Basic Report)
COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
DECEMBER 19, 1983
U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
BILL NICHOLS, Alabama, Chairman ABRAHAM KAZEN, Jr., Texas
NICHOLAS MAVROULES, Massachusetts
MARVIN LEATH, Texas
RICHARD RAY, Georgia
C. ROBIN BRITT, North Carolina
SAMUEL S. STRATTON, New York
DAN DANIEL, Virginia
LES ASPIN, Wisconsin
LARRY J. HOPKINS, Kentucky
BOB STUMP, Arizona
DANIEL B. CRANE, Illinois
DAVID O'B. MARTIN, New York
JOHN R. KASICH, Ohio
JOHN F. LALLY, Counsel
WILLISTON B. COPER, Jr., Professional Staff Member
JAMES C. WATERS, Investigator ARCHIE D. BARRETT, Professor Staff Member
WILLIAM T. FLESHMAN, Investigator
WARREN L. NELSON, Subcommittee Staff Assistant
SUMMARY OF FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS
- There were inadequate security measures taken to protect the Marine Unit from the full spectrum of threats. The truck bomb that transited and exploded in the Battalion landing Team (BLT) headquarters building, with the loss of 240 lives, rolled through a concertina wire fence that was primarily a personnel barrier; it went between guard posts where the guards had their guns unloaded and had no opportunity fire before the truck got past them; it went through a gate that was generally left open and was almost assuredly open that morning; iron pipes in front of the building were not large enough to stop the vehicle and had an opening the vehicle could drive through. It is by no means certain that defenses protecting the BLT building would have been adequate to repel a car bomb attack.
- While the subcommittee fully recognizes it is easy to be wise after the fact, it finds that the commander of the Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU) made serious errors in judgment in failing to provide better protection for his troops within the command authority available to him. As the commander, he bears the principal responsibility for the inadequacy of the security posture at the BLT headquarters.
- The Amphibious Task Force commander, as the commanding officer of the amphibious sea and land forces in the area, shares responsibility for the inadequate security posture of the MAU.
- The subcommittee found no evidence of the military chain of command or the diplomatic and political leadership denying any requests for material or assistance with regard to security of the Marine detachment at Beirut International Airport or attempting to influence the deployment and actions of the battalion for political/diplomatic reasons in a way that would limit the security precautions the unit might take.
- While the higher elements of the chain of command did not deny any requests for support from the MAU, the subcommittee concludes that these higher command elements failed to exercise sufficient oversight of the MAU. Visits by higher level commanders were commonly familiarization briefings and appeared not to provide positive oversight, such as directives to improve security. The change in security effective with the guidance of higher headquarters since the bombing is indicative of what that higher command influence might have done before the bombing. The subcommittee is particularly concerned that the higher level commanders did not reevaluate the MAU security posture in light of increasing vulnerability of the unit in the weeks before the bombing.
- While of necessity calling attention to the failures of local commanders within their area of responsibility, the subcommittee must also call to account he higher policy-making authority that adopted and continued a policy that placed military units in a deployment where protection was inevitably inadequate.
- Both the Marine ground commanders who testified, consistent with the view of the Marine Corps leadership, interpreted the political/diplomatic nature of the mission to place a high priority on visibility and emphasized visibility to the extent of allowing greater than necessary security risks. The subcommittee was particularly distressed to find that the security of the MAU was less than that provided at the interim U.S. embassy in Beirut.
- The individual attached to the MAU performed their duties with skill, courage and extraordinary fortitude. The subcommittee believes these individual Marines are worthy of high commendation for outstanding performance under extremely adverse circumstances. Despite the fact that these are our most-ready fighters, they are functioning well in a role that is more political than military.
- The MAU in Lebanon did not receive adequate intelligence support dealing with terrorism. Serious intelligence inadequacies had a direct effect on the capability of the unit to defend itself against the full spectrum of threat. The Marines did not possess adequate capability to analyze the massive amount fo data provided them. The chain of command should have provided a special intelligence officer, with expertise in terrorism, capable of assembling all-source intelligence in a usable form for the commander.
No withstanding the inadequacy of intelligence support, the subcommittee believes the Marine command erred in failing to consider the possibility of a large bomb-laden truck as a significant threat while it was receiving information on, and attempting to be prepared for, numerous car bomb threats. The failure is particularly inexplicable in view of numerous other threats considered (such as bomb-laden speedboats or airborne kamikaze-type planes that might attack the fleet) and in view of the fact that an intelligence survey in the summer of 1983 recommended that trucks be visually inspected for explosive devices.
- The information, complete with diagrams, provided by the Marine Corps in Beirut four days after the explosion, and the initial testimony given to the Armed Services Committee by the Marine Corps Commandant and other Marine Corps and administration witnesses eight days after the explosion, was found by the subcommittee to be often inaccurate, erroneous and misleading. While not intentionally misleading, this testimony hindered the subcommittee and delayed its inquiry. Further, this first explanation provided the Congress and the American people thus presented a misleading picture of what actually took place on October 23.
- The rejection of an Israeli offer for medical assistance on october 23 was a decision made solely by the commander of Task Force 61, the Amphibious Task Force that include the MAU and naval amphibious units. The subcommittee finds that the decision was based solely on operational and medical considerations and has found no evidence of political considerations. The subcommittee found no evidence that the death of any U.S. personnel could be attributed to the matter of providing medical evacuation and medical care.
The message offering assistance to the Task Force commander did not come to his attention until several hours after the explosion and after he had made decisions regarding medical evacuation and had aircraft on the way that had been requested hours earlier. When the Task Force commander needed body bags he had no hesitation in requesting them from Israel and they were supplied. The subcommittee commends the Task Force commander for his decision and also for the manner in which the medical evacuation was carried out.
- Most witnesses insisted that the policy in the Middle East and the mission of the Marines had not changed. But between objectives, policy, mission and conditions--something has changed. The subcommittee urges in the strongest terms that the administration review the policy in Lebanon from the standpoint of how the Marine mission fits into that policy into that policy [sic] to determine if continued deployment of the Marine unit, as part of the Multinational Force (MNF) of French, Italian, British and American units, is justified.
Sustained deployment of personnel in the situation of almost certain further casualties should only be undertaken if the policy objectives are visible, profoundly important and clearly obtainable. Failure of the adminstration to adequately reexamine its policy and relate it to present conditions will only mean that such reexamination will have to be done by Congress.
- Diplomatic pressure of the most serious sort must be brought to bear on the Gemayel government to reach an accord with the warring factions. The solution to Lebanon's problem will only be found at the bargaining table. We must not in any way encourage the perception that a solution can be found on the battlefield with the participation of U.S. armed forces.