What would Republicans say if a terrorist bombing killed 220 Marines on Obama’s watch?
The current political controversy over last year’s tragedy in Benghazi, Libya, brings to mind an even greater tragedy of nearly 30 years ago in that same part of the world.
On Oct. 23, 1983, a terrorist truck-bomb was detonated at a U.S. Marines barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers. It was the biggest single-day death toll for the Marine Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.
The Marine contingent in Beiruit was subsequently moved offshore for their own protection, and four months after the bombing, President Reagan ordered the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Lebanon.
A subsequent investigation by a fact-finding committee blamed the military chain of command for the disaster and said there might have been fewer casualties if the guards at the barracks had carried loaded weapons. The sentries had been ordered to carry their ammunition on their belts, not in their rifles, to avoid any accidental shootings.
Incredibly, public reaction to the barracks bombing was almost immediately muted when, two days later, President Reagan ordered 7,000 U.S. troops to invade the tiny island nation of Grenada in the Caribbean — ostensibly to rescue 800 American medical students studying there.
The little war in Grenada, which enjoyed wide support among the American populace, resulted in the deaths of 59 Cubans, 45 Grenadans and 19 Americans. More importantly for the Reagan administration, it diverted attention from the debacle in Beirut.
But what if all this had happened while Barack Obama was president?
What would Republicans have said about barracks guards having been ordered to keep their weapons unloaded?
Would they have said the subsequent withdrawal of U.S. troops from Lebanon was a shameful example of cowardly retreat — “cut and run,” as it were?
What would Obama’s political enemies have said about his little diversionary skirmish in Grenada? Would they have characterized it as a “war” a good American street gang could have won without much fuss?
How soon would the right-wing noise machine have called for Obama’s impeachment?
I’m just asking, mind you.