I know WineRev will provide another wonderful ‘this day in history’ today, but I would like to commemorate a horrific event from October 23, 1983, and the stunning scandal that has been kept quiet around the day that 241 US Military personnel perished in Beirut, Lebanon. THEY DIDN’T HAVE TO DIE. Those of you who don’t know the details will be shocked, but it is the absolute truth, so stick with me.

The day those suicide trucks crashed into the Marine Barracks, Israeli intelligence actually knew this terrorist attack was coming. The Israelis decided NOT to tell their US counterparts. Victor Ostrovsky of the Mossad, in his tell-all book, By Way of Deception, explained that they chose not to pass on this rather important piece of information to their American counterparts to help them prepare and preclude the assault, because, and I paraphrase here: “This will teach the Americans to stay out of our business.” We did pull out of Lebanon shortly thereafter.

There is more. NY Supreme Court justice Michael J. Dontzin acquiesced to the Israeli Government’s request to ban the book*, the only time a foreign country accomplished this in the land of free speech. This ban was quickly overturned. The book supposedly became a best seller, but for weeks and weeks, I on the west coast and my brother on the east coast could not obtain the book anywhere. We could not even order it.

Years later, walking around a 99 cent store in the Mission Valley mall in San Diego, I found dozens and dozens of this book on a bottom shelf. Surprised, I bought a few copies (hey, there were 99 cents plus tax). The book itself is quite boring, but a reminder that our allies, not just Israel, are not always our allies, and a reminder of the dangers of involvement in virulent conflicts on foreign soil.

As an aside, more than the 241 US citizens died that day. Among the dozens of Lebanese that also perished was my cousin Edouard. It was his first week on the job at the facility as an admin. Edouard had taken the position having just found out his young wife was pregnant with their first, and only, child.  

In the 1980’s, Beirut earned its moniker as hellhole of civil war. But the 307 lives that perished that day could have been saved.

*NY Times, October 1990, section 7, page 12.

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