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America's Odyssey with Islamic Terror: The Failure to Retaliate

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America's encounter with Islamic terrorism for decades, and her failure to take decisive actions might have had emboldened Islamic militants to land us where we are today...

The Islamic terror attacks of September 11, 2001 did not come as a bolt out of the blue. For close to thirty years, America's record of dealing with the hydra of Islamic terror was at best abysmal. Two earlier attacks, however, and the lack of American retaliation to these attacks, might very well have paved the way for the atrocity of 9/11. These two attacks were the Iranian takeover of the American embassy in Tehran in 1979 and the bombing massacre of the Marines in Beirut in 1983.

On November 4, 1979, hundreds of so-called "Muslim students" or "militants" stormed the American embassy in Tehran, Iran, taking dozens of Americans hostage. The "Iranian hostage crisis" had begun. After 444 days of brutal captivity, fifty-two American hostages were released on January 20, 1981. The attack, sanctioned by the government of Iran, may be considered the date when fanatical Islam began its official war on America.

The imprisonment of the American hostages and the ongoing ordeal that ensued remain one of America's most embarrassing humiliations. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his Islamic Republic of Iran had brought the United States to its knees. Had the Carter administration immediately threatened retaliatory military strikes on Iran's political, military, and oil infrastructures, it is possible that the hostages might have spent 444 minutes of captivity instead of the 444 days that they were forced to endure. Instead, Carter wrote a polite letter to the Ayatollah requesting that the hostages be released. The letter appeared only to embolden Khomeini, who later boasted that "America cannot do a damn thing." The failed rescue attempt on April 24, 1980 only added to America's humiliation and Iran's contempt for Carter and the nation he led.

(The storming of embassies and taking of hostages was not an Iranian invention. On March 2, 1973, PLO militants stormed the embassy in Khartoum, Sudan, and viciously executed the United States ambassador and his charges d'affaires under the explicit order of Yasser Arafat, the then godfather of terrorism. The Nixon administration took no action. While the two embassy takeovers had no direct connection, the PLO and Khomeini had excellent relations dating back to the early 1970s.)

When Iran freed the hostages on January 20, 1981, it came minutes after Ronald Reagan had been sworn in as president. Whether the Iranians feared Reagan or wanted to further humiliate Carter is still open to debate. However, if Iran was indeed fearful of Reagan, the fear did not last long. Iran suffered no repercussions from the U.S. after the hostage crisis. Close to two and a half years later, Ronald Reagan would have his first devastating encounter with Iran and its proxies, leaving a trail of American blood in the Middle East.

The background to the bloody encounters began in August 1982. The United States had entered Lebanon for the express purpose of overseeing the withdrawal of the PLO in the wake of Israel's June incursion into Lebanon. Israel had conducted a military campaign to stop PLO rockets from shelling northern Israel. However, a series of bloody events followed in September with the assassination of the Maronite Christian president-elect and reprisals by Christians and Muslims against each other. The U.S., which had already withdrawn its troops, reentered Lebanon in late September to try and stabilize the chaotic situation.

On April 18, 1983, the American embassy was rocked by a suicide truck bomber which killed 63 people. Seventeen Americans, including the Beirut CIA chief, were among the victims. The Iranian- and Syrian-backed terrorist group Hezb'allah claimed responsibility. As with the hostage crisis, there was no American response. The failure to retaliate to this massacre was a catastrophic mistake that would lead some five months later to a much worse murderous attack.

On early Sunday morning, October 23, 1983, another suicide bomber struck. This time, the target was the U.S. Marine barracks located at the Beirut International Airport. A Mercedes truck laden with an estimated six tons of TNT was exploded. The blast resulted in the murder of 220 Marines, 18 Navy, and three Army personnel. In the aftermath of various investigations, including that of the FBI, the blast was considered to be the biggest non-nuclear explosion since World War II.

Once again, Hezb'allah claimed responsibility. While President Reagan ordered a retaliatory strike, nothing followed. According to a 2001 PBS interview, then National Security Advisor, Robert McFarlane stated that Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger had "aborted" the retaliatory raid. In any event, the United States soon pulled out of Lebanon once and for all. This "cut and run" behavior of America was not lost on a young Osama bin Laden, who later recalled it as a sign of America being a "paper tiger."

Terrorist attacks against Americans continued throughout the 1980s, with more attacks in Lebanon and elsewhere. The attacks included hijackings, kidnappings, murder, and bombings. Time and time again, there was no American retaliation.

On October 7, 1985, Arab terrorists from the PLO faction the Palestine Liberation Front hijacked a passenger ship, murdering one disabled American Jewish man and throwing his body into the sea. Finally, America acted. President Reagan ordered the plane carrying the hijackers -- who had been freed by Egypt -- to be forced down and to land in Italy. On April 5, 1986, a Berlin discotheque was bombed. Three American servicemen were killed. American intelligence traced the source of the attack to Muammar Qaddafi's Libya. This time, President Reagan acted with strong retaliation, striking Libya's capital of Tripoli and the city of Benghazi with U.S. aircraft.

As the 1980s turned into the 1990s, the first World Trade Center bombing occurred. This attack was treated as if it were a simple criminal matter and not a case of international terrorism. President Clinton didn't even bother to visit the site of the first Islamic terror attack to hit the United States mainland. The Clinton administration also exhibited a "cut and run" attitude, most notably in Somalia in October 1993. Eighteen American soldiers were killed in battles with Somali militias, with some of the bodies dragged through the streets of the capital, Mogadishu.

As the Clinton years continued, there were the Khobar towers bombing, the twin bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the suicide attack against the USS Cole. Al-Qaeda had claimed credit for the attacks, but Clinton's attempts to capture or kill bin Laden were lukewarm at best. A few cruise missiles were fired into Afghanistan, and a pharmaceutical factory was struck in Sudan in response to the Cole bombing.

Of course, all changed on September 11, 2001. George W. Bush finally took the war to the heart of where the Islamic terrorists had devised their plans for 9/11 by invading Afghanistan. To bin Laden and other terrorists, this must have come as a great shock, based on the behavior of past American administrations.

The lesson to be learned, especially from the Iranian hostage crisis and the Beirut massacre of the Marines,  is to strongly retaliate as quickly as possible. Not responding only emboldens the enemy and is an invitation for even worse atrocities. The attacks of 9/11 are witness to the decades of America's mistake in its tragic failure to respond resolutely to Islamic terror.

This article first appeared in American Thinker.

Comments (5)Add Comment
written by waterwillows , September 06, 2010
There is a web-site called bare naked islam. At the moment they are showing a video of American Jews, just civilians, undergoing military training in the woods. They are using assult rifles in their training.
I think, We the People, are wise to get themselves prepared. The Christians have not shown what they are presently doing. But they are doing something. If you think about it, haven't the Christian always done something throughout history. Now is no different.

PS: Some of the stuff on this web-site is more than graphic. I find I'm not able to watch some of this beheading stuff. It's pretty awful.
remember the old adage
written by proudest kafir , September 07, 2010
all the good has to do for the evil to win is "NOTHING" The evil islam is winning precisely because of this reason. Added to this the evil of islam has the support of people like obama, pseudo secular ,leftists and disgruntled,inefficient and host others.Islam will destroy the world of the good for ever sooner or later, because the good is just too lazy to even take note of, let alone react
Americas founding Fathers
written by Walter Sieruk , September 07, 2010
Of course the fairlure of America to take decisive actions have done nothing but embolden the jihadists. The leaders of this country need to remember the ideas and phliosophy of Americas Founding Fathers when it comes to dealing with an enemy, which is to come down hard on them. For example, Thomas Jefferson wrote "With every barbarous people...force is law.' and "Fortitude...teaches us to meet and surmount difficulties; not to fly from them." He also wrote "Whensoever hostile aggressions... require resort to war, we must meet our duty and convince the world that we are just friends and brave enemies."
Prisedent Obama
written by Fineliving56 , September 07, 2010
The reason president Obama's out look on Quran and Islam comes off soft and has the feeling of infatuation seems originated from the times of younger days when he was taken to musques and had witnessed chanting of Quran ...the singing kind of chantings ...the kind that grabs to heart strings to shot out the thinking ability of a young mind .
The reason I think that Obama's young mind got swiped away and stayed that way is because Obama's out look on Islam stayed the same since childhood until he reached adulthood ..he never had the chance to discover the real Islam and never studied it extensively and if he had he would have never had such a high regard for Islam ..it surprises me I mean after all Obama is highly inelegant and knowledgeable ...it goes to show even someone like Obama will get Brian washed in the right or wrong circumstances for that matter . When he went on to live with his christion mother and he becam engulfed in Christian church teachings, I think he never forgot his past life with his muslim father and his infatuation and the proves are plenty ...his speech in Egypt ....I say that because I had similar up bringing in terms of Islamic childhood experience ....up to 13 of age I had respect and I had tender feelings every time I hear the chant and the call for Sallat .But that did not last ....suret Al Nesa and Al Noor in the Quran burned through my fog and the never ending heat started.
It is not too late, I think some one should send the president a copy of the translation of the Quran the book of hate and unhappiness specially to word women ....he has daughters ...send books sported with pictures of beheading and stoning happening right now in Yamen and Iyran with notes tells the exact places in the Quran that orders muslim to do all these atrocities agents humanity
The Right Idea
written by Walter Sieruk , September 09, 2010
Some of the democrat presidents of the past would not handle these jihadists with kid gloves like current President of the U.S. does. The jihadists would not be tolerated. Also the the jihadists threats would not stand. For example, the former presidents had the right idea when they said "With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain inevitable triumph, so help us God." - Franklin D. Roosevelt. Further, "The cost of freedom is aways high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission."- John F. Kennedy

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