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18 September 2014
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Out of Nowhere?

By Professor Lawrence Freedman
President Bush
President Bush by the damaged Pentagon building in Washington after the attacks ©

Many felt that the events of September 11 came out of the blue. Security expert Professor Lawrence Freedman, however, considers there was a slow but certain build-up to the day. Here he examines the shape of US involvement in international affairs from the early 1980s.

Before September 11

The events of September 11 are the latest, and most far-reaching, of a long series of painful encounters between the United States and the forces of terrorism. In the build-up to those events, and in the history of America's subjection to terrorism, the date of 23 October 1983 is also a highly important one.

'Witnesses recollect the driver grinning as he broke through barriers and steered between two sentry boxes...'

Just before 6:30 am on that day, as US marines slept in their compound at Beirut airport, a Mercedes truck turned into the airport car park, circled the area twice, and then accelerated to drive directly at the headquarters building. Witnesses recollect the driver grinning as he broke through barriers and steered between two sentry boxes, before the truck crashed into the building, detonating tons of explosives. This caused 241 marines and other US personnel to lose their lives as the structure collapsed upon them. At the same time, also in Beirut, another suicide bomber attacked the French barracks, where 58 people were killed.

Published: 2002-08-22



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