Marines welcome news of plotter’s death

By JEFF SCHOGOL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 15, 2008

News of death is rarely greeted with enthusiasm, but Tim McCoskey said he got a good feeling when he learned the terrorist who helped plan the bombing of a Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 had been killed.

“At least he can go to hell now,” said McCoskey, 44, of Elloree, S.C.

McCoskey was a lance corporal with the Marines in Lebanon on Oct. 23, 1983, when a suicide bomber in a truck carrying 12,000 pounds of explosives crashed into a building at the Beirut airport where the Battalion Landing Team for U.S. peacekeepers to Lebanon was based.

A total of 243 servicemembers were killed in the attack: 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers. The U.S. mission to Lebanon ended months later.

Imad Mughniyeh, a Hezbollah terrorist who allegedly had a hand in planning the attack, was reportedly killed Tuesday in Damascus, Syria, when his vehicle exploded.

Other Marines who were in Beirut at the time of the attack expressed a sense of satisfaction about Mughniyeh’s reported demise.

“Being raised Catholic, I fear [it’s] a sin to welcome another human being’s death, but in Imad Mughniyeh’s case, I’ll make an exception and take my chances in the confessional,” said Glenn Dolphin, 50, of Aiken, S.C.

“I have to believe that the man upstairs is dealing out justice now, and for Imad Mughniyeh it not going to be pretty,” he said.

Craig Renshaw, 45, called Mughniyeh’s death “payback.”

“He got what’s coming to him and he got the same thing he did to others,” said the former lance corporal, who lives in Folkston, Ga.

Alan Opra, 43, said he considers Mughniyeh’s death to be poetic justice.

“I was happy that he died the way he died because he died in a car bomb and he orchestrated a truck bomb, so it was like karma,” said Opra, of Harrison Township, Mich., and a lance corporal at the time of the attack.

For the Marines attacked in Beirut, Mughniyeh’s death is “a long time coming,” said Randy Gaddo, 54, president of Beirut Veterans of America.

“We wish it would have happened 25 years ago … but better late than never,” said Gaddo, of Peachtree City, Ga.

Gaddo, a staff sergeant when the Battalion Landing Team building was hit, said Beirut veterans knew afterwards that the terrorists who killed their comrades would not go away.

“We always felt this is something that would come back to haunt us,” he said.

Because the Marines were not allowed to finish their mission in Lebanon, the U.S. was unable to prevent future incidents, such as Somalia, said Robert Jordan, 70, a major when the attack happened.

Jordan, who works at Fort Meade, Md., stressed that terrorists need to be confronted and eliminated or they will continue their fight.

It is a sentiment echoed by Don “Gunny” Inns, a Marine corporal during the attack in 1983, in an e-mail to Stripes:

“I cannot help but think that had we acted in such a vigorous manner to bring [Mughniyeh] to justice for the Beirut bombing twenty-four years ago, the war on terrorism would have been waged and won before reaching our shores and the Middle East would be enjoying a peace of ‘lasting value’ today.”