The Enemy in Our Hands: America's Treatment of Enemy Prisoners of War, from the Revolution to the War on Terror

By Robert C. Doyle | Go to book overview

FOURTEEN
To Desert Storm and Beyond
Enemy Prisoners of War and the
Conflict of Rules

We have before us the opportunity to forge for ourselves and for
future generations a new world order, a world where the rule of
law, not the law of the jungle, governs the conduct of nations.

—President George H. W. Bush

On 23 October 1983 a truck loaded with thousands of pounds of explosives slammed into the headquarters of the American and French contingent of a multinational force in Beirut, Lebanon. The people of the United States, the president, and the Marine Corps were horrified as they began to understand the nature and danger of Islamic fundamentalism.1 The American military services, with the possible exceptions of the garrison forces in Korea, in Germany during the Cold War, and in Bosnia, had never been exceptional international peacekeepers in the contemporary sense. Neither the U.S. Army nor the Marine Corps was a trained police force. With nineteenth-century-like naivete, the Reagan administration wrongly believed that the mere presence of marines on the ground and a battleship at sea could generate enough fear and respect to force opposing sides to negotiate a settlement within the framework of a reasonable compromise. Instead, the American peacekeepers became easy targets, and on 23 October 1983 the terrorist group Hezbollah killed more than 200 marines in one fanatical suicide bombing attack. The survivors showed bitter faces as they dug dead marines from the wreckage, and the news services reported that Americans had not witnessed that number of dead soldiers at one time and place since the Vietnam War.

Two days later the United States engaged its forces in Granada, an island about 100 miles north of Venezuela. In launching Operation Urgent Fury, the United States accepted a call to action to stop a Cuban and Grenadian communist takeover of the government. On 25 October 1983 Urgent Fury targeted the airport, which was being constructed with Cuban assistance and was perceived as a danger to the United States. The U.S. force, consisting of about 7,000 American troops and a few

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