WASHINGTON (Nov. 6)
Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and Gen. John Vessey, Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, refused today to reveal whether the United States would retaliate for the terrorist bombing of the marine headquarters in Beirut as did the Israelis immediately following the terrorist bombing of its headquarters in Tyre last Friday. But Vessey ruled out any joint action with the Israelis. “The Israelis are in Lebanon in a different position than we are, ” Vessey said on NBC-TV’s “Meet the Press” program. “The Israelis are at war with the Syrians. We came in as a peacekeeping force to fry and help re-establish Lebanon, to get both the Israelis and the Syrians out.”
Asked about retaliation, Vessey replied, “We need to find the perpetrators. We don’t need to side with the Israelis or the Syrians.” Vessey said he did not know who was responsible for the terrorist bombing of the marine barracks which took some 230 American lives. But while being vague about retaliation, he added, “I think we should attack the terrorists.”
Weinberger, appearing on ABC-TV’s “This Week With David Brinkley, ” said he would not discuss what action, if any, the U.S. would take against those responsible for the terrorist attack. There have been some reports that in moving in another aircraft carrier into the waters off of Lebanon, the U.S. may be planning air attacks similar to the ones staged by the Israelis on Friday.
But Weinberger said the aircraft carrier that is arriving off the coast of Lebanon, is accompanying a ship carrying the marine contingent that will replace the marines now in Lebanon. He said that while the new marines are going in and the old ones leaving, there is a certain “overlap” in the number of ships the U.S. has off Lebanon but that is all there is to this.
U.S. ‘REVOLTED’ BY TYRE BOMBING
In its initial reaction, the Reagan Administration said Friday that it was “revolted” by the terrorist bombing in Tyre and appeared to indicate that it did not disapprove of Israel’s immediate retaliation. Officially, State Department spokesman John Hughes said he had “no comment” when he was asked about the Israeli bombing of Syrian and Palestinian targets in Lebanon. Unofficially, however, the Department called Israel’s action “understandable wrath.”
After previous Israeli retaliatory strikes, the State Department had either condemned them or had deplored the use of violence by all sides. But there was none of this Friday as the attack on the Israeli installation came 13 days after a similar terrorist attack killed more than 230 Americans. When Hughes was asked if Israeli retaliation would result in an escalation of violence in Lebanon, he replied that any escalation would have been caused by those who bombed the Israeli headquarters.
Hughes said the United States still plans its own retaliation against the group that committed the terrorist act against the marine headquarters, but would not say what form this would take or when it will come. He said the U.S. investigation was still going on. When asked about Israel’s immediate response, Hughes said the Israelis made their own judgement on how to respond and the U.S. will make its own judgement on its response.
U.S. STATEMENT ON THE TERRORIST BOMBING
Hughes read a statement on the terrorist act against the Israelis which said: “The United States is revolted by the tragic bombing by terrorists of the Israeli army building in Tyre, Lebanon today and we extend our sympathy to the victims and their families.
“Attempts to thwart the objective of returning peace and stability to Lebanon through violence and terrorism will, in the end, fail. Those who believe that they can work their will through terrorist actions are sadly mistaken. Only negotiation can pave the way for the withdrawal of foreign forces and a return to a peaceful and independent Lebanon. We rededicate ourselves today to the objectives to which we have adhered since we undertook partnership in those negotiations.”
“Our hearts go out to the people of Israel and Lebanon in this tragic loss of precious human lives. We stand ready to assist in any way that we can in this hour of national travail.”