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Commemorative Ceremony on the 25th Anniversary of the Bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Ben Franklin Room
Washington, DC
April 18, 2008

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SECRETARY RICE: Thank you, Pat, for that kind introduction. I’d also like to recognize Ambassador Antoine Chedid, the Charge d’Affaires in -- to the Lebanese Embassy, as well as Ambassador Robert Dillon. Ambassador Dillon, you served bravely in 1983 and we honor your service and we are truly honored by your presence here today. I'm very honored to be here with all of you who remember those that we lost in Beirut on this day 25 years ago. I want to welcome to the State Department both the family members who lost loved ones and the survivors of that tragic day.

I'm pleased, too, that we have here with us a representative of our Beirut Embassy staff, Ms. Marina Chamma. It is only fitting that in Lebanon, friends and family of the victims are also gathered at our Embassy in Beirut in solidarity with all who remember that terrible day. So today, we recall the memory of those we lost, and we reaffirm our partnership with the Lebanese people.

It was April 18, 1983, when a suicide bomber detonated 2,000 pounds of explosives in front of Embassy Beirut. At the time, it was the deadliest attack ever on a U.S. diplomatic mission. We lost 17 of our own sons and daughters and 35 of our Lebanese colleagues. Many others also perished as they were visiting or just walking by the Embassy. Even more were injured. These were all innocent people, stolen from us in a moment of terror. American families sent their sons and daughters proudly to represent the United States abroad. They should not have had to die as they did. For all of you, the families of the victims and the survivors, you gave America your best and for that sacrifice, the United States of America is eternally grateful.

In that day’s attacks, we're reminded that evil is real, but so too is the courage and compassion of ordinary people, when in the face of loss and suffering, summoned what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.” Our fellow citizens, many of whom are here today, stepped in to do the work that should never be asked of anyone, but they did it nonetheless, pulling colleagues from the destruction, tending to the wounded, identifying the victims. People made calls to the families of friends that no one is ever prepared to make. And it was all done while remaining vigilantly at post. On a day so filled with heartbreak, all of you and your colleagues gave us cause for hope. You made America proud.

Even when the tragedy of April 18 was followed by further attacks on our Marine barracks later that year, on our Embassy annex in 1984, and still others beyond that, the terrorists never broke our will. It is said by some that America withdrew from Lebanon in the 1980s. But all of us know better. You know that though we may have moved, we never left. And you know this because it was many of you, and your colleagues in our diplomatic corps, who have remained on the frontlines of our presence in Lebanon and who have anchored our friendship with the Lebanese people.

Lebanon has seen too many wars, too many assassinations, and too many innocent lives lost – tragedies that remain all too real today. Indeed, as we speak, several dozen Lebanese patriots, members of the democratic majority bloc in the parliament, have had to take refuge in a Beirut hotel, afraid for their very lives. After watching as one another in recent years, fellow members of parliament, journalists and, of course, Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, were gunned down in the streets or claimed by terrorist bombs, who can blame them?

This should be an unacceptable situation to all nations and it is certainly unacceptable to the United States. We remain fully committed to the people of Lebanon. We fully support their desire for sovereign, democratic, and prosperity -- a prosperous nation. The Lebanese people deserve to live in peace. And the United States is dedicated to this task and will continue to champion the peaceful aspirations of the Lebanese people. In fact, it is in continuing to champion the cause of a democratic Lebanon that we pay greatest honor to those who died and those who suffered on that day.

Shortly after the 1983 Embassy attack, President Reagan said, “This criminal attack on a diplomatic establishment will not deter us from our goals of peace in the region. We will do what we know to be right.” Twenty-five years later, those words ring true for the thousands of men and women who serve in our posts across the globe and especially in the Middle East.

The men and women who we lost in Lebanon 25 years ago were united in life by a common goal: to make this world safer and better for all Americans and for all freedom-loving people. Working every day for that goal is now the urgent calling that leads us forward, and achieving it is an honor to those who made the ultimate sacrifice and whose memory we will all hold dearly and forever in our hearts.

Thank you. (Applause.)


Released on April 18, 2008

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