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tv   Bruce Riedel Beirut 1958  CSPAN  April 20, 2020 2:04pm-2:40pm EDT

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pro forma session only with no business being conducted on tuesday, april 21, at 4:00 p.m. finally i ask that when the senate adjourns on tuesday, april 21 it next convene on thursday, april 23 under the order of april 16. the presiding officer: are there objections? without objection,so ordered. mr. mcconnell: if there is no further business to come before the senate, i ask that it stand adjourned under the previous order. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the senate stands adjourned until 4:00 p.m. stands adjourned until 4:00 p.m. that finishes this brief pro forma session in the u.s. senate. lawmakers are expected to return to work on monday, may 4. we have live senate coverage for you then here on c-span2.
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>> hello, thank you so much for coming. i'm monica the director and manager here. i'm honored to reduce our author, bruce reidel director of intelligence profits at the buck institute and senior fellow of the center for middle east studies. his book "beirut 1958" is a nonfiction thriller provides a cautionary tale for today. he combines ahr real-world poli, experience and a profound understanding of the middle east to leave a fascinating complex topic of cold war era and conspiracies culminating and president eisenhower's president decision to declare [inaudible] of doing a presentation about his book and a topic followed by q&a in a book signing so everyone please join me in welcoming bruce reidel. [applause] >> i don't think i need this.
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oh, good to know. first of all, thank you for coming tonight. on july 15, 1958 roughly 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon lebanese time the second marine regimen landed on a beirut beach. the marines came ashore anticipating that this would be d-day and that they would be facing a hostile audience. in fact, what they ran into is lebanese and other foreign tourists sunbathing on the beacs and some of them in the newly invented gini but fortunately, i do not have a picture of anyone in a bikini on the beach but i do have a picture of lebanese rushing to the shore fascinated by the marines having landed, literally as the marines charged
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up the beach weapons loaded, ready to go to war and vendors charged down the beach selling coca-cola, cigarettes, shawarma and other lebanese delights. lebanese turned out in large numbers to see the sights and here you can see taxis pulling up. it was all, in a way, a comic opera but everything underneath it was deadly dangerous. the marines were landing in lebanon in 958 in the midst of a very vicious civil war between christians and muslims in the marines expected to go into combat in the lebanese army regarded the marines as invaders violating the sovereignty and sanctity of lebanon and the muslims saw the marines coming ashore as supporting their
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christian enemies and in particular, the christian president [inaudible] who is trying to hold onto power for an extra second term. in germany tactical nuclear weapons were being prepared to be airlifted to the beachhead and the 82nd airborne division back in the united states was put on alert in order to reinforce the beachhead. while there was something of a comic opera approach to it in very real terms this could have turned into a disaster. it was the first time u.s. combat troops ever went into a mission in the middle east. our first combat mission but fortunately it turned out well only one army sergeant who died in the mission and he was killed in sniper fire later on but not in a day and it was later on.
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i will come back to that in a little bit but it began a tradition of american combat operations in the middle east. of course, as we all know now subsequent missions did not turn out as happily as beirut 1958. the second marine intervention in beirut, the 1982, turned out in a disaster and the death of over 240 american marines. it is useful to look back on this first mission to gain some ckunderstanding into what was going on. a few hours after the marines of course, 3:00 o'clockrines beirut time is six hours earlier in washington and president dwight eisenhower had gone gone on national tv to explain why he sent marines into harm's way. a year before eisenhower had
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laid out what is now called the eisenhower doctrine in the first time in american presidents said to the american people and to the world the middle east is vital to american national interests. no president until then had never identified the middle east is important or vital to american national interests. but it's interesting what i get played out crucial to american interests. he said there are two crucial interests in the middle east. one is obvious. oil and the second was the middle east was the birthplace an the three great monotheistic religions, judaism and christianity and islam. in the context of the cold war united states cannot allow atheistic communism to take over the birthplace of the three great religions. very interesting that eisenhower in 1957 did not identify the defense of israel as the
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strategic vital interest of the united states. no subsequent american preside president, of course, whatever look at it in those ways. on july 15, 1958 was the marines coming ashore and i gave a new explanation as to why they were there and essentially what he said was that a coup in iraq the previous day the 14th of july in which the most pro-western government in the middle east had been overthrown was the direct threat to american national interests. the pro- american government in iraq was deposed in a very brutal and violent coup one of the even by middle eastern standards and this was an exceptionally violent coup. ike identified the coup as perhaps the starting point of the entire middle east falling into the hands of the soviet union and international
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communism. he said if the united states did not respond to the coupp the third world war would start in the middle east. the loss of iraq is as significant as loss of china to communism in 1948. it's a remarkable statement and also completely divorced from the facts on the ground. his statements were very little to do with reality in iraq and in the middle east in 1958. he was less than forthcoming. ces real concern in 1958 was not communism but this man. nasser he was the charismatic young very attractive president of egypt and he had taken power in a coup in 1952 and he was an
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extraordinary speaker in arabic. able to literally liftn an audience with his words. he also survived literally being on stage having an assassin fire a bullet at him and he never stopped speaking. this is charismatic to the nth degree. he was the winner of the 1956 suez crisis in which egypt essentially defeated the united kingdom, france and israel a remarkable outcome in part because eisenhower had leaned towards egypt over the three apartheid aggressors but nonetheless he'd come out of that winner and in february of 1958 syria and egypt had united together in the united arab republic and today we forgotten arab nationalism as a motivating
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factor but in the 1950s arab nationalism and the idea of one arab nation from the gulf to the ocean, from oman to morocco was one of most powerful ideologies in the world andnd nasser was at the center of that. it's ironic because nasser was, in many ways, a protége of the cia in the 1950s. the cia did not put nasser in office even before his coup the cia was in contact with nasser and the cia identified nasser and arab nationalism as the wave of the future and the united states wanted to be on the wave of the future and saw an arab nationalism as a very effective counter to communism in the middle east. the individual associated with this whole policy was roosevelt
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and then as the one holding his hand in the picture there and current roosevelt is of course the sky and of the results family and was born in argentina and his most famous to americans as the man who put the shop back in power in 1953 when most was removed from power in iraq and that is what he is famous for an famous for the fact that he was the initial person who dealt with nasser. nasser very shortly after taking power asked the cia for money in order to buy arms as a military general who is a hero of the 1948 war against israel and one of the things he wanted to do was reward the egyptian army by building up its military capabilities but the cia gave them a very small stipend
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variously three, five millions depending on the source which are not by you very many arms and nasser instead spent the money on building a radio tower for his radio station the voice of the arabs. back in the 1950s radio was the equivalent of twitter today and it was the means of mitigating with people and this was the tower that nasser built and it is known in egypt as roosevelt erection. [laughter] i will not go further than that. the relationship between the united states and the egypt soured over the years and nasser went to the russians and to their czechoslovakian puppet regime in order to its weapons and that soured the relations. by 1958 relations between the united states and egypt, united arab republican deteriorated and evidently and as i said in
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february of 1958 egypt and syria united to form the united arab republic and in response to that the two monarchies in iraq and jordan crated their alternative in the federation of arab monarchiesaqrn but on march 3, 8 the king of saudi arabia here in the middle between richard nixon and dwight eisenhower, king told the american ambassador in saudi arabia that a plot was underway to overthrow the syrian government and breakup the united arab republic. forty-eight hours later the syrian intelligence service announced that they had broken up a plot to assassinate [inaudible] that was being king [inaudible]was being not only did they have evidence that they intended to assassinate by blowing up his airplanes they had the canceled
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checks signed by king [inaudible] to the bond makers bid message to self, don't sign the checks if you are going to overthrow a regime, please find a cutout. he had become by 9058 ike's favorite alternative to eisenhower. the king had had his head of saudi arabia and head of the two holy mosques was a much more moderate pro-western version and the eisenhower administration hoped they could use him to counter president nasser. a year before he had come to the united states and was the first saudi king to ever is in the united states and his visit was planned for nine days and ended up lasting 12 days in the king had indicated that he would
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bring 80 people with him and he brought almostnd 200 and there were so many saudi's this delegation that they cannot all fit in blair house and literally set up tents on lafayette square to house the rest of the saudi delegation, must've been an extraordinary site. the king was, i would like to say, wined and dined but obviously was not wind but he was given great profile by the eisenhower administration and the failure of his plot to assassinate nasser resulted in severe throwback within the saudi royal family and the saudi royal family was in a matter of days stripped him of his power and gave it to crown prince [inaudible] and he stayed in power as king but was essentially powerless after that. he was much less favorable to the united states so that was one big setback for that united states.
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shortly "after words" the lebanese civil war began and i sewill come back to that in a minute but that was another setback to american influence in the region and lebanese president camille [inaudible] was one of the few arab leaders who publicly endorsed the eisenhower declarationle and in jordan the cia uncovered a plot to overthrow the king and at this point he's in his early 20s and is a very inexperienced king and he's running a country that is 80% palestinian that has no support for the monarchy and the cia uncovered the plot and the fbi uncovered the plot by tapping the phone of the jordanian defense attaché in washington who was plotting with his egyptianti counterpart to overthrow the king and in late june of 1958 the cia gave all
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the information to the jordanians and they arrested the pots makers. the king turned to his brother in the king of jordan, and asked him and you can see the two of them how remarkably young they are back in 1958 and the two of them agreed that iraq would send a brigade of the iraq he army to him in order to help stabilize the romanian situation. unfortunately the brigade that selected was filled with co- plotters who were prepared a plot against the king and the plot succeeded on the 14th of july, 1958 and as i said earlier it was a very violent plot and the copartners of the was moving
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through baghdad in the early morning hours with ammunition which was very unusual and instead of heading towards jordan they headed towards the real palace and the defense ministry and the took the role palace and lined the entire royal family up against a wall and machine-gunned all of them and then their bodies were dragged through the streets. it was a really uglyll tactic te prime minister of iraq who had been the de facto leader of the country for 20 years was found a day later and he was similarly executed on the spot and dragged through the streets. was a very violent and stunning blow to american interest in the middle east. you have a series of events which are all building up here and on the 14th of july comes the coup in iraq. the coup was led by this man custom and nobody knew who this
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guy was but he was a complete unknown and the egyptians did not know who he was, americans did not know who he was and the russians did not know who he was. he was a complete unknown factor. the coup plotters may or may not have been pro- egyptian but people on the streets in iraq demonstrated immediately that there some of these were with nasser. here you see a picture of the streets in baghdad on july 14 filled with people holding up pictures of [inaudible] and the tanks that overthrew the government had pictures of nasser all over them andnd it ws not a big stretch to come to the conclusion that this was in fact, an egyptian sponsored coup. the lebanese at that point who were also in the midst of a
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civil war and this gentleman is camille [inaudible] and the prime minister or i'm sorry, the president of lebanon in the 1950s in lebanon then and today as a highly secretary and government is based on the fiction that christians are the majority of the people even buy 9058 and i was no longer true but that was the government that was imposed on lebanon in the front with the colonial master in the 20s and 30s and the president had to be a christian and the prime minister was sunni muslim and the speaker of parliament a shiite muslim. by convention the president only serves one term and camille in 1958 was obviously seeking a second term. everyone knew it and that resulted in a civil war between christians and muslims. it was messier than that actually. the patriarch of the maronite church which is the dominant christian church in lebanon
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supported muslim rebels sold a very confused situation and the intricacies of it were far more than most americans even most americans within any knowledge of the middle east wanted to get into it. on the afternoon of the 14th of july eisenhower convened his national security council and turns to the director of central intelligence allen dulles to give an appraisal of the situation. remember, in the eisenhower administration we had unusual fame that the secretary of state, john foster dulles, was the brother of the director of central intelligence and something like that has never and may never happen again in american history and he presented the most bleak picture you could possibly imagine. he said the coup in iraq was
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egyptian inspired, it would lead to the overthrow of the lebanese government ofdi the jordanian government and very quickly lead to the overthrow of saudi arabia, kuwait and the gulf states. the entire region dulles protected would fall into the hands of nassernt within a mattr of days unless america quote, did something. his brother, john foster dulles wades in and if it falls to nasser that means it falls to international communism. the middle east in the world's oil supplies will be in the hands of thean soviet union. all of this was baloney. first of all, it wasn't at all clear that the coup and iraq was egyptian inspired and nasser, while he did take on arms from the soviet union, it was not the client of the soviet union.
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eisenhower panicked and short and it's very interesting to read his memoirs because in his memoirs he says i felt i had to quote do something. now, eisenhower, the hero of d-day may be the greatest american general of the 20th century was smart enough to realize unlike some of his successors that invading iraq is really, really hard thing to do but invading lebanon is really, really easy to do because the united states has a large fleet in the eastern mediterranean so when those 2000 marines went ashore on july 15 they were backed up i 70 ships including three carrier battle groups. it was a goliath in the midget battlefield. by invading lebanon or going to
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the defense of camille [inaudible] the united states was doing something to prevent nasser from sweeping the region. nasser was very possible popular in lebanon when he first went to syria after the merger of the two countries in early 1958. 350,000 lebanese came to damascus to hear him speak and this is a country that has a little less the one and half million people and that's an awful lot of people to get in their cars and trucks and buses and go to another country to hear a speech. the civil war broke out in the spring of 1958 pitted the muslims with some christians against camille and the united arab republic, syrian republic in particular, help supported the rebels in lebanon and provided them with arms and assistance and that is undisputed.
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he asked repeatedly for the rvited states to intervene on his behalf and until the 14th of july at 958 eisenhower had two mirrored but on the 14th he finally agreed to the marines and i followed. nasser, for his part, was in yugoslavia at the time and he immediately said, secretly to moscow which the cia discovered frequently which of course, reinforced the paranoia that nasser was really in the hands of the russians. the russians and the egyptians agreed that the really important events in the middle east in july 1958 was not what was going on in beirut but beirut was a sideshow but the important issue was what was going on in baghdad and they decided to just let events play themselves out. he frantically tried to find out who wasas running the new government in baghdad.
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the situation on the ground in beirut was extremely dicey on the 15th and 16th. the lebanese army which is mostly christian officers and mostly muslim troops regarded the intervention as an invasion, a violation of their sovereignty and was paired to fight back. the american ambassador on the scene robert mcclintic advised eisenhower not to send the troops over and over again including on the 14th came up with a brilliant solution. he went to the commander of the lebanese army, a christian named [inaudible] and said, why don't we pretend that you have invited the americans to come in to help stabilize the situation and that the americans are not here as an intervention but they are here as the guests of the lebanese
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army of their host. he went along with the fiction and for the remainder of the americans deployment in beirut technicallyoy marines were being escorted from place to place by patrols of the lebanese army. it was fiction but it avoided a showdown. mcclintock got the assistance of the under secretary of state, the number three in the state department, was set out by eisenhower with instructions to tell mcclintock to get on the program. the program is to support [inaudible] and he got on the ground and said i'm stupid, i will support the investor's to try to defuse the conflict and together the under secretary of state, robert murphy and mcclintock began engaging with the various lebanese power and
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it's not particular but he is the man sitting on the sofa on the far side and with the agreed is that he would be removed from office and general [inaudible] would become the next president of lebanon. this is was in fact exactly what nasser wanted from the beginning so in effect the american intervention in lebanon in 1958 became the instrument to accomplish what egypt had wanted all along which is getting rid of chamoun replacing him with a shot. to the wisdom of mcclintock, murphy and above all eisenhower they ended and agreed in the end that this was the smart play out of the crisis. once g.i. was killed in the intervention by sniper fire from the muslims but by october 25,
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1958 the last american troops in the intervention had gone home and [inaudible] was present in the civil war was over and operation blue back as it was called, curious name, blue bat, was more or less successful. in one case this is all about the eisenhower. eisenhower in his eight years in power avoided sending troops into combat. he got us out of the korean war into not intervene in the struggle between mainland communism and formosa and generally avoided sending troops into combat which is understandable. as a general eisenhower actually never fought in combat himself but saw the results of combat much more than most people did. he knew he wanted to avoid that. july 14, 1958 is the one time in those eight years when he
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essentially panicked and decided to do something else. murphy went on to baghdad and met with possum and discovered that kassem was an iraqi nationalist and had no interest in being a pawn of either egypt or the soviet union and was mostly interested in running his own country. there are several things to learn from this episode and i will just focus on one. the middle east is a very unproductive bull place and anybody who tells you they know what will happen in the middle east tomorrow does not know what they are talking about. all kinds of surprises all the time and many of the time they are very, very unpleasant surprises. especially for the united states especially for the united states the lesson is, don't panic. let it play out. give it some time. see what happens, don't necessarily reach the worst conclusion overnight.
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don't jump to the worst possible outcomes. give it a little bit of time to play out. one more thing to say about all this before i take your questions. one of the reasons i wrote beirut 1958 is i was there. i was five years old and that is me and the really cute cowboy outfit. that is my older brother trying desperately to say i have no idea who this person is and i have no relationship to this person and i never want to see this person again in my life. my father was with the united nations and has been posted to jerusalem and when i was two years old and then we moved to beirut in 9057. beirut in 1950s was all called the paris of the middle east. it literally was. it was the most open and fun place to live in the entire region and beirut is set to
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write on the mediterranean's with the mountains of lemon on right behind it and you literally could go swimming in the morning and skiing in the afternoon or the other way around. of course, when the civil war began it all went pretty sour quite in a hurry and in the end my father stayed and my mother and brother and i were evacuated to that really hard to spot, naples, italy where we stayed with the americansap six fleet until the civil war had wined it down and then never went back in. that is my personal account of the storywn and with that i woud be happy to take your questions or comments.u [applause]
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>> this is obviously a question that has come to get it answered that he probably can't get entirely into here but why you think the civil war in 1958 was resolved with simple negotiations where the leader civil war in the 70s and 80s was longer and more bloodier? >> that's a very good question. partly it was that you had a mediator in the united states who after an awkward beginning, to put it mildly, then shifted focus. mcclintic in particular had already established a great network of ties with the various lebanese muslims sunni, shiite and jewish leaders and was able to use that to his advantage in the negotiations. i think even more importantly in 9058 lebanon was already not battlefield in the arab israeli
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conflict on the palestinian movement that we know plo had not developed yet and palestinians were refugees in lebanon and they did not have a real political profile. once you've got to the post 1967 era the palestinian community at lebanon had staked out its own position in the conflict was the lebanon was a battlefield between arabs and israelis ringing in the syrians and bringing in the saudi's and making it much more complicated to come up with a solution. >> i just wanted to thank you for a great presentation and thank you for coming tonight. we will do a signing appear as well. thank you guys. [applause] >> thank you.
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