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Beirut, 1983
Twenty-five years ago, the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut started a trend

Date published: 4/18/2008

TWENTY-FIVE years ago today, radical Islam employed a new weapon in its war against the West. At 1 p.m., a delivery truck pulled under the portico of the horseshoe-shaped U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, and a suicide bomber detonated 2,000 pounds of explosives. The resultant blast collapsed the front face of the building, killed 60 people, and established a dark precedent.

Immediately after the bombing, a group called Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility, but in 2003, a district-court judge in Washington, hearing a lawsuit for damages from the survivors, found that Hezbollah--financed by senior Iranian government officials--was behind the blast.

The destruction of the Beirut embassy was followed just six months later by the twin bombings--just 20 seconds apart--of the U.S. Marine Corps barracks and the building that housed the French peacekeeping force in Beirut. More than 400 people died. Similar incidents followed, including the 1998 car-bomb attacks by al-Qaida on the U.S. Embassies in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya; the 2002 truck bombing of the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan; and the most horrific suicide bombings of all--the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

What would prompt a person to become a walking bomb? An MSNBC interview with a source in Hamas, a Palestinian terror organization, yielded this quote: "The bombers believe they are sent on their missions by God, and by the time they're ready to be strapped with explosives, say the sources, they have reached a hypnotic state. Their rationale: that by blowing themselves up in a crowd of Israelis, they are forging their own gateway to Heaven."

Many Muslims decry suicide bombings, citing a Quranic prohibition against killing oneself, and dispute the claim that suicides achieve martyrdom. Still, it has become a preferred technique of many Islamist groups, some of which have used women, young children, animals, and even retarded people as their bomb-conveyers.

On Wednesday, a suicide bomber killed at least 50 people at the funeral of two anti-al-Qaida Sunni Iraqis. What began in Beirut continues today--a perversion of religion and a desecration of human life.