$2.65B awarded in Beirut barracks blast
The widow of the highest-ranking Marine officer killed in the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut hopes a decision Friday by a federal judge will help stem the tide of terrorism by making the terrorists pay.
Deborah Coltrane of McMurray in Washington County could receive as much as $13 million under the ruling by U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth. She said her late husband, Marine Maj. John W. Macroglou, was a "volunteer peacekeeper" when henchmen from the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah blew up the Marine barracks, killing 241 U.S. servicemen.
It was the deadliest terrorist attack on Americans until Sept. 11, 2001.
The bombing prompted the withdrawal of the Marines who remained in Lebanon on a U.N.-sanctioned peacekeeping mission.
"Maj. Macroglou volunteered to go to Beirut as a peacekeeper," Coltrane said. "His goal was to make a difference."
Lamberth's decision to award $2.65 billion to family members and survivors of the attack requires help from Congress in the form of legislation that would allow the government to seize the U.S.-based commercial assets of terrorist states for disbursement to victims of terrorism.
Senate Bill 1944, which would do just that, awaits a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, said an aide to Sen. Arlen Specter, the committee's ranking Republican.
Specter and Democratic Sen. Bob Casey are co-sponsors of the legislation that was introduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat from New Jersey.
A Lautenberg aide said yesterday the bill has wide bipartisan support, but refused to speculate when it might be brought to a vote.
Legislation in the House is expected to be introduced next week.
Marine Lance Cpl. Terry Valore of Slickville in Westmoreland County, who was wounded in the bombing, filed a separate lawsuit in the case. He said yesterday he was encouraged by the court decision.
"My suit will be a carbon copy," said Valore, who suffered burns over 90 percent of his body in the explosion. "I expect we are going to see the same type ruling."
Valore's brother Mike, a Marine colonel, was in the courtroom along with hundreds of other spectators when Lamberth revealed his decision.
Valore said he heard from his brother after the ruling was announced. "He was excited," he said.
There's a hitch for Pennsylvania and Louisiana residents. Because of laws in the two states, relatives of the Marines who were killed or wounded in the bombing are barred from receiving compensation under the broad heading of the intentional infliction of emotional distress.
"Without a valid cause of action under state law," plaintiffs who live in those two states "lack a viable means to address their injury, and therefore lack standing," Lamberth said.
Relatives can receive compensation for pain and suffering and lost wages.
Macroglou's mother and father, Lorraine and Bill Macroglou of Peters, and his brother, James of Raleigh, N.C., were affected by the ruling.
Coltrane, a nurse, said it was important that Congress pass legislation to unfreeze Iranian assets in the United States. "There has to be some methodology to deterrence, and it seems to be monetary," she said.