Despite liberals' calm assurance that Iraq wasn't harboring terrorists, this week Abul Abbas, mastermind of the 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking, was captured in Baghdad. This is the second time the United States has caught Abbas. But the last time, the Europeans let him go. That's why liberals are so eager to have Europeans "help" with the war on terrorism. They did a bang-up job last time.
In 1985, Muslim terrorists hijacked the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro and threatened to kill the passengers and crew unless 50 imprisoned Palestinians were released by Israel. The terrorists doused American and British women with gasoline and taunted them with matches. They forced passengers to hold live grenades. When their demands were not met, the terrorists shot a wheelchair-bound American, Leon Klinghoffer, and forced other passengers at gunpoint to throw him overboard in his wheelchair.
Even as the Americans were preparing a rescue mission, the Italian and Egyptian governments made a deal with the terrorists, offering the release of the Palestinians and safe passage to Egypt to end the ordeal. The Europeans were delighted with this masterful act of diplomacy. The Americans were not so pleased.
Oliver North conceived of an operation to get the terrorists back. Contrary to Egyptian president Mubarak's assurances that the terrorists had already left Egypt, North found out the terrorists were still there. Indeed, working with Israeli intelligence, North determined the precise EgyptAir 737 that would carry the terrorists out of Egypt, even down to the flight number. He wanted to intercept the flight, modeling the operation on the extraordinary World War II interception of Yamamoto, mastermind of Pearl Harbor.
President Reagan was briefed on the daring plan – along with copious warnings from timorous State Department officials that the Europeans might have their feelings bruised, America would look like a cowboy, and it would only strengthen the hard-liners in Egypt. Asked if the operation should proceed, Reagan said: "Good God! They've murdered an American here. Let's get on with it."