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."
Adm. Frank Kelso, the officer in charge of America's Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean, ordered his men to carry out the mission. In no time flat, Tomcat fighters had taken off from the U.S. aircraft carrier Saratoga. After refueling in midair and guided by Hawkeyes, the Tomcats caught up with the EgyptAir flight. The fighters stealthily trailed their target for a while in total darkness, their lights off, even in the cockpit. Then the Tomcats swooped in on the EgyptAir flight, surrounded the plane, and forced it to land at a NATO base on Sicily controlled by the United States.
The New York Post headline the next day was: "GOT 'EM." Reagan said: "I salute the Navy."
And then Abul Abbas was released by the Europeans – whom liberals insist on approval from in this war. Abbas dashed to safety in Iraq under Saddam Hussein – whom liberals have assured us was not harboring terrorists. Republican presidents keep catching terrorists while liberals keep sending them back.
If there is a parable of how liberals support the enemy, this is it. Adm. Kelso, whose men carried out the dauntless EgyptAir interception, was cashiered out of the Navy because of "Tailhook." Feminists don't care about Saddam Hussein and his rape rooms. But they were hopping mad at Adm. Kelso for walking through the Tailhook convention to say hello to his boys – boys who captured Leon Klinghoffer's murderers.
To jog the memory of the horror that was Tailhook, Lt. Paula Coughlin was the officer who made the most lurid allegations, accusing a black Marine of molesting her. But then she kept identifying different black males as the perpetrator. Liberals managed to put their concern for racist accusations against blacks on the back burner in this one case. When liberals get going, the ironies never end.
Though Adm. Kelso was cleared of any wrongdoing after an official Navy investigation, liberals wanted him punished. Former Rep. Patricia Schroeder, D-Colo., engaged in a hysterical witchhunt of Kelso, marching with her fellow termagants to the Senate to encourage them to deny Kelso retirement with four stars. Naturally, the New York Times editorialized against him.
After a lifetime of honorable service to his country, Adm. Kelso was barely permitted to retire with four stars, in a 54-43 Senate vote. A majority of Democrats opposed Kelso, along with all the Republican women in the Senate – Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Nancy Landon Kassebaum, Arlen Specter, Bob Packwood and so on. Had the Senate denied him his retirement with four stars, this American hero would have received a pension of $67,000 per year, rather than the princely sum of $84,000 per year given a four-star admiral.
The left's relentless attacks on Oliver North hardly require elaboration. He was endlessly investigated, charged with crimes, indicted by Lawrence Walsh, and his Senate campaign destroyed. Al Gore compared North's supporters to Down syndrome children.
Now liberals are demanding that the Europeans be let into Iraq so they can release some more terrorists, while liberals do their part at home, carving up the colonels and admirals who capture people who murder Americans.