In yet another triumph against terrorism, U.S. special forces captured Abu Abbas Monday night. The head of the Palestine Liberation Front most notoriously masterminded the hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro in October 1985. Four gunmen held passengers hostage for two days off the coasts of Egypt and Israel. They then murdered American citizen Leon Klinghoffer, a 69-year-old Jewish retiree from Manhattan. Islamic killers shot him in the head and chest, then rolled him and his wheelchair into the Mediterranean. The next day, Klinghoffer’s body washed up on a Syrian beach.
Abbas, 54, was seized near where he has lived comfortably on and off for 18 years…in Baghdad, Iraq. American soldiers found him luxuriating in a tree-lined compound just outside the Iraqi capitol. According to the State Department’s “Patterns of Global Terrorism-2001″ (released May 21, 2002), Abbas appeared on Iraqi state television in fall 2001 to praise Saddam Hussein’s government for mobilizing Arab public opinion against Israel’s policies toward Palestinians.
Abbas’ presence in Baghdad — where he maintained an apartment and is believed to have lived since 1994 — and his recent collaboration with the Baathist state proves vividly, yet again, that America was correct to topple Hussein regime. His dictatorship gave aid, comfort and sanctuary to terrorists who killed Americans, precisely as supporters of Operation Iraqi Freedom have argued and its critics have struggled to overlook.
“Right now, we know he’s off the table as a terrorist,” General Vincent Brooks told reporters in today’s press briefing at CENTCOM headquarters in Doha, Qatar.
Pacifists hide behind a wall of illogic: Since Saddam Hussein did not authorize the September 11 massacre, it was wrong for President Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and at least 47 other world leaders to target Iraq within the war on terror. This is like saying that since Adolf Hitler did not order the attack on Pearl Harbor, America should have ignored the Axis collaboration of Nazi Germany and imperial Japan and steered clear of Normandy Beach.
Whether or not Hussein was as shocked as the rest of us when the late Twin Towers were ablaze, he certainly played host to other Islamic extremists, all of whom are allied in their homicidal hatred of Jews, America, and the West. As President Bush observed last October, “Over the years, Iraq has provided safe haven to terrorists such as Abu Nidal, whose terror organization carried out more than 90 terrorist attacks in 20 countries that killed or injured nearly 900 people, including 12 Americans.” Nidal also lived for years in Baghdad. He was found dead of gunshot wounds in his apartment there last August.
Also, indicted 1993 World Trade Center bomber Abdul Rahman Yasin fled to Iraq shortly after that blast killed six and injured some 1,000 New Yorkers. Yasin walked freely on Baghdad’s streets for at least a year, although Baathist officials claim they had him in custody from 1994 until, presumably, last week.
American intelligence officers are now interrogating Iraqi detainees and sifting through seized archives. As evidence grows of Saddam Hussein’s hospitality towards anti-American murderers, those who opposed the Coalition’s swift and moral victory will find themselves standing on an ever-shrinking ledge, laboring more mightily each day to justify their vanquished position.
— Mr. Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service.