June 15, 2005, - 9:57 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
Twenty years ago, this week, Hezbollah terrorists hijacked TWA Flight 847, and trampled Navy Diver Robert Stethem to death.
Stethem’s only crime was being American.
The hijacking and murder was among the first televised Islamic terror attacks against Americans, unfolding on TV screens over 17 days.
Twenty years later, disturbing kowtowing to Hezbollah terrorists shows we’ve learned nothing from Stethem’s brutal murder at the hands of Islamic terrorists. On September 11, 2021, will it be worse?
On June 15, 1985, Hezbollah hijackers seized the TWA flight in Athens. Identifying Robert Dean Stethem as an American serviceman, they brutally beat and tortured the 23-year-old Stethem to death. Then, they threw his body off the plane, like garbage. Stethem was so badly beaten that he could only be identified from fingerprints. He was on his way home after a tour of duty with the US Navy in the Middle East.
But Stethem never made it home . . . alive. His next and final stop was Arlington National Cemetery.
At the time, the President was Ronald Reagan, a heroic leader who didn’t give in to Islamic terror. Well, almost. In 1983, Hezbollah terrorists (with the help of the PLO and Syria) attacked and killed over 300 U.S. Marines and civilians in Beirut, while they slept. It was the bloodiest attack on the Marine Corps since World War II. But President Reagan didn’t strike back. Instead, he pulled out of Lebanon. He sent a signal to Hezbollah and other Islamic terrorists that their attacks would not be answered, that America was weak. That gave Hezbollah the courage to hijack the plane and brutally kill Stethem, almost two years later.
Lebanon never apologized for Stethem’s murder, nor did Syria or Iran which control Hezbollah. Three of Stethem’s four murderers–Imad Fayez Mugniyeh, Hasan Izz-Al-Din, Ali Atwa–remain free, and are believed to be in Lebanon, Iran, or Syria. The fourth, Mohammad Ali Hamadi, may soon be freed from prison in Germany, where he was caught smuggling explosives.
To date, Hezbollah remains on the State Department terrorist list. But that means little, when federal officials in foreign service, Congress, and domestic federal law enforcement openly embrace Hezbollah and its supporters. They do this, despite the fact that Hezbollah is a component of Al-Qaeda and trained the insurgents who attack American soldiers in Iraq.
Just after 9/11 (and many times since), U.S. Congressman Darrell Issa, the man behind the California gubernatorial recall, openly praised Hezbollah as “legitimate resistance” and lauded Stethem’s barbaric murderers for “the good things they do.”
Earlier this year, while thousands of Lebanese people called for the ouster of Syria from their country, U.S. bureaucrats openly floated the idea of embracing Syrian-controlled Hezbollah. “U.S. Called Ready to See Hezbollah in Lebanon Role, A Sharp Policy Reversal,” read the headline in an outrageous March 10, 2005 front-page New York Times article. Incredibly, the U.S. was following the lead of France in embracing the terror group, only a few weeks after Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was blocked–by France–from getting the EU to formally label Hezbollah as a terrorist group.
“Hezbollah has American blood on its hands,” one official told the Times. “They are in the same category as Al Qaeda.” Yet the official acknowledged that the U.S. was headed toward acknowledging a political role for Hezbollah in Lebanon. Sickening.
Then there are Hezbollah’s domestic supporters and the law enforcement bureaucrats and honchos who gush over them.
Take Imad Hamad, Midwest Regional Director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (whose scheduled 2003 FBI award was revoked). When Israel released hundreds of Hezbollah prisoners in early 2004, Hamad sent invitations to a celebration of the new freedom of “the Heroes.” In a newspaper article, he openly wondered aloud if it would be okay to wear “a T-shirt praising Hezbollah or [buy] the yellow Hezbollah flag, emblazoned with a rifle held in a clenched fist.” This is the group that murdered Robert Stethem and hundreds of U.S. Marines and civilians, and this cretin, Hamad, wants to celebrate that.
Even worse, Hamad regularly visits Nabih Berri, speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, who just also happened to be the spokesman, chief negotiator, and media mastermind for the Hezbollah hijackers who murdered Stethem. It’s beyond embarrassing that Berri–who headed the Shi’ite Amal Militia–is a University of Michigan (my alma mater) grad, whose close relatives are unabashed and prominent in Detroit’s Islamic community.
Despite Hamad’s support for Hezbollah, then-Homeland security chief Tom Ridge and then-Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill “broke pita” with Hamad and Berri’s first cousin, Ali Berry, at an April 2002 meeting at La Shish restaurant.
Then there’s Brian Moskowitz, Special Agent in Charge for Immigration and Customs Enforcement for all of Michigan and Ohio. Before his arrival at the Detroit ICE office, Customs (as it was previously known) constantly investigated and raided suspected Hezbollah money-launderers, including cigarette smugglers and weapons procurers who were successfully prosecuted. But Moskowitz befriended Hezbollah supporter Hamad, and, his agents say, he has shut down most, if not all, investigations into suspected Hezbollah support and funding.
On Memorial Day weekend, while the rest of America was remembering Stethem and others who gave their lives for our country, Hamad’s ADC was, instead, holding its national convention. Despite ADC’s constant praise and reverence for Robert Stethem’s Hezbollah killers and other Islamic terrorists, Homeland Security officials Russ Knocke and Daniel Sutherland were in fawning attendance.
Unlike them, Robert Stethem was an American hero, who refused to denounce the United States while being tortured to death by Hezbollah murderers. As his brother, Ken, so eloquently said, “Every time I look at the flag now and for the rest of my life, the red will represent the blood he spilled, the blue the beating and bruises he endured, and the white the purity and integrity he demonstrated in sacrificing his life.”
American officials need to feel the red, white, and blue–blood, beating, and integrity of Robert Stethem–instead of gushing over Hezbollah.
In 1995, the USS Stethem was named after the late Robert Stethem to recognize his heroism. But today, America must demonstrate that his death at the hands of Islamic terrorists means more than just a name on a ship.
That it is worth fighting–and dying–for.
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