The American Enterprise

Europeans go AWOL in the terror war: obstruction from France goes way back.

France's participation in the global war on terror has been about as enthusiastic and effective as its 1940 defense along the Maginot Line. Long before George W. Bush appeared on the scene, the French were refusing to join longtime friends and allies in standing up to terrorist threats.

Amazingly--or perhaps not--the French have a tradition of trying to strike their own separate deals with terrorist organizations. On more than one occasion, French security services have even turned a blind eye to the presence in France itself of leading international terrorists.

Mohammed Daoud Odeh, the notorious chief of the PLO hit squad that slaughtered 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, was invited by the French government to come to Paris to meet with senior Quai d'Orsay officials in early 1977. When word leaked out that this quintessential terrorist was in Europe, American, German, and Israeli intelligence agencies frantically sought French help in nabbing him. But the government of then-president Valery Giscard d'Estaing swept down on Daoud's safe house, "arrested" him, and hustled him off to the airport where he was placed safely aboard a flight to the shelter of terrorist-loving Algeria.

Since then, socialist president Francois Mitterand and conservative president Jacques Chirac have both stuck to the self-centered, cynical politics of their predecessors. During the 1980s, one of the world's most wanted terrorist criminals made so many trips to Paris he could have earned gold frequent-flier status. Lebanese Hezbollah leader Iman Mugniyah is the man who tortured and murdered U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem aboard hijacked TWA flight 847 in June 1985, and is believed to have kidnapped, tortured, and later murdered William Buckley, the CIA station chief in Beirut in the mid '80s. He is also one of the men held responsible for the death of 63 people in the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut on April 18, 1983.

A CIA operative photographed Mugniyah arriving at Paris's Orly Airport in 1985. The photographs were passed to the French in an effort to get them to arrest him. It was unsuccessful.

Western intelligence agencies, especially the CIA, were outraged. "The French refusal to grab Mugniyah was as disgusting as it was criminal," one Western intelligence source told me. Not only had Mugniyah attacked American and Israeli targets, he was also blamed for planning the October 23, 1983 truck bombings against U.S. Marine and French paratrooper barracks in Beirut, a Hezbollah action that killed 58 French soldiers and 241 U.S. marines, sailors, and soldiers.

Armed by Iran, supported by Syria, and based in Lebanon, Hezbollah has a well-earned reputation as one of the most blood-drenched of the anti-Western Muslim terrorist organizations. Until September 11, 2001, Hezbollah held the dubious distinction of having kidnapped and killed more Americans than any other terrorist organization.

But that murderous reputation and even the memory of the French servicemen buried under tons of rubble in Beirut failed to prevent France from lobbying ferociously within the European Union against adding Hezbollah to the E.U.'s list of international terrorist organizations. The French president personally extended an invitation to Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's secretary general, to attend a French-sponsored summit of French-speaking nations in Beirut in October 2002.

The wages of ransom

The irony is that despite its shameful record of appeasement of terror, and for all its efforts to make nice with Arab states, France has been abused by terrorists just like other nations. Air France planes were hijacked in 1976 (Israeli commandos freed that one at Entebbe) and in 1994 (the would-be hijackers failed to crash into the Eiffel Tower). Yet another French plane was blown up over the Sahara Desert by Libya in 1989, killing all passengers, most of them French citizens. …

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