Cheat-Seeking Missles

Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Brave Man Killed By Palestinians In Beirut

My stepfather, a retired diplomat, was close friends with three US ambassadors who fell at the hands of Islamist terrorists: Cleo Noel, who was murdered by the PLO, Spike Dubs, who was murdered by Shi'a militia in Afghanistan, and Frank Meloy, who was gunned down in Beirut.

Meloy's story was the hardest of the three to research ... as evidenced by the fact that even the researchers at Time Magazine get it wrong. Here's a letter by a noteworthy writer to Times' editors from 1979:

In your story about embattled diplomats [Nov. 26] you mention that "in the past eleven years, four American ambassadors have been killed in the line of duty." Actually, there have been five, since you omitted my old friend and Foreign Service colleague, Frank Meloy, Ambassador to Lebanon, who was killed in Beirut on June 16,1976.

It is little realized that our Foreign Service is our true first line of defense, or how often those front-line persons suffer casualties.

Claiborne Pell
U.S. Senator, Rhode Island
Washington, D.C.
Frank Meloy and Robert O.Waring, the U.S. economic counselor, were kidnapped and shot on Jan. 1, 1977, when the two were on their way to present Meloy's credentials to Lebanon's president-elect. The timing makes Meloy the answer to an FAQ on the State Department Web site:

Which U.S. chief of mission served for the shortest time?

Francis E. Meloy, Jr. was assassinated in Beirut, Lebanon, on June 16, 1976 while on his way to present his credentials to that country's president.

The shooters were terrorists of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who carried out the attack at a militia checkpoint separating the Christian and Muslim sections of Beirut. The pair's driver and bodyguard, Zohair Moghrabi, also died in the attack.

Their bullet-riddled bodies were found a few hours later on a garbage pile in an area of Beirut controlled by Yasser Arafat's PLO. Meloy's successor, L. Dean Brown, insisted that the PLO was not involved in the murder. It's likely the PFLP simply dumped the bodies in PLO territory in an effort to send a little heat Arafat's way -- remember, the Lebanese civil war was a very complex affair.

Meloy, like Dubs, served in the Navy during World War II, then joined the state department where he earned a reputation for a guy who could handle the tough assignments. After serving as ambassador to the Dominican Republic, he received another difficult assignment as ambassador to Guatamala. Then came Lebanon. Time Magazine confirms my assessment and details the assassination in a June 28, 1976 article:
Meloy, 59, a reserved and well-respected career diplomat who had arrived in Beirut only five weeks before, after serving in Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, posts the State Department considers to be high-risk jobs, was on the way to his first call on Lebanese President-elect Elias Sarkis when disaster struck. Because Lebanon's discredited President Suleiman Franjieh still clings to office, despite the fact that Sarkis has already been chosen to succeed him, Meloy had not yet presented his credentials−a move generally interpreted as a U.S. nudge to Franjieh to step down.

Together with Waring, 56, a Lebanon veteran since 1972 and the father of four children, and driver-bodyguard Zohair Moghrabi, Meloy set out from the U.S. embassy, situated in Moslem-dominated West Beirut, for the drive to Hazmieh, a Christian-controlled suburb where Sarkis keeps a home. Initially, a chase car manned by three Lebanese security men from the embassy trailed his light green, partially armored Chevrolet Impala, but dropped away before the entry into no man's land−apparently because Christian militiamen on the other side had insisted that only one car pass.

Meloy's car moved through the last checkpoint on the Moslem side−and never reached the first Christian barricade. Somewhere between the two checkpoints, at a spot not visible to either side, the car was stopped by gunmen in what appeared to be a carefully planned operation: the three men were dragged from the vehicle and killed by a volley of shots.
President Ford honored the fallen diplomats with a decree that flags be flown at half-mast at military installations and embassies.

The official State Department position is that the identity of the assassins is unknown, but that is only a nice way of saying that Lebanon's legal system has failed to prosecute the case. Its courts have failed to hold a hearing on the prosecutor’s appeal in the case of Tawfiz Muhammad Farroukh, who, despite the evidence against him, had been found not guilty of being one of the murderers.

And, in March, 1996, a Lebanon appeals court freed two Muslim guerrillas convicted in the assassinations. A three-judge panel ruled that the defendants, Bassem Farkh, 39, and Namek Kamal, 46, were covered under a 1990 amnesty relating to political crimes committed during Lebanon's civil war. Both had been sentenced to death by a lower court in 1994.

The decision was greeted with no comment from the US embassy in Beirut. Again, diplomacy, not diplomats, comes first.

Ambassador Meloy and Robert Waring, thank you for your service and your sacrifice.

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