Cheat-Seeking Missles

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Brave Men Arafat Killed

Who were the brave American diplomats behind the just-declassified State Department documents revealing Yasser Arafat's involvement in the the murder of U.S. Ambassador Cleo Noel and his deputy George Moore in Khartoum in 1973?

Scott at PowerLine has a comprehensive post on documents, and Capt. Ed has a lucid commentary. I've got a step father who served in the diplomatic corps and knew Noel quite well. I'll get to his story in a minute, but if you haven't read the declassified document, here it is, with my highlights:


In the early evening hours of 1 March 1973, eight Black September Organization (BSO) terrorists seized the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Khartoum as a diplomatic reception honoring the departing United States Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) was ending. After slightly wounding the United States Ambassador and the Belgian Charge d'Affaires, the terrorists took these officials plus the United States DCM, the Saudi Arabian Ambassador and the Jordanian Charge d'Affaires hostage. In return for the freedom of the hostages, the captors demanded the release of various individuals, mostly Palestinian guerrillas, imprisoned in Jordan, Israel and the United States.

The Khartoum operation was planned and carried out with the full knowledge and personal approval of Yasir Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and the head of Fatah. Fatah representatives based in Khartoum participated in the attack, using a Fatah vehicle to transport the terrorists to the Saudi Arabian Embassy.

Initially, the main objective of the attack appeared to be to secure the release of Fatah/BSO leader Muhammed Awadh (Abu Da'ud) from Jordanian captivity. Information acquired subsequently reveals that the Fatah/BSO leaders did not expect Awadh to be freed, and indicates that one of the primary goals of the operation was to strike at the United States because of its efforts to achieve a Middle East peace settlement which many Arabs believe would be inimical to Palestinian interests.

Negotiations with the BSO terrorist team were conducted primarily by the Sudanese Ministers of Interior and of Health. No effort was spared, within the capabilities of the Sudanese Government, to secure the freedom of the hostages. The terrorists extended their deadlines three times, but when they became convinced that their demands would not be met and after they reportedly had received orders from Fatah headquarters in Beirut, they killed the two United States officials and the Belgian Charge. Thirty-four hours later, upon receipt of orders from Yasir Arafat in Beirut to surrender, the terrorists released their other hostages unharmed and surrendered to Sudanese authorities.

The Khartoum operation again demonstrated the ability of the BSO to strike where least expected. The open participation of Fatah representatives in Khartoum in the attack provides further evidence of the Fatah/BSO relationship. The emergence of the United States as a primary fedayeen target indicates a serious threat of further incidents similar to that which occurred in Khartoum.
The commentators are quite shocked this morning that even with this knowledge of the future threats Arafat posed to U.S. interests, the realists prevailed, and within a few years decisions were made to negotiate with a man who was known, to some at least, to have killed our own diplomats.

My step father hadn't heard of the report yet when I called him this morning, but his memory of the incident was encyclopedic. He took the news of Arafat's involvement ... diplomatically.

He paused for a moment to process the new information, then said that Arafat was a different man in 1973 than he was five years later, when Carter, Begin and Saddat hammered out an agreement that ultimately would give Arafat his home base and his power. Arafat wasn't a party to the talks at Camp David, and the Accord didn't resolve the Palestinian issue, but it gave Arafat a base in Gaza and a clearer cause.

Apparently, Carter and State felt changing the groundrules in the middle east by bringing Egypt and Israel together was worth the risk of giving power to a man who had ordered the deaths of two of our diplomats.

My step father knew Cleo Noel well. He was a husband and father. Neither his wife or kids were with him in Khartoum because it was not sort of post.

"People think being a diplomat is all receptions and cocktails and pushing cookies, but it's a very hard life in all but a few posts," he said. "You often have to send your kids off to boarding school. If your family can come with you, they usually can't get work visas, so it disrupts whatever work they may have been doing."

It was Noel's first day in Khartoum and was to be Moore's last. Noel had served in Rome and others posts, so the Khartoum posting probably wasn't something he was pleased with or excited about, but he knew his job: To represent America.

And that is what he did. To the Islamist terrorists, he was America, and it was America Arafat wanted to send a signal to, so Noel and his top aide, Moore, died in the line of duty not just for their country, but being their country.

I asked if the diplomats were aware of the risk.

"Laer, more ambassadors have been killed than generals. We all knew the risks, but we accepted it as part of our service."
More to follow ...

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