Issue XCVI

21 OCT 2016

Today in History


Remembering Entebbe: The OTHER 4th of July Miracle


On America’s two hundredth birthday it was Israel that showed the world the “Spirit of 1776.”

On June 27, 1976, Air France Flight 139, carrying 248 passengers and a crew of twelve, took off from Athens, heading for Paris. Soon after the 12:30 p.m. takeoff, the flight was hijacked by two Palestinians from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – External OperationsGerman “Revolutionary Cells (RZ)” (Wilfried Böse and Brigitte Kuhlmann), who commandeered the flight, diverting it to Benghazi, Libya. The plane left Benghazi, and at 3:15 it arrived at Entebbe Airport in Uganda.

At Entebbe, the four hijackers were joined by three “friends” supported by the pro-Palestinian forces of Uganda’s President, Idi Amin. The hijackers were led by Böse. They demanded the release of 40 Palestinians held in Israel and 13 other detainees imprisoned in Kenya, France, Switzerland, and Germany–and if these demands were not met, they threatened to begin killing hostages on July 1, 1976 that deadline was extended to July 4th.

The hijackers held the passengers hostage in the transit hall of Entebbe Airport and released all the hostages except for Israelis and Jews, whom they threatened to kill if Israel did not comply with their demands. Upon the announcement by the hijackers that the airline crew and non-Israeli/non-Jewish passengers would be released and put on another Air France plane that had been brought to Entebbe for that purpose, Flight 139′s Captain Michel Bacos told the hijackers that all passengers, including the remaining ones, were his responsibility, and that he would not leave them behind. Bacos’ entire crew followed suit. A French nun also refused to leave, insisting that one of the remaining hostages take her place, but she was forced into the awaiting Air France plane by Ugandan soldiers. A total of 83 Israeli and/or Jewish hostages remained, as well as 20 others, most of whom included the crew of the Air France plane.

On July 4th 1976 shortly after midnight Israeli Planes landed at Entebbe and began their now famous rescue. The entire assault lasted less than 30 minutes and all six of the hijackers were killed. Yonatan Netanyahu (Bibi’s older brother) was the only Israeli commando who died during the operation. He was killed near the airport entrance, apparently by a Ugandan sniper who fired at the Israeli commandos from the nearby control tower. At least five...

Entebbe Rescue Operation, 1976

What is the story of the IDF’s operation to release the hostages from Entebbe in July 1976?

Operation Entebbe, which is also named “Operation Thunderbolt” was carried out on July 4, 1976 by the Israel Defense Forces to rescue the hostages of an Air France plane, Airbus Flight 137, which was hijacked by the members of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and German terrorists. The plane which had 248 passengers, with 30% Jews, was taken down at Entebbe, Uganda. The Hijackers included four members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and also two members from the German Baader-Meinhof gang. Hijackers released all non-Israeli passengers except one French citizen, showing that they did not go as crazy and held their grudge only against the party they had purpose with.

The plane was diverted to Benghazi, Libya where one woman was released, claiming that she’s pregnant. The plane was refueled before taking off to Uganda, where it landed on June 28. Three more members from PFLP joined others at the Entebbe airport and the passengers, along with 12 crew members were transferred to the old terminal building at the airport.

The following day, the hijackers made their demand to release 53 prisoners, reported to be held in Switzerland, Kenya, France, Germany and Israel. From the non-Israeli passengers released by the hijackers, the IDF started collecting information about the situation inside the plane and charted out a rescue plan on the word of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency. Israeli troops landed at Entebbe at the night of July 3 and after a 90 minute operation, 102 passengers were rescued.

Although the rescue operation of Entebbe operation went down in the Israel’s history as one of the most daring operations, many sources reported that it was not exactly as heroic as it seemed. A report was released from the UK National Archives claimed that Israel had its hand in the hijacking. A British diplomat was informed that Israeli Secret Service, the Shin Bet, and thePopular Front for the Liberation of Palestine joined hands to seize the plane. This document was written on June 30, 1976 while the hijacking incident was still going on. A statement was given by DH Colvin of the Paris Embassy saying that “the hijack was the work of the PFLP, with help from the Israeli Secret Service, the Shin Bet.” He further stated, “The operation was designed to torpedo the PLO’s standing in...


The United States Enters the Korean Conflict



While the end of World War II brought peace and prosperity to most Americans, it also created a heightened state of tension between the Soviet Union and the United States. Fearing that the Soviet Union intended to "export" communism to other nations, America centered its foreign policy on the "containment" of communism, both at home and abroad. Although formulation of the Truman Doctrine, Marshall Plan, and the Berlin Airlift suggested that the United States had a particular concern with the spread of communism in Europe, America's policy of containment extended to Asia as well. Indeed, Asia proved to be the site of the first major battle waged in the name of containment: the Korean War.

In 1950 the Korea Peninsula was divided between a Soviet-backed government in the north and an American-backed government in the south. The division of Korea into two halves had come at the end of World War II. In August of 1945 the Soviet Union invaded Korea, which had been under Japan's control since 1910. Fearing that the Soviets intended to seize the entire peninsula from their position in the north, the United States quickly moved its own troops into southern Korea. Japanese troops surrendered to the Russians in the north and to the Americans in the south. In an effort to avoid a long-term decision regarding Korea's future, the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to divide Korea temporarily along the 38th parallel, a latitudinal line that bisected the country. This line became more rigid after 1946, when Kim Il Sung organized a communist government in the north---the Democratic People's Republic. Shortly after, nationalist exile Syngman Rhee returned to Korea and set up a rival government in the south---the Republic of Korea (ROK). Each government hoped to reunify the country under its own rule.

War broke out along the 38th parallel on June 25, 1950. On that day, North Korean troops coordinated an attack at several strategic points along the parallel and headed south toward Seoul. The United Nations Security Council responded to the attack by adopting (by a 9-0 vote) a resolution that condemned the invasion as a "breach of the peace." The Council did not have a Soviet delegate, since 6 months prior, the Soviet Union had left to protest the United Nation's refusal to seat a delegate from China. President Harry S. Truman quickly committed American forces to a combined United Nations military effort...

Korean War begins

Armed forces from communist North Korea smash into South Korea, setting off the Korean War. The United States, acting under the auspices of the United Nations, quickly sprang to the defense of South Korea and fought a bloody and frustrating war for the next three years.

Korea, a former Japanese possession, had been divided into zones of occupation following World War II. U.S. forces accepted the surrender of Japanese forces in southern Korea, while Soviet forces did the same in northern Korea. Like in Germany, however, the "temporary" division soon became permanent. The Soviets assisted in the establishment of a communist regime in North Korea, while the United States became the main source of financial and military support for South Korea.

On June 25, 1950, North Korean forces surprised the South Korean army (and the small U.S. force stationed in the country), and quickly headed toward the capital city of Seoul. The United States responded by pushing a resolution through the U.N.'s Security Council calling for military assistance to South Korea. (Russia was not present to veto the action as it was boycotting the Security Council at the time.) With this resolution in hand, President Harry S. Truman rapidly dispatched U.S. land, air, and sea forces to Korea to engage in what he termed a "police action." The American intervention turned the tide, and U.S. and South Korean forces marched into North Korea. This action, however, prompted the massive intervention of communist Chinese forces in late 1950. The war in Korea subsequently bogged down into a bloody stalemate. In 1953, the United States and North Korea signed a cease-fire that ended the conflict. The cease-fire agreement also resulted in the continued division of North and South Korea at just about the same geographical point as before the conflict.

The Korean War was the first "hot" war of the Cold War. Over 55,000 American troops were killed in the conflict. Korea was the first "limited war," one in which the U.S. aim was not the complete and total defeat of the enemy, but rather the "limited" goal of protecting South Korea. For the U.S. government, such an approach was the only rational option in order to avoid a third world war and to keep from stretching finite American resources too thinly around the globe. It proved to be a frustrating experience for the American people, who were used to the kind of total victory that...


Iran Held Liable In Khobar Attack

Grand Jury finding regarding Al Khobar Attack on June 21, 1996
Coverage of Explosion Culpability from December 2006

A federal judge ruled yesterday that Iran is responsible for the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing and ordered that the government pay $254 million to the families of 17 Americans who died in the attack in Saudi Arabia.

Whether the families of the dead U.S. servicemen and women will ever receive that money remains in question. Iran has refused to participate in the case and insists it has no connection to the bombing. The families' law firm plans to try to track down Iranian government assets in countries around the world and claim them to collect the damages.

Nineteen people died in June 1996 when a truck bomb blew up the tower-style dormitory for U.S. Air Force pilots and staff. U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth's ruling yesterday was the first time an American court found that Iranian government agencies and senior ministers financed and directed the bombing by a militant Saudi wing of the Islamist terrorist group Hezbollah.

"The totality of the evidence at trial . . . firmly establishes that the Khobar Towers bombing was planned, funded, and sponsored by senior leadership in the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran," Lamberth wrote. "The defendants' conduct in facilitating, financing, and providing material support to bring about this attack was intentional, extreme, and outrageous."

Lamberth's decision in the lawsuit, which was filed in 2002 by the families of 17 victims, reverses a lower magistrate judge who said evidence linking the Iranian government to the bombing was not convincing.

Lamberth said the leading experts on Hezbollah, a Shiite militant group based in Lebanon, presented "overwhelming" evidence that the Iranian military worked with Saudi Hezbollah members to execute the attack, and the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security provided money, plans and maps to help carry out the bombing. Six Hezbollah members captured after the attacks implicated Iranian officials.

Shale D. Stiller, a DLA Piper attorney for the families, said the ruling is important because it provides those who lost loved ones in a traumatic event -- a terrorist attack -- with some sense of vindication. Two couples involved in the case lost their only child, and one of those parents told the court: "We lost our only child. We'll never have grandchildren. It's like our whole lives are gone."

The timing of the ruling comes as the Bush administration resists recommendations that...

Why Was Al Qaeda Excluded From the Suspects List? Investigating the Khobar Tower Bombing

Grand Jury finding regarding Al Khobar Attack on June 21, 1996
Subsequent opinion piece from June, 2009

On Jun. 25, 1996, a massive truck bomb exploded at a building in the Khobar Towers complex in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, which housed U.S. Air Force personnel, killing 19 U.S. airmen and wounding 372.

Immediately after the blast, more than 125 agents from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were ordered to the site to sift for clues and begin the investigation of who was responsible. But when two U.S. embassy officers arrived at the scene of the devastation early the next morning, they found a bulldozer beginning to dig up the entire crime scene.

The Saudi bulldozing stopped only after Scott Erskine, the supervisory FBI special agent for international terrorism investigations, threatened that Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who happened to be in Saudi Arabia when the bomb exploded, would intervene personally on the matter.

U.S. intelligence then intercepted communications from the highest levels of the Saudi government, including interior minister Prince Nayef, to the governor and other officials of Eastern Province instructing them to go through the motions of cooperating with U.S. officials on their investigation but to obstruct it at every turn.

That was the beginning of what interviews with more than a dozen sources familiar with the investigation and other information now available reveal was a systematic effort by the Saudis to obstruct any U.S. investigation of the bombing and to deceive the United States about who was responsible for the bombing.

The Saudi regime steered the FBI investigation toward Iran and itsSaudi Shi’a allies with the apparent intention of keeping U.S. officials away from a trail of evidence that would have led to Osama bin Laden and a complex set of ties between the regime and the Saudi terrorist organiser.

The key to the success of the Saudi deception was FBI director Louis Freeh, who took personal charge of the FBI investigation, letting it be known within the Bureau that he was the "case officer" for the probe, according to former FBI officials.

Freeh allowed Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan to convince him that Iran was involved in the bombing, and that President Bill Clinton, for whom he had formed a visceral dislike, "had no interest in confronting the fact that Iran had blown up the towers," as Freeh wrote in his memoirs.

The Khobar Towers investigation soon became Freeh’s vendetta against Clinton. "Freeh was pursuing this for his own personal agenda,"...


Pledge of Allegiance


February 7 is a notable historical day for the acknowledgment of God in modern America: it is the day that a sermon was preached before President Dwight D. Eisenhower, suggesting that the words "under God" be added to the pledge. The sermon was preached by the Rev. George M. Docherty, pastor of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D. C. [1] (you can download and see the full sermon, with his notes and additions).

This sermon was preached for Lincoln Day, and it had a great impact on those listening, including President Eisenhower, who was seated in the same pew that Abraham Lincoln had regularly occupied in that church as President. [2] In that sermon Docherty stated:

There was something missing in the pledge, and that which was missing was the characteristics and definitive factor in the American way of life. Indeed apart from the mention of the phrase, the United States of America, it could be the pledge of any republic. In fact, I could hear little Muscovites repeat a similar pledge to their hammer and sickle flag in Moscow with equal solemnity. [3]

He made the point that the American pledge as it then existed could just have been recited by citizens from any country, even those from communistic nations that hated God. The day following the sermon, U. S. Rep. Charles Oakman from Michigan introduced a Joint Resolution (H. J. Res 371) to add the words "Under God" into the pledge, [4] explaining:

Mr. Speaker, I think Mr. Docherty hit the nail squarely on the head. One of the most fundamental differences between us and the Communists is our belief in God. [5]

Two days later, on February 10th, Senator Homer Ferguson from Michigan introduced the Senate Joint Resolution (S.J. 126), [6] explaining to the Senate:

Our nation is founded on a fundamental belief in God, and the first and most important reason for the existence of our government is to protect the God-given rights of our citizens. . . . Indeed, Mr. President, over one of the doorways to this very Chamber inscribed in the marble are the words “In God We Trust.” Unless those words amount to more than a carving in stone, our country will never be able to defend itself. [7]

These resolutions were passed, and on June 14, 1954 (Flag Day), President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill into law, officially adding the words "under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance, telling the...

With Little Ado, Congress Put God in Pledge in 1954

The year 1954 was one of political upheaval in the United States.

Senator Joseph R. McCarthy crusaded against Communists in the government and was eventually censured by the Senate. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles enunciated a policy of ''massive retaliation'' against aggression by the Soviet Union. The Supreme Court found school segregation unconstitutional. Republicans controlled the White House and both houses of Congress for the last time in the 20th century.

As well, in June, by voice votes and with little discussion, the Senate and House passed a resolution adding two words, ''under God,'' to the Pledge of Allegiance.

Now, 48 years later, a federal appeals court in San Francisco has ruled that the words are an unconstitutional violation of the separation of church and state.

The ruling on Wednesday by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit gained much more attention than the change itself, which was reported briefly on an inside page in The New York Times.

The change was made to draw attention to the difference between the system of government in this country and ''godless Communism.'' Senator Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, was a member of the House of Representatives in 1954 and is the only person now in Congress who was in Congress then.

Introducing his resolution in the Senate, Senator Homer Ferguson, Republican of Michigan, declared, ''I believe this modification of the pledge is important because it highlights one of the real fundamental differences between the free world and the Communist world, namely belief in God.''

No one in the Senate or the House spoke in opposition.

While Congress was considering the resolution, lawmakers were flooded with letters of support from churches, veterans groups, civic and fraternal clubs and labor unions. Many newspapers backed it editorially, and so did radio commentators.

The Rev. George M. Docherty, pastor of President Dwight D. Eisenhower's church in Washington, the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, proclaimed in a sermon that without the two little words ''it could be the pledge of any republic.''

''In fact,'' Mr. Docherty declared, ''I could hear little Muscovites repeat a similar pledge to their hammer-and-sickle flag.''

In the ceremony when he signed the legislation, President Eisenhower said, ''From this day forward, the millions of our...