The Ghost of Daniel Pearl

by | Feb 21, 2003

Memorial services will be held during the next few days to mark the anniversary of the execution of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who is believed to have been killed on Feb. 21, 2002. Remembering Pearl–seized while researching shoe bomber Richard Reid in Pakistan–is important for any civilized society that claims to recognize the […]

Memorial services will be held during the next few days to mark the anniversary of the execution of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who is believed to have been killed on Feb. 21, 2002. Remembering Pearl–seized while researching shoe bomber Richard Reid in Pakistan–is important for any civilized society that claims to recognize the sanctity and rights of the individual. But, to prevent future acts, it is more important to know that Pearl’s death was not an isolated incident; his demise was one in a long, tortured series of singularly heinous acts against Americans for being Americans.

Their names are long forgotten; Leon Klinghoffer, rolled alive in his wheelchair off the decks of the cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985; Robert Stethem, murdered and dumped onto the tarmac from a hijacked passenger jet in 1985; and Guillermo Sobero, seized in 2001 from a Filipino beach resort and, like Pearl, beheaded. They were all Americans.

Their doom was not the result of a malevolent universe, in which evil is causelessly unleashed at random. They died at the hands of the jihad terrorists after the enemy was repeatedly emboldened by the West’s — chiefly America’s — refusal to act decisively against those who sponsor terrorism.

For example, when the U.S. embassy in Beirut was destroyed by a car bomb in 1983, America refused to retaliate against Iran, though Iranians were responsible — and never caught. Later that year, when the Marine headquarters in Beirut were attacked by Moslem terrorists, America did not strike back. How did America respond? We withdrew the Marines from Beirut.

Predictably, the appeasement backfired; the same embassy was attacked again and Iran’s Hezbollah hijacked a TWA jet in Athens, Greece, executed Stethem and demanded the release of 766 terrorists imprisoned in Israel. Israel, pressured by President Reagan to release the terrorists, ceded to the terrorists’ demands.

These acts of appeasement are not one shot deals. By the turn of the century, Islamic terrorists had car-bombed the U.S. military in Saudi Arabia, truck-bombed Americans at Khobar Towers, and bombed two U.S. embassies in Africa. Though hundreds of Americans were killed and thousands wounded, America did not act to end states that terrorism.

In fact, Daniel Pearl is a direct victim of such appeasement; arrested Islamic terrorist Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh, who admitted that he organized Pearl’s abduction, had already kidnapped three British citizens and an American. Sheikh was caught and jailed. But his terrorist comrades hijacked a jet, stabbed a passenger to death, tossed the corpse onto the tarmac and demanded Sheikh’s release. Why not — it had worked the first time? Sheikh was released.

Like an alcoholic who won’t admit his problem, America continues to appease the forces of terrorism. While absurdly calling it diplomacy, President Bush is negotiating with states that sponsor terrorism, including those he once denounced such as North Korea and Iran but also Saudi Arabia. As to the one enemy state we’re poised to strike, Iraq — Bush has made U.S. military action contingent upon U.N. approval.

One year ago, Daniel Pearl was murdered by Moslem radicals. But before they snatched Pearl, they had to believe their mark on him would advance their depraved goals. It is in this sense that appeasement caused Daniel Pearl’s death. Pearl is dead because his butchers had been released, coddled, and appeased for decades. When Pearl’s murderer, Sheikh, was repatriated to his native Britain, a former hostage’s mother was outraged, pleading: “Now how many other innocent families are going to suffer?”

History is filled with dead Americans from Achille Lauro, the Marine barracks, the German disco, the USS Cole, the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and downed passenger jets. America must stop appeasing terrorist regimes — no deals, no negotiations, no excuses — or the carnage will continue and Daniel Pearl — like Klinghoffer, Stethem, Sobero and thousands of others — will be just another forgotten name. A proper remembrance of Daniel Pearl and each victim is the solemn resolve to confront — and defeat — the enemy.

Scott Holleran's writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Classic Chicago, and The Advocate. The cultural fellow with Arts for LA interviewed the man who saved Salman Rushdie about his act of heroism and wrote the award-winning “Roberto Clemente in Retrospect” for Pittsburgh Quarterly. Scott Holleran lives in Southern California. Read his fiction at ShortStoriesByScottHolleran.substack.com and read his non-fiction at ScottHolleran.substack.com.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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