1983 Paris Airport Bomber Dies

1983 Paris Airport Bomber Dies

Varuzhan Karapetian, whom many consider to be one of the last major state-sponsored terrorists, passed away of an apparent heart attack in his native Armenia. Today’s terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere are a much different breed, and their methods demand a much different approach.

Karapetian, who was a Syrian of Armenian descent, was the former head of the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia in France. In July 1983, he paid another passenger $65 to check what he claimed was an excess bag, The luggage contained a bomb, which exploded into a fireball in the airport.

In 1983, the former Soviet Union ruled Armenia. It is one of the oldest Christian societies in the world, with roots going back to the fourth century A.D. Because of this heritage, the Turks and other Islamic peoples in Asia have sometimes treated the Armenians rather harshly. In 1915, during World War I, the Turks forcibly relocated the Armenians from their home in central Asia to an area near modern-day Syria. Many claim that this effort was part of a genocide campaign, an allegation which the Turks deny.

The Changing Face of Terrorism

The 1983 Orly Airport attack killed eight people and wounded 55 others. ASALA agents intended to blow up a Turkish Airlines plane in flight, but the bomb detonated prematurely at the check-in counter.

At his 1985 trial, Karapetian tried in vain to retract his earlier confession. He received a life sentence, but his co-conspirators received relatively light sentences (10 and 15 years in prison) given the amount of bloodshed and their obvious culpability. In 1995, about a million Armenians petitioned the French government to release Karapetian, which they did in 2001.

Supposedly, Karapetian’s release was not the first time that the French bowed to Armenian pressure. According to the French press, President Francois Mitterrand struck a deal with ASALA in 1982. ASALA agreed to stop terrorist attacks in France if the French formally accused the Turks of attempted genocide when they forcibly relocated the Armenians in 1915.

Supposedly, the government gave ASALA agents unrestricted access to French airports in the wake of this agreement, which would explain why Karapetian was there in the first place. Note that Karapetian claimed he wanted to destroy the Turkish plane in-flight and not kill people on the ground in the Paris airport.

Roughly three months later, two suicide bombers in Lebanon killed 307 people in the French and American barracks in Beirut. These attacks completely eclipsed the Orly bombing.

Immediately after the attack, the shadowy Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility. This group may have been linked to Iran, but no one knows for sure. As late as 2001, then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger said that the U.S. did not have “actual knowledge” of the responsible party. Three years later, however, the Committee for the Commemoration of Martyrs of the Global Islamic Campaign, an Iranian militant group, supposedly set up a monument in honor of the “martyrs” of the 1983 Beirut bombings.

At the time, U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Mitterrand both vowed that the international peacekeepers would stay in Beirut as long as needed, but the troops did not stay longer than about six more months.

In the pre-9/11 era, terrorists were often associated with nationalism. Karapetian was an Armenian nationalist, and the Islamic Jihad bombers said they wanted to force the Americans and French out of Lebanon. Due to these ties, direct state sponsorship from a place like Iran was quite common.

Typically, today’s terrorists are more like ISIS. These individuals are religious extremists who are not loyal to any nation-state. Sometimes, these groups find safe harbors in certain countries, like Sudan or Afghanistan. But the terrorists feel no loyalty to these states. It is more of a marriage of convenience, much like the alleged ASALA-France deal discussed above.

Additionally, today’s terrorists are much more desperate. In the 1980s, terrorists fought Western democracies on a roughly even keel. But now, even the most well-equipped group cannot hope to resist things like advanced cruise missiles and drone strikes, along with the sophisticated intelligence-gathering and electronic warfare capacities that the West has.

So, there is a lot more violence. YouTube beheadings and other unspeakable atrocities have replaced luggage and truck bombs.

The Changing Face of Contractors

This era was a much different time for American military contractors, as well. A few years earlier, in 1977, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decided U.S. ex rel Weinberger v. Equifax. The opinion was rather unremarkable, except for an obscure footnote at the end of the document. The judges questioned whether the 1893 Anti-Pinkerton act should still restrict the employment of military contractors. This law restricted government employment of paramilitary organizations, like the infamous Pinkerton Detective Agency.

In 1978, the General Accounting Office said it would disregard the Anti-Pinkerton Act and allow armed contractors to serve in war zones.

Contractors also undergo changes on the fly. These groups are well-known for their ability to adapt to changing international situations, which is why they are such valuable partners.

KBR and other private military contractors employ a wide variety of people. For example, KBR translators are often third-country nationals. These people bridge both the language gap and the culture gap. DoD-trained Arab speakers can only do the former. Additionally, contractors often work with hackers in their electronic warfare divisions. These people could not get anywhere near a U.S. military academy.

Injury Compensation Available

The diverse nature of contractor service means a diverse array of contractor injuries, and the Defense Base Act compensates all these victims. Regardless of the injury or illness, however, there is almost always some missed work involved. Since a contractor is often a family’s primary or only wage-earner, even a temporary disruption can be devastating.

So, the DBA provides for several layers of lost wage compensation, depending on the nature and extent of illness or injury.

  • Permanent Total Disability: Victims are “disabled” when, based on their injury, experience, education, and other factors, they are completely unable to work. This term is rather subjective because what is “disabling” for one individual may not be more than a bump in the road to someone else.
  • Permanent Partial Disability: Sometimes, injuries or illnesses never completely heal. Many victims suffer from lingering effects for the rest of their lives. The DBA compensates these injuries based on the nature and extent of disability.
  • Temporary Total Disability: Most illnesses or injuries are TTD events. The victim is unable to work. In these instances, victims usually receive two-thirds of their average weekly wage for the duration of the disability.
  • Temporary Partial Disability: TPD victims must accept light-duty or other lower-paying assignments while they recover from their injuries. So, the DBA usually pays two-thirds of the difference between the old and new AWW amounts.

Calculating the Average Weekly Wage is sometimes a complex exercise. For example, there is a big difference in salary between a truck driver in Jalalabad and a truck driver in Jersey City.

Contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A. to find out how a DBA attorney can help you.