WASHINGTON, DC—In a tense standoff with far-reaching implications for both the free world and the president's ironclad code of honor, President Clinton made an impassioned plea to PLO terrorists Monday to "leave the girl out of it."
"It has always been the policy of the United States not to negotiate with terrorists," Clinton told reporters during a nationally televised White House press conference. "But this is different. The girl came here because of me, and when they grabbed her, they made it personal."
The girl, who has been held captive by the terrorists since last Friday, was identified Tuesday in a New York Times story as Valerie Herrick, the 26-year-old daughter of industrialist Milton Herrick. Sources close to the White House say she is "an idealistic, sexy brunette who was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
According to the Times story, on Friday, Herrick tracked the terrorists—who are wanted in connection with last week's deadly bombing in a Jerusalem market—to their hideout in an abandoned warehouse several blocks from the Capitol Building. Upon entering the hideout and attempting to overhear the terrorists' plans, she broke a heel and was captured.
The terrorists are demanding $40 million and their safe return to Lebanon in exchange for the girl's release.
"This is an extremely difficult situation," said Clinton, who upon learning of Herrick's capture abruptly left the 1997 National Governors' Summit in San Diego, where he was to deliver the keynote address. "If I could speak with those terrorists now, I would tell them, 'I'm the one you want! Me! The President! Now let the girl go!'"
U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry, along with other top Pentagon officials, have been working closely with Clinton to devise a rescue plan. While the plan's details remain strictly confidential, an anonymous Pentagon source confirmed that Clinton will use a grappling hook fashioned from a nearby machine part and some rope found outside the terrorists' warehouse hideout to climb up the side of the lair. He will then rappel through a broken skylight into the warehouse, silently killing each terrorist in turn, then grabbing the girl and running out of the warehouse just seconds before it explodes into a spectacular ball of flames.
"As I said, in the interest of national security, I cannot elaborate on the specifics of the plan," Perry said. "But essentially, what I told President Clinton is, 'The girl's in trouble. You have to go in.'"
Despite his reluctance to provide details, Perry did acknowledge that after the president kills the head terrorist by impaling him on the giant shards of a rusty threshing motor, he will tell him, "Get the 'point,' you bastard?"
Perry would not comment on the possibility of Herrick flipping her captor off a catwalk using martial-arts techniques that Clinton taught her in a smoldering, sexually charged judo lesson at the White House last week.
Complicating an already tense international situation is a videotape mailed to Clinton by the terrorists Tuesday showing Khayyid al Hamad, the lead terrorist, standing before Herrick, who is bound and gagged, and horribly disheveled. The heavily muscled, mustachioed al Hamad then points to a patch over his left eye and says, "Remember this, William Jefferson Clinton? Yes, this is your handiwork. Come to the warehouse at the old docks tonight, Mr. President, or the girl gets what is meant for you—an eye for an eye!" The videotape then ends in static.
Upon viewing the tape, a visibly disturbed Clinton told reporters: "I told her it wasn't a game, and I thought it was getting through to her. I'm the one who drove her to this—I was so focused on revenge that I couldn't see what was going on right before my eyes."
White House spokespeople said that despite its great complexity, the crisis should reach its climax and resolution within the next 15 to 20 minutes.