The Other National Tragedy Biden Ignored: The Communist Assault That Murdered a Congressman
On September 1, 1983, the Soviet Union shot down Korean Air Lines flight 007 (KAL-007).
By Ben Johnson
As President Joe Biden skipped an event with families still grieving the loss of 9/11, the entire nation ignored, and is in danger of forgetting, the anniversary of another terrorist attack commemorated earlier this month. Labor Day weekend marked the 40th anniversary of an airline assault that exclusively killed innocent Americans, including a sitting U.S. congressman. That congressman’s life, legacy, and endless exhortations call for Americans to continue standing against the anti-American, anti-family movements that still threaten us today, at home and abroad.
On September 1, 1983, the Soviet Union shot down Korean Air Lines flight 007 (KAL-007), a commercial plane carrying civilians hailing from 27 nations. The last leg of the flight would have taken its 269 passengers from Anchorage, Alaska to Seoul, South Korea, had a navigational error not routed the vessel into the airspace of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Soviet pilots tracked the plane for hours, carefully noting that it had the telltale signs of a non-military aircraft — before carrying out their commanders’ orders to shoot it down.
After doing what communists do best — killing innocent people — the Marxists engaged in their second most proficient undertaking: lying. Initially, Soviet officials denied they had shot the plane down, claiming KAL-007 “continued its flight toward the Sea of Japan.” Conflicting stories emerged, as South Korean media announced Soviets intercepted the flight and forced it to land on Sakhalin Island. In time, the media reported that the plane had been shot down, and all its passengers perished. The military never recovered the victims’ bodies; authorities speculated that crabs had eaten them.
KAL-007’s most famous passenger was Georgia Democrat, Rep. Larry Patton McDonald— a distant relative of General George S. Patton, a staunch anti-communist, and one of the most conservative members of Congress. The congressman, who had just been elected chairman of the John Birch Society (JBS), planned to address an event celebrating the 30th anniversary of the U.S.-South Korean mutual defense treaty. His death sent shockwaves through congressional friends and foes alike.
“I had been scheduled to be on the same Korean Air flight 007,” said the late Rep. Carroll Hubbard (D-Ky.). “My colleague and friend, Larry McDonald, and at least 10 people I talked with at the Anchorage airport were on the plane, and that made it personally traumatic and painful for me.”
That pain pulsated through every American who lost a friend or acquaintance to Soviet aggression. “I remember it very well: My wedding anniversary is September 2,” Gary Benoit, then-a relatively new employee in the JBS, told The Washington Stand. He and his wife canceled their anniversary dinner, because “we were concerned about what was happening. When we heard on the news that flight 7 had landed on Sakhalin Island, that was a huge relief, and we went out for dinner. We got up the following morning and found out on the news it was blown out of the sky, and everybody was dead.”
The “Korean airline massacre,” as President Ronald Reagan called it, chilled others for another reason. September 1 has an inauspicious history: World War II ignited after the Nazi invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. Some worried the KAL-007 standoff could initiate a third world war, with the capacity for a nuclear apocalypse.
Four days later, President Reagan responded only with rhetoric. The KAL-007 shooting constituted an attack by “the Soviet Union against the world and the moral precepts which guide human relations among people everywhere. It was an act of barbarism, born of a society which wantonly disregards individual rights and the value of human life and seeks constantly to expand and dominate other nations.” The Wall Street Journal wrote that the civilian slaughter “makes so clear the nature of Soviet values and Soviet duplicity.”
“This crime against humanity must never be forgotten, here or throughout the world,” said Reagan in a nationally televised address.
Yet media and educational malfeasance over subsequent decades have wiped the Soviet attack, its American victims, and the inhuman ideology that produced it from our collective memory.
‘The Original America First Politician’
Those who still remember Congressman McDonald place him in a class apart from other politicians.
“Rep. Larry McDonald was an icon of conservative principles and could be considered the original ‘America First’ politician,” Jody Hice, a former U.S. congressman from Georgia who now serves as president of FRC Action, told The Washington Stand. “His deep love for freedom and keen awareness of the threats posed to liberty by communism made him a perfect target for Russian leaders to destroy.”
“Larry McDonald was an American martyr,” said Hice. “As we remember the 40th anniversary of his death, may we all learn from his boldness and unwavering commitment to the conservative ideals of liberty, and take up his mantle to successfully pass the torch of freedom to the next generation.”
That is precisely how McDonald was remembered at his memorial service sponsored by The Conservative Caucus on another significant date: September 11. Scott Stanley’s closing address reminded the overflowing crowd at Constitution Hall that the KAL-007 victims shared the same fate as millions of Ukrainian farmers intentionally starved to death in the Holodomor, Polish officers murdered by the Soviets in Katyn Forest, and tens of millions of innocent civilians in every corner of the globe. “I doubt there was a dry eye in the room,” Benoit told TWS. “I remember shedding tears myself.”
Stanley saluted the fact that McDonald not only campaigned but governed as a Christian conservative in both domestic and foreign affairs. The Georgia Democrat “fought the abortionists, or the giveaway of the Panama Canal, or the prayer ban, or shipment of U.S. technology to Moscow, or the ERA, or SALT II, or the betrayal of Free China. Larry was always there — a leader who kept his word!”
McDonald held to his firm pro-life convictions from the moment he became the first urologist ever to serve in Congress, just one year after Roe v. Wade. “Where the murder of the unborn is concerned — it is just that, murder — politics goes out the window,” he said on the House floor in a 1981 speech opposing the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Much like his colleague, Dr. Ron Paul, his scientific and medical experience influenced his decision to affirm the right to life. The pair also voted to protect taxpayers from funding LGBT advocacy.
McDonald shared another characteristic with Ron Paul: When considering any piece of legislation, “his first question was always, ‘Is it constitutional?’” Benoit, who now serves as editor-in-chief of The New American magazine, told TWS. “If it wasn’t constitutional, he wouldn’t vote for it.” McDonald shared his constitutional principles in “We Hold These Truths: A Reverent Review of the U.S. Constitution,” his 1976 book.
“His impact was much greater than a typical congressman,” Benoit told TWS. “McDonald was "not just somebody who got elected and voted the right way, but he was a leader in the Americanist cause, or the constitutionalist cause. Donald Trump became the leader of the MAGA movement. MAGA already existed, only under another name,” Benoit told TWS. “Larry McDonald was creating that cause.”
With the voters’ approbation and divine favor, he influenced those in the highest echelons of power. “He was close to and educating other congressmen, including Representative and future Senator Steve Symms, as well as John Ashbrook of Ohio, among others,” said Benoit. McDonald also formed his own think tank and private intelligence agency, the Western Goals Foundation, to keep tabs on domestic radicals and subversives, many with ties to communist parties or its front groups.
But “Larry McDonald’s greatest achievement was organizing or bringing together various groups — not just the John Birch Society but The Conservative Caucus, the Moral Majority, and people who are conservatives but not aligned with any particular organization,” Benoit told TWS. “We would have seen more evidence of that if he were not lost on flight Seven.”
McDonald vowed to continue that fight in the speech he intended to give at the South Korean conference, printed in the October 1983 issue of American Opinion magazine. He warned that Americans remain vulnerable to “disinformation published by the ‘Liberal’ media in America,” which adheres “an unthinking rejection of [America’s] honorable tradition and” adheres “to an idealism unattainable in the real world.” Conservatives must engage in “relentless public exposure of Communist propaganda, disinformation, media bias, and the subversive connections of leading Far Left activists. All this must be combined with positive programs to present the truth. … It is also the duty of responsible anti-Communist leaders in America to educate their fellow Americans.”
“And I can pledge to you that we will resist the Communists who threaten us all … so long as God gives us breath,” he would have concluded.
His widow, Kathryn McDonald, attempted to carry on his legacy, entering the race to succeed her husband in Congress. But she lost thanks to the deep pockets of another enemy of freedom: pornographer Larry Flynt, the publisher of Hustler magazine.
McDonald’s seat now belongs to another conservative firebrand: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. Greene’s office did not respond to our repeated requests for comment, but she undeniably benefited from McDonald’s efforts to teach his constituents the fundamentals of American civics and constitutional order. “Education really is the key” for political success, Benoit told TWS. “Without it, the good guys who abide by their oaths to the U.S. Constitution will not get elected. It’s not just a matter of what happens on election day, but politicians are going to have a wet finger to the wind every year, in election years and non-election years,” he continued, and if necessary, begin “changing their voting records to keep themselves electable.”
Like the magazine industry, McDonald has been largely swept aside by new technologies. McDonald’s May 1983 interview on CNN’s “Crossfire” is virtually the only trace of his five terms in Congress to surface on social media. But the prescience of McDonald’s final warning against liberal media bias proves itself every day. As recently as this April, The Washington Post maligned McDonald’s memory, falsely accusing the murdered congressman of spouting “false accusations of perfidy, isolationism, cultural warfare, bigotry and a more violent, apocalyptic strain of politics.”
While McDonald has fallen into obscurity, the Marxist ideas he fought stride triumphantly over the United States, reincarnated under the guise of the West’s regnant philosophies.
The New Cold War, Against Domestic Communists
After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, some declared permanent victory over the scourge of Marxism. “We Won,” declared an editorial in National Review. Francis Fukuyama famously theorized in “The End of History” that, with the fall of communism, humanity had reached “the end-point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”
Yet communism endured in variegated forms — in China, North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, and Laos — and with it, the human rights abuses inherent in reducing an image-bearer of God to a disposable resource of the State. China forces churches to replace displays of the Ten Commandments with socialist propaganda, threatens to withhold government aid unless elderly Chinese remove Bible verses and pictures of Jesus from their living rooms, and teaches students that Jesus stoned a woman to death. Once teetering on the brink of starvation, the People’s Republic of China now rivals the United States as a global superpower, threatening U.S. interests comprehensively in economics, military, industrial espionage, diplomacy, and technology. In a sense, the Cold War never truly ended; the United States simply abdicated the field to China.
But conservatives’ long war against communism has not ended on yet another front: the home front. We must also exert strength against the assault that Marxists are waging on the moral fiber of this nation. China’s social media spy platform, TikTok, promotes mathematics and engineering problems to Chinese children while serving up pornography, transgenderism, and self-harm to American teens. Yet Joe Biden refuses to ban TikTok and appears poised to reduce Chinese tariffs.
We must also never forget the ideology that drove history’s most murderous ideology. At its core, Marxism amounted to hatred of God and hatred of the family. Karl Marx despised faith, calling religion “the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness.” The family, with its creation of a private sphere outside of and prior to the State, also drew Marx’s abundant fury.
In power, communists suppressed Christianity. So, too, did the United States, justifying its practice of shutting down churches and arresting churchgoers in the name of the COVID-19 pandemic. One Orthodox Christian leader of a large community that fled communism said the “infringement of our religious rights” engaged in Reagan’s successor as governor of California, Gavin Newsom, seemed reminiscent of “the era of godless persecutions in the USSR.”
In “The Communist Manifesto,” Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels proposed the “abolition of the family” and replacing marriage with “an openly legalized community of women.” What they proposed to enact de jur, the United States increasingly practices de facto. A majority of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 accept the concept of open marriages. While the average American loses his or her virginity in his mid-teens, a quarter of all 40 year-olds have never married. In all, 40% of American children are born out of wedlock and are raised by increasingly taxpayer-subsidized day care facilities.
We must also recognize the same process at work in our midst when the most influential theory in the West, Marxist-influenced critical race theory, again dehumanizes individuals by class, reducing people who are composed of a myriad of choices and motivations to nothing more than their race, sex, and “gender.” We must see Marxism advancing, too, when the State claims the right to overrule parents about the most fundamental decisions affecting their children. President Joe Biden asserts public ownership over American children in terms as strong as any premier of the Soviet Union, saying, “They’re all our kids.”
We must identify socialism’s perverse morality at work when pornography debases the moral character of a generation by inducing young people to view everyone as an object to gratify their most bestial urges; when the $2.1 trillion transgender industry shares Marxism’s central conceit that human nature is socially conditioned and infinitely malleable; and when the billion-dollar abortion industry murders tens of millions, not in industrial-strength Gulags or by firing squad, but individually by hands grasping for money.
These concerns drove President Reagan, who said in his address on KAL-007 that until communists jettison socialist principles and abandon barbarism, “we must maintain the strength to deter their aggression.” They also inspired Congressman McDonald.
Until these social maladies are vanquished, we must share Larry McDonald’s vow to “resist the communists who threaten us all … so long as God gives us breath.”
Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.
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