Thursday, 20 August 2009
Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi
Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, the only man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, has been released from Greenock prison and is on his way back to Libya.
Quite right too!
There are serious doubts as to this man's guilt. There clearly was political interference in this trial, and Scotland, with its own government, has been pressurised both by the UK and the US governments. I am proud of the way the Scots have decided to follow their own inclinations, and correct inclinations at that, to put mercy, a part of the Scots legal system, at the heart of the judicial decision. This was a legal decision, and a correct one.
How did we get into this mess?
The most likely reason is the incompetent, 'Gun-Ho' attitude of the USS Vincennes, under Captain Will Rogers III. The ship was known as 'Robocruiser,' by other US warships in the Gulf at the time. The US had placed many warships in the Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war for reasons of their own. Such ships began challenging every aircraft, commercial or otherwise, even including those approaching Dubai International Airport! Their panic, inspired by lurid anti-Iran propaganda, their incompetence and lack of training, their lack of knowledge of air routes and how commercial airlines operated, added to the 'John Wayne' closed minded bullying so beloved of American military men, inevitably led to disaster!
On 3rd July 1988, Iran Air IR655 took off on a regular commercial flight and headed over the Gulf. The pilot, Captain Mohsen Rezaian, an experienced pilot and a regular on this route, communicated with three air controllers as he flew. The channel he used meant he could not accept incoming calls from the Vincennes, as the ship ought to have realised, and he continued to ascend while the panicking US warship below decided he was in fact 'diving' to attack. Concluding, against all the evidence, that this was an F-14 Iranian Fighter the Yanks shot two heat seeking missiles and brought down 290 passengers and crew, including 66 children. Their bodies could be seen falling from the sky by other US ships.
The US propaganda went into full spin, supported by the ever faithful Margaret Thatcher. Claims of attacking Iranian gunboats, the airbus diving with a suicidal pilot and other lies filled the media. All were proved to be a lie. President Reagan, a comedian that would never have been elected in any other nation, apologised to the world, and considered this 'sufficient. He wrote to Congress stating 'This matter....is closed.' As he spoke most of the bodies lay unclaimed, and unrecognisable, in a warehouse.
Later, the USS Vincennes returned home to a hero's welcome. Te crew received 'combat medals,' and lauded by US for their prompt action. The dead were forgotten, after all they were mostly Iranian, and they were enemies sworn to destroy America. So that's all right then. The children probably had no idea America existed even when they fell out of the aircraft at 10,000 feet! However, they know now, don't they!
Aircraft leaving Heathrow and heading for North America follow a path towards the west coast of England and cross the border into Scotland shortly before heading over the Atlantic. On the 21st of December, four days before Christmas 1988, Pan-Am Boeing 747-121, named 'Clipper, Maid of the Seas,' flying at 31,000 feet, exploded just as it reached this point. A mere six months after Iran Air IR 655 had been brought down. The plane landed in the small Scots town of Lockerbie killing 243 passengers, 16 crew, and 11 people on the ground. 270 in all.
After an exhaustive investigation, covering many parts of the world, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi was the only man convicted of the crime. The fact that one man took the blame indictaes something somewhere has never been revealed concerning this conviction. One man could never have taken this action, so who did? Did the Ayatollah Khomeini's talk of vengeance lead to Lockerbie? Did Ahmed Jibril, the leader of the PFLP-GC, or the Syrians have a part in this? Will we ever know? I doubt it.
One thing is clear, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi is dying. Scot law allows for mercy, even to those convicted of serious crime, around three dozen such claims have already been made in Scottish prisons this year already. He may well have had a part in this crime yet I agree with this decision. It reflects well on Scottish standards, and indeed on the majority of the relatives of the many Britons killed in the Lockerbie incident. It reveals a great deal about American attitudes and in particular those relatives of US dead who wish to see this man die in jail. I wonder how they reacted to the USS Vincennes incident? Did they notice this happening? Did they excuse this as a ship 'defending' itself? is it possible these relatives were amongst those honouring the men responsible for the Iranian Airbus being brought down?
Life is very hard sometimes. Barbara W. Tuchman, an excellent American historian, wrote a book called, 'The March of Folly,' in which she used four wars to show how a lack of understanding of your enemy leads to conflict. A failure amongst US and Iranian political leaders, alongside Saddam Hussein's war with Iraq, political 'spin' ensuring the enemy is painted black and truth is avoided, on all sides. A culture with moral lack, and fear amongst men forced into places and situations they do not understand, all these led to 560 needless deaths!
We will hear much more of this situation for a while to come. We will however never find the truth! The media, following the lead of their owners will say whatever they are told to say, and some thought 'Pravda' was a lie, the papers concerned with the need to make money as opposed to honest journalism. Truth does not make money, giving the people what they 'wish' to read does!
Sending Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi home shows Scotland in a good light, merciful and just. I agree with the decision, as should all people. It does not help the relatives, but neither does the lack of truth, and that will never be revealed.