Sunday, December 22, 2013

21-Dec-13: Twenty-five years later, what have we actually learned about Lockerbie?

At today's Scottish memorial ceremony in Dryfesdale cemetery
to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Lockerbie
[Image Source]
Twenty-five years ago, on December 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 en route from London to New York City exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland. All 259 passengers and crew on board were killed, as were 11 people on the ground. Memorial ceremonies are being held today in the UK and the United States.

A Libyan, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was charged, tried and convicted in 2001 of being involved in the plot to cause an explosion and kill a large number of innocent travelers. The trial court heard that he placed a suitcase containing the bomb on a flight from Malta to Frankfurt; it was then transferred onto a flight into Heathrow London airport, and then placed on the ill-fated Pan Am 103 where it was detonated half an hour after the flight took off for New York. Megrahi was head of security for Libyan Arab Airlines and reputed to be in the service of Libya's state intelligence agency. 

Convicted by unanimous decision of the three-judge court, he was sentenced to life imprisonment but freed from prison in August 2009 under a Scottish law permitting the early release on compassionate grounds of prisoners with less than three months to live. He received a hero's welcome courtesy of the Ghadaffi regime that still controlled Libya at the time, and died three years later in 2012, insisting throughout that he was innocent of all charges.

David Horovitz of Times of Israel reviews the history of conspiracy theories that have been part of the Lockerbie story virtually from the day of the attack in an article published this past Thursday ["Palestinian group carried out Lockerbie bombing"] and quotes a highly-placed but anonymous Israeli source
a former senior member of the Israeli security establishment [who] said he was certain the bombing was carried out by Ahmed Jibril’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command... Israel was “listening in” during the months prior to the December 21, 1988 bombing on preparations for what “we thought was a plan to target an Israeli plane” and that it was “clear that Jibril prepared the operation.” [Times of Israel]
Horovitz clarifies that his source seems to accept that Libya commissioned the attack and that
Several Israeli prime ministers and former heads of the Mossad intelligence service have told this reporter over the years that it is their belief that the Libyans instigated the bombing.
Jibril, born in 1938, is alive and, according to reports, living in Syria today.
There has long been ample evidence [Wikipedia offers some here] of Ghadaffi's Libya being deeply involved in terrorist outrages including the conviction in absentia by a French court of six Libyans, some of them known operatives in their country's intelligence services, for their role in the September 1989 bomb attack on French UTA Flight 772, a year after the Lockerbie disaster. A BBC report, "UTA 772: The forgotten flight", published on August 19, 2003, reminds us that the evidence in that 1989 attack showed how the evidence pointed back to Libya and to the use of materials very similar to those that brought down Pan Am 103.

Libya never admitted formal responsibility for either of the two aircraft bombings and the deaths they caused. What it did do was accept "responsibility for the actions of its officials" and in October 2008 paid $1.5 billion into a compensation fund for the victims. A New York Times report from 2003 ["Libya Admits Culpability in Crash of Pan Am Plane"] notes that Libya's confession came in the form of a letter expressed
in general language that lacked any expression of remorse for the 270 lives lost when the plane exploded... one of the most notorious acts of terrorism in modern times. [NYT]
French terror victims sought to get a legal verdict against Ghadaffi himself, personally, in the special court in Paris that had found the six absent Libyans guilty. But they failed on the outrageous grounds that as a head of state he enjoyed immunity from prosecution.

The reports of today's memorial ceremonies contain the customary uplifting language often deployed by public officials when confronted with terrorism's victims. Today's BBC report ["Lockerbie bombing: Investigation vow on anniversary"] is typical of the genre:
The UK, US and Libyan governments have vowed to work together to reveal "the full facts" of the Lockerbie bombing which claimed 270 lives. The administrations also expressed their deep condolences to the families of the victims. The announcement came in a joint statement as memorial events were held on the 25th anniversary of the tragedy. They said they wanted "all those responsible for this most brutal act of terrorism brought to justice".
Speaking for the UK, prime minister David Cameron referred today in poetic tones to those directly affected by the Lockerbie bombing:
"Over the last quarter of a century much attention has been focused on the perpetrators of the atrocity. Today our thoughts turn to its victims and to those whose lives have been touched and changed by what happened at Lockerbie that night. To families, friends, neighbours, loved ones, and all those caught up in the painful process of recovery, let us say to them: our admiration for you is unconditional. For the fortitude and resilience you have shown. For your determination never to give up. You have shown that terrorist acts cannot crush the human spirit. That is why terrorism will never prevail." [AFP]
In a ceremony today on the other side of the ocean, former FBI Director Robert Mueller said:
"You created light out of darkness, and out of that light has come a lasting legacy... We mark your strength... May the thought of your loved ones bring a smile to your lips." [CNN]
The intentions behind such lofty, nicely-formed statements are probably good and pure. But to our ears, they have the character of the mantras delivered on auto-pilot at public commemorations wherever terror victims are assembled. We who have witnessed convicted (frequently self-confessed and proud) terrorists walk free or evade capture and the high-handed way in which politicians have acted with minimal regard for the victims and for basic principles of justice, know that it is not by their speeches that public figures are to be judged. Only their actions matter.

We know many of the Lockerbie families have similar feelings:
We relatives need the truth about who murdered our families,” veteran Lockerbie campaigner, Jim Swire, whose eldest daughter died the attack, wrote in the Scotsman newspaper this week. “While that truth is hidden, the true perpetrators are protected."  [Christian Science Monitor, December 20, 2013]
We have written here several times in recent months about how the political figures of the US State Department have conducted themselves concerning terrorists at moments when it really matters. The US has applied unrelenting pressure on Israel since the summer to release 104 convicts (52 have already walked free) as an inducement to the Palestinian Authority to do something or other. See "15-Dec-13: Confirmed by Kerry: More unrepentant killers to walk free in two weeks"] for a review of the events leading up to the latest such exercise in grotesquerie scheduled for December 29, 2013.

On that date, barring any totally-unexpected changes of plan, 26 more convicted and imprisoned killers, the third such group since August, is going to be put on buses by their Israeli jailers and sent off to the PA and Hamas where they will be received in gala celebrations honoring the heroism that brought them to, for instance, hack elderly and unarmed Holocaust survivors to death. 

As sickening as this sounds, State - presided over by Secretary John Kerryremains officially incapable of taking a position on whether those killers - the convicted murderers of elderly pensioners, of US citizens, of women, of children, of fellow Arabs - who are about to walk free are (a) freedom fighters, (b) political prisoners or (c) terrorists? Skeptics and doubters are invited to click here to see why we say these things.

What is it about terrorism that makes some politicians in some Western countries speak simultaneously out of both sides of their mouths?

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