Pan Am 103, Libya and synthetic indignation

There has been a lot of indignation over the release on compassionate grounds of the man convicted of the Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie. I think some of the indignation is ill informed, some hypocritical and some, especially that coming from the US Government, is synthetic.

Ill informed indignation

Indignation over Megrahi’s release is ill informed because I think that anyone who studied the investigation into the bombing and the subsequent trial would find it hard not to conclude that –

Libya did not have anything to do with the Pan Am bombing. They were just scapegoats. The culprits were probably a Palestinian group hired by Iranians, via Syria.

The bombing was probably revenge for the USS Vincennes destruction of Iran Air Flight 655.

Iran and Syria were needed in the first Gulf War, and so Libya were framed for the crime.

The trial was a disgrace. The Scottish legal system should be ashamed of their part in the affair.


Some politicians and members of the media have been foaming at the mouth over the way  Megrahi was welcomed when he returned to Libya.  They need to remember the IR655 incident.  In 1988 the USS Vincennes guided missile cruiser shot down Iran Air Flight 655 over the Persian Gulf, killing all 290 civilian passengers on board, including 38 non-Iranians and 66 children. At the time of the attack the Vincennes was inside Iranian territorial waters and IR655 was within Iranian airspace. It was also broadcasting an IFF signal indicating it was a civilian aircraft.  They also need to remember the way in which the Vincennes was greeted when it returned to port, and how its officers were rewarded with medals and promotions.

Synthetic indignation

Megrahi was not released on compassionate grounds. He was released because he was appealing against his conviction and had that appeal come to court the whole sorry conspiracy would have been exposed. It is absurd to think that, whatever his medical condition, a man who was responsible for 270 deaths would have been released and sent home.

The entire affair from trial to release was a conspiracy of the US and UK governments, and their secret services. By persuading Megrahi to abandon his appeal in return for release the lying bastards hope they have succeeded in preventing their squalid activities from becoming public.

Far from the US government being outraged by Megrahi’s release, they actually engineered it.

I do not think Megrahi should have been released. His case should have gone to appeal. If the verdict was overturned he could have returned to Libya as an innocent man. If the verdict was not overturned he should never have been released. There should be no 'compassionate' release for a mass murderer.

Why wasn't that approach followed?

The payoff

The US and UK  have succeeded in passing the blame for the release to the Scottish Government.  Since the Scottish National Party was not a member of the original conspiracy they would have had no reason to care whether the appeal went forward or not. Tremendous pressure must have been applied to Alex Salmond to get him to agree to carry the can.  I suspect that he extracted a heavy price for his cooperation. In a week or so expect the Westminster government to be really, really nice to the SNP as Alex gets paid.

Why it matters

A few weeks after the Lockerbie bombing I listed to a BBC interview with one of the policemen who had been given the job of tramping over the Scottish hills looking for the bodies of the Pan Am passengers and crew. He described how his group had found the bodies of a man and his small daughter. The man had somehow managed to hold his daughter as the aircraft fuselage broke apart and they fell through the cold night air. He had even tried to save his daughter by holding her to his chest as he fell backwards to the ground. Perhaps he hoped that his body would cushion her and allow her to survive.

The policemen was obviously affected by what had happened and described how he had contacted the grandparents to tell them what had happened, and how their son had tried his best all the way to the end.

If Americans need someone to be indignant with they might try their own government. The government that protected the real killers from justice by framing Megrahi for the crime.  The government that provoked the bombing by murdering the 290 people on Iran Air Flight 655. The government that is still protecting itself by perverting the course of justice.

I suppose the men who have been involved in the conspiracy see themselves as pragmatists. Some things might be regrettable, but its all just Realpolitik. The US needed Iran and Syria in the Gulf war so the victims of PA 103 had to be denied justice.

They might see themselves as tough realists. Others might see them as foul shits.

More information

To learn more read this dissection by Gareth Peirce. You could also listen to this Australian radio podcast on the Lockerbie trial.  It contains interviews with some key participants and some information that you will not have had from the mainstream UK or US media.

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