Release of Libyan in Lockerbie bombing puts past behind us

Ray Hanania

Posted Aug 23, 2009      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Release of Libyan in Lockerbie bombing puts past behind us

Protests against release of Lockerbie bomber driven by revenge not justice

By Ray Hanania

The release this week of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the convicted mastermind of the 1988 bombing of PAN AM Flight 103 over Lockerbie, opens old wounds by also a debate that should have taken place years ago.It’s understandable that Americans are angry with the decision. Many Americans were on board the flight and lost their lives in the bombing. What has never been understandable is the American indifference to the killing of innocent civilians who are Arab, Muslim or of other races by American terrorists.

The condemnation of al-Megrahi’s release is misguided and driven by selfish-emotion, understandably, but more so by longstanding hypocritical and one-sided American foreign policies that put no value on any lives except their own.

The release of al-Megrahi on humanitarian grounds – he is suffering from cancer — should put the past in true perspective; Americans must recognize that Lockerbie was not one incident in a vacuum but one of a chain of events that saw injustice, death and destruction on all sides.

On April 15, 1986, then President Ronald Reagan ordered the bombing of the home of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, killing his young daughter and 36 other Libyan and Arab civilians.

Reagan justified the personal attack using American soldiers and bombs claiming that Libyan was behind an earlier bombing of a disco in Berlin that killed two American soldiers and a Turkish woman and injured 229 others.

The disco bombing was in retaliation for American military attacks against Arab targets in the Middle East and also for the American financing of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians which one year later exploded in the first Intifada in the occupied West bank and Gaza Strip.

On Dec. 21, 1988, PAN AM Flight 103 exploded in a terrorist bombing while flying over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 259 passengers and crew including several American passengers. Debris from the plane bombing caused the death of 11 Scottish citizens on the ground.

The 1970s and 1980s represented a dark time for civilians victimized by the political battles between the United States, Israel, the Arab World and even Iran.

Battle lines that we see today were not so clear then. Iran was run by pro-American funded dictator, the Shah Reza Pahlavi, until he was forced to step down by protesters. Iraq was ruled by Saddam Hussein, who was backed and funded by the United States in a war against the Shah’s successor. Osama Bin Laden was a member of the Mujahideen fighting and defeating the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and backed by the United States.

But the most damning indictment of American hypocrisy when it comes to the double standard of denouncing Arab suspects while remaining silent when the killers are in fact American soldiers is the massacre committed in 1968 by American Lt. William Calley at Mai Lai in Vietnam.

Calley and his unit gunned down more than 500 old men, women and children in cold blood. Three years later, Calley was charged with directly killing 22 women and children. He was sentenced to life in prison, much like al-Megrahi. But he was pardoned after having served only three years under house arrest by then President Richard Nixon.

Calley’s action was unique in that most massacres of civilians by American soldiers go unpunished and those few prosecuted usually end up with the murderers getting released for compassionate reasons.

The world has turned upside down in the past 30 to 40 years but the truth is that no one side has suffered more or less than the other.

In 2001, a Scottish Court, under pressure from the United States, Israel and Britain, forced the arrest and conviction of al-Megrahi, who was accused of the Lockerbie bombing.

No charges were ever brought against Reagan or any American officials or “soldiers” and “pilots” for murdering Gaddafi’s little girl or the many Arab civilians who were killed as a result of American foreign policies.

It was taboo to even discuss the American role in the murders of thousands of Arab civilians and the thought of bringing an American president to justice was ridiculed. But Americans cheered like an angry mob for justice in the death’s of their victims.

Relatives of the Americans killed on the PAN AM Flight over Lockerbie are understandably angry.

But what about the outrage for the innocent lives lost in the Middle East that were a part and parcel of the Lockerbie bombing and a period of American military brutality in the Middle East?

Although the relatives of the victims deserve to grieve and feel anger over the decision, their anger should not be limited to the Scottish decision to release al-Megrahi. It should also be directed at the hypocrisy of American government foreign policy that has placed a value on the life of Americans and no value on the lives of anyone else.

Hopefully, the al-Megrahi release will begin a process of healing and, more importantly, American and Western recognition of the tragedies that people in the Middle East have been forced to accept without any form of justice at all.

Yet maybe those demanding justice in the Lockerbie bombing are not seeking justice at all. After all, justice has apparently never been the real motive behind any of American foreign policies towards the Middle East.

Maybe Lockerbie is just about revenge.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist, author and morning radio show host in Chicago. He can be reached at



America’s saying, “I can do to you, but you can’t do to me”,  John Chuckman