Sunday, 20 May 2012

Back to Lockerbie.

As far as we are concerned the Lockerbie bomber has just snuffed it, the reaction of many was the same as to the death of Gaddafi: good riddance. The man killed 270 people, 189 of them were American and it was the biggest terrorist attack on British soil. The media has acknowledged there is a split of opinion over whether or not Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was a mass-murderer. There was overwhelming opposition to releasing him in 2009 with the presupposition of blood on his hands. The obsession was over how this might affect the special relationship, which only exists on the Queen's side of the pond. The other concern readable in the main stream was over the cost to the reputation of British law. Of course, the mistake is to assume that this country has such high repute overseas in the first place. Furthermore it was evident then, as it is now, that the indictment and trial of the accused was not a fair one. There are reasonable doubts to be had at the allegation that al-Megrahi was involved in the atrocity of question.

To accept the label of 'guilty' stamped on al-Megrahi's corpse would be to turn a blind eye to gaping holes in the narrative. The "damning" testimony in the trial came from the Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci, who claimed that al-Megrahi bought clothing from him which were later found in the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103. Gauci gave false descriptions of al-Megrahi on 19 different occasions and failed to recognise him in court. The other testimony came from an anonymous witness, a CIA informant, who claimed he saw Lamin Khalifa Fahimah loading the bomb onto the plane in Frankfurt. Fahimah was found not guilty incidentally. For this Tony Gauci and his brother Paul received payments of over $3 million from the US Department of Justice - as part of the "Rewards for Justice" compensation programme - while the CIA informant received $4 million upon the conviction. This is precisely the reason that David Cameron was wrong to rejectcalls for an independent inquiry. It gets murkier and murkier the more you look at it.

What about the backdrop of the bombing? We forget that a few months before the Lockerbie bombing Iran Air Flight 655 was shot down over the Persian Gulf by the USS Vincennes. The Americans insisted this was an accident, the Iranians disagreed. You might be a tad disagreeable if an "accident" left 290 of your fellow citizens dead. When Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie there were those who speculated that it was revenge. American officials, most of which were working at the US Embassy in Moscow, had reserved seats aboard Pan Am Flight 103 from Frankfurt, but cancelled their bookings at the last minute. It’s also the case that South African Foreign Minister jumped on another plane instead of Flight 103. You could draw all kind of theories from this, but it’s safer to say that we really don’t know what happened. If an independent inquiry for Pan Am Flight 103 then it follows that there’s no chance of an inquiry into Iran Air Flight 655. Yet we are reminded to remember the victims of one flight, but not another.

The indictment of al-Megrahi and Fahimah came through in November of 1991. By then Thatcher had already shot down an attempt at an independent inquiry into the Lockerbie bombing before it could even get off the ground. Then a report surfaced in 1990 that concluded the attack had been orchestrated by the Iranian government and carried out by a "free-lance" Palestinian group, probably the Popular Front for theLiberation of Palestine. The motivation: revenge for the 290 people killed by the USS Vincennes. Thatcher looked to keep this revelation low-key before she was dethroned by popular demand. This was just before Saddam Hussein annexed Kuwait and the US sought to build a coalition to break the backs of the disobedient Iraqi regime. The Gaddafi regime in Libya refused to support the American intervention and instead backed Iraq. It suddenly became a lot more convenient to go back to the old scapegoat, the mad Colonel in the desert.

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