Monday, August 31, 2009

A Crying Shame

Tales of hypocrisy in government are nothing new. Kenyan politicians seem to have crafted it into an art. But, I humbly submit, they don’t hold a candle to their counterparts in the West. For example, you may recall American howls of protest when captured soldier Bowe Bergdahl appeared in what the US military described as a Taliban propaganda video. "They are exploiting the soldier in violation of international law," spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Christine Sidenstricker said, apparently unaware of the irony that the US itself had for years ignored “international law” in its treatment of Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners. However, the latest furore over the early release of alleged Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi and his heroic reception in Libya surely takes the biscuit.

In 2002, following trial in a Scottish Court sitting at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, Al-Megrahi was convicted of planting the bomb that exploded aboard Pan Am Flight 103 as it overflew the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing 270 people. His appeal against the conviction was rejected on technical grounds. After serving more than nine years of his life sentence, he was released on compassionate grounds after being diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer, with doctors giving him less than a month to live. Megrahi always protested his innocence and following the rejection of his appeal, Professor Hans Köchler, one of five UN observers appointed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, condemned the proceedings as a politically motivated "show trial" and "a spectacular miscarriage of justice". None other than Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, who drew up the 1991 indictment against the two accused Libyans and issued warrants for their arrest, has cast doubt upon the reliability of the main prosecution witness, Tony Gauci. Lord Fraser criticised the Maltese shopkeeper for being "not quite the full shilling" and an "apple short of a picnic". Robert Black QC, professor of law at Edinburgh University, who played a key role in convincing Libya to hand over al-Megrahi and his co-defendant, al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah for trial, believes that al-Megrahi should never have been found guilty. And in 2007, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) which had been looking into the case since September 2003, determined that "a miscarriage of justice may have occurred"

In fact, evidence points to the framing of Libya as a scapegoat for the bombing. In 2005, a retired senior Scottish police chief gave defence lawyers a signed statement, which confirmed the claims made in 2003 by a former CIA agent that his CIA bosses actually wrote the script to incriminate Libya. He accused American intelligence agents of planting a circuit board fragment, identified as part of a sophisticated explosive timing device made by Swiss firm Mebo and only supplied to Libya and the East German Stasi. In December 2008, the UK’s Daily Mail reported that new forensic analysis on the fragment found no trace of explosive residue. A source close to the investigation summed it thus: ‘The only piece of forensic evidence in the chain that pointed to Libyan guilt has never been near the seat of an explosion.’

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Tam Dalyell, the former Labour MP who played a crucial role in organising the trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, declared that Libya had nothing to do with the bombing. He accused Iran of contracting the Popoular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC) to carry out the atrocity, in retaliation for the downing of an Iranian civilian airliner by a US Navy warship.

On July 3, 1988 Iran Air Flight 655 was shot down by the U.S.S. Vincennes killing all 290 passengers and crew as the plane flew over the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf. In spite of the fact that the US ship was at the time of the shooting operating illegally in Iranian territorial waters, the plane was flying within an internationally recognised air corridor, and the US military issuing a statement holding the crew accountable for the shooting, the US refused to apologize and to accept responsibility and liability for the incident. At a news conference on 2 August 1988, then-Vice President George H. W. Bush declared, "I will never apologize for the United States of America — I don't care what the facts are". There was nothing in the way of punishment for the crew of the Vincennes. On the contrary, they were awarded combat-action ribbons. The air warfare coordinator on board, Lt. Cmdr. Scott Lustig, received a commendation medal for his ability to "quickly and precisely complete the firing procedure"--the same firing procedure that shot down Flight 655. In February 1996 the US agreed to pay Iran US$ 61.8 million in compensation ($300,000 per wage-earning victim, $150,000 per non-wage-earner) for the 248 Iranians killed in the shootdown in a successful bid to discontinue a case brought by Iran in 1989 before in the International Court of Justice. This, by the way, pales in comparison with the US$10 million per family compensation paid out by Libya over the Lockerbie incident. Effectively the family of each adult victim on board Pan Am 103 received 33 times the equivalent sum of the family of each victim on Flight 655, whilst each child or senior citizen on Flight 103 got 66 times the amount received by the families of their counterparts on Flight 655.

In an article published in The Guardian, John Ashton and Ian Ferguson, authors of Cover-up of Convenience - the Hidden Scandal of Lockerbie, claim that according to the CIA, within days of the downing of Flight 655, Iran had hired the Syrian-based PFLP-GC to avenge the incident. The group had close ties to the Lebanese Islamic radicals Hizbullah and in the early 1970s specialised in bombing airliners. The group manufactured at least five barometric bombs designed to blow up aircraft, two - possibly more - of which were built into Toshiba radio-cassette players. Six weeks before Lockerbie, police raided the PFLP-GC gang and found one of the Toshiba bombs. Three of the other bombs were recovered four months after Lockerbie, but the second Toshiba was never found. However in the wreckage of Pan Am 103 fragments of the suitcase believed to have contained the bomb were recovered, together with parts and pieces of circuit board identified as part of a Toshiba Bombeat radio cassette player. In fact, a week before, the US state department had circulated a specific warning that radical Palestinians were planning to attack a Pan Am target in Europe.

So what interest did the CIA have in covering all this up? Well, according to Ashton and Ferguson, western intelligence sources claim the Lockerbie bomb was planted in the luggage of Khalid Jaafar, a Lebanese-American mule in a heroin trafficking operation. Apparently, elements within the CIA had been allowing Middle Eastern dealers to ship drugs to America in return for help in locating and releasing US hostages. Following the bombing, there were reports that large quantities of what appeared to be heroin had been found: one on a Lockerbie golf course and the other in a suitcase discovered by a farmer a couple of miles to the east. It appears that by allowing suitcases containing heroin to bypass security procedures, the CIA gifted the traffickers' terrorist friends a foolproof means of getting the bomb on the plane. (The farmer was never interviewed by police and in a 1992 reply to a query by Dalyell, Lord Fraser, stated that no drugs had been found, save for a small quantity of cannabis.)

Also, among the Lockerbie victims was a party of US intelligence specialists, led by Major Charles McKee returning from an aborted hostage-rescue mission in Lebanon. A variety of sources have claimed that McKee, who was fiercely anti-drugs, got wind of the CIA's deals and was returning to Washington to blow the whistle. A few months after Lockerbie, reports emerged from Lebanon that McKee's travel plans had been leaked to the bombers. The implication was that Flight 103 was targeted, in part, because he was on board.

To sum it all up, in an effort to cover up its complicity, the West conspired to put an innocent man in jail, extorted US$2.7 billion (over Kshs. 200 billion) from his country under the guise of compensation and now sheds crocodile tears over his release. The US government that awarded medals to the killers of 290 innocent Iranians now condemns the celebrations over the release of an innocent Libyan. And countries that have for a long time proclaimed themselves paragons of virtue have turned out to be no better than the third world tyrannies they are so fond of criticizing. Perhaps they should first consider removing the log from their eye.

It now turns out that Al Megrahi's release was itself part of a deal between the UK and Libya so the former could access the latter's oil supplies. The rape of Tripoli continues...


jreed724 said...

Well, what do they want from us...sympathy? He caused so many people to die...well, we'll give him our "sorries" but not for what he did.

Gathara said...

Who "caused so many people to die"? Not Al- Megrahi. I am not calling for sympathy. I want justice.