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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Monday, September 07, 2009

A Hero's Welcome

Speaking of vengeance, consider, then , the current furore over the man accused and therefore convicted of the Lockerbie airliner bombing of 1988. After eight years of his incarceration, the Scots have released him and he has returned to Libya, there to live out the little that remains of his life because of prostate cancer. The Scots say they did this out of compassion, but some scream that it was done so as to facilitate British oil firms getting the concession on untapped Libyan oil and gas fields.

Everyone on this side of the Atlantic professes to be enraged. The words here are devoid of all mercy. Instead the thinking is that the man, named al-Megrahi, was found guilty and therefore should have been left to rot in jail, to his last seconds, with no further questions asked or needed. He was convicted and that's all that matters. Case closed. Fini.

But it's not that easy, and never brought up in all this sound and fury are the merits of the case itself.

The case against al-Megrahi was purely circumstantial, and that's not surprising. How much evidence can you get from a bomb that exploded thousands of feet up in the air and that rained down thousands of small pieces scattered over a wide area? Though it seems barely possible, parts of the suitcase that contained the bomb were supposedly found, and it was deduced that this sutitcase also contained some old clothes and an umbrella. And it was further charged that al-Megrahi was the one who sent off this suitcase, with the bomb inside, though among other things, it's not certain that he was even in Malta on the day the suitcase was dispatched. Flight 103 didn't go near Malta, and the suitcase found its way aboard the plane at Heathrow, in England, instead.

All in all this evidence sounds sketchy even for circumstantial evidence, and some believe that al-Megrahi and another man, who was acquitted, were merely sacrificial lambs that Qaddafi threw to the British and the Americans to get them off his back, because of course someone had to pay for the horrific toll of the explosion -- 270 people dead, including 189 American. Someone had to pay.

When the other accused defendant returned to Libya a free man, he received a hero's welcome. And so when al-Megrahi was similarly hailed on his return, it increased the outrage felt over his release, though I don't know how anything else could've been expected, because there something else important was also ignored, and that was the often demonstrated principle of how one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, policy sacrifice, or innocent victim. It's all in the eye of the nation or the group, and that always trumps questions of guilt vs. innocence.

Nothing illustrates that better than what has been happening meanwhile with a former U.S. Army lieutenant named William Calley. He is happily almost forgotten now, but during the Vietnam War he was a household name.

One news report that I saw said something about al-Megrahi much like, "the man who murdered the 270 people on Flight 103." This makes it sound as if he and he alone walked up and down the aisles of the plane at his leisure while firing bullets into the heads of every person aboard.

Back in 1971 Calley and the troops with him did just that. They committed the famous "My Lai Massacre," in which they lined up and shot to death over 500 Vietnamese men, women, and children. For this huge taking of human life, which amounted to nearly double the number of deaths incurred in the Lockerbie Bombing, Calley was sentenced to what, after he admitted to taking part in the murders? Three years of house arrest. House arrest!

In a case not anywhere near as tight as the charges against Calley, al-Megrahi served eight years in a Scottish prison before he was released. And close to the same time that al-Megrahi arrived in Libya with cancer sitting hard on him, a healthy and smiling William Calley was getting a standing ovation, a hero's welcome, at a Kiwanis club in Georgia.

It's been shown over and over again that 100 foreign lives are not regarded as being equal even to just 5 American ones (of European extraction). But still. . . .

And speaking of heroes, it should not be forgotten either that just six months previous to the Lockerbie Bombing, the U.S. Navy misread its instruments and shot down Iranian airliner Flight 655 over the Hormuz Strait, killing all 290 people aboard, including 66 children.


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