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Lockerbie, Twenty Two Years On

Wikileaks spills the beans

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, December 08, 2010.

Twenty-two years ago on December 21, the shortest day of that and every year, Pan Am Flight 103 blew up in mid air over Lockerbie, Scotland. This was because Libyan terrorists had planted a bomb in the luggage. Every one of the 243 passengers and 16 crew members died, although one flight attendant was alive when found in their section of the aircraft, miles from other sections. That may have been the worst final moments of anyone in history.

Also killed were eleven residents of Lockerbie, at home just after 7PM that day, dark since mid-afternoon in those latitudes. All told, citizens of 21 nations died. I'm not looking up how many were children, in the air or on the ground.

The PLO had warned Europe that elements might try something to undermine dialogue between the US and the PLO, which was duly noted. After the crash several claimants to the terrorist honor were phoned in, including unknown Islamic groups saying it was in retaliation for the downing of an Iranian airliner by our Navy months before, Islamic Jihad, and of course the Ulster Defence Association, lest the world for a moment nor honor idiotic Irish terrorism.

The investigation verged on hysteria and reveled in incompetence. It seems a passengerless bag entered the plane in Frankfurt, and through supposed forensics of clothing and bomb timer fragments the bag was traced to one Abdelbaset al-Megrahi through Malta. The investigation was a prequel to the O.J. Simpson trial and featured the dubious credibility of witnesses and the proudly produced incompetence of our FBI lab, which couldn't survive in the private sector, as people clearly lied changed their testimony. A lot. Al-Megrahi was eventually convicted and imprisoned in Scotland after returned from Libya. Last year, claiming he was dying, he got an early release from Scotland's courts and returned to Libya. Seems rather healthy today.

Among the Wikileaks revelations this week are emails that suggest the early release had nothing to do with health reasons but that Libya wanted to power the West into releasing him and had threatened Britain's oil sources. These revelations say Libyan officials "convinced UK embassy officers that the consequences if al-Megrahi were to die in prison... would be harsh, immediate and not easily remedied." Also, Qaddafi threatened to cut Britain "off at the knees" if the terrorist wasn't sent home.

The case is infinitely confusing, and Libya has denied responsibility although it paid compensation and its deranged leader supposedly OK'd the bombing as revenge for a claimed adopted infant daughter killed by Reagan's approved attack against him for blustering against us in the early 1980's. If true, and I suspect it mostly is, this isn't a fun development. It calls into question the honesty, ethics, and actual chain of being in Scotland's courts, since they shouldn't answer to British demands. On the other hand, BP is a big deal in Scotland as well, and may be more powerful than London in Scottish affairs of its interest. But this cannot be viewed as proof Scotland is ready for independence.

All this was revealed the day Julian Assange, who heads Wikileaks, waits in British police custody on a charge of - I'm not making this up - "sex by surprise", a fascinating legal concept that graces the statutes of exactly one nation, Sweden. Of course, the west is happy he's just in custody for anything so that they can prepare a case and charge and interrogate him for variations of treason or spying or something more serious than just embarrassment. It's embarrassing for its citizens when governments are that selfish and petty because they're merely embarrassed.

Meanwhile, Americans celebrate the 22nd anniversary of Lockerbie by complaining about patdowns as part of enhanced security to prevent another. I'd bet the Lockerbie citizens and PanAm passengers would have cheerfully submitted to such. Yes, I understand that pat-downs would not have prevented Lockerbie, where the bomb was in the luggage, but on-person is the likely bomb location today after decades of baggage scans.

And, in any case, today I remember that flight attendant, gender unknown, who survived the explosion, the depressurization, the free fall from tens of thousands of feet on a dark December night in Scotland twenty two years ago, four days before Christmas. And I wonder if we're adult enough to endure the mere inconveniences some elevate to horror status of flying today, or to suck it in and reduce our oil dependency so our western courts and governments don't cave to the likes of Libya for temporary surcease but perpetual and deserved damnation. If not, our government can be forgiven for being embarrassed of us.