I’ve posted before — here and here — on the indefensible decision of the Scottish government to release Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, the terrorist convicted of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. The British press is all over the story, digging to see if there were grounds other than “compassion” for the release. The London Times is now reporting that the Lockerbie bomber deal was motivated by British interests in securing a potentially lucrative Libyan oil contract for BP. Letters written by British justice minister Jack Straw some time ago seem to confirm the link.
I suppose every country has to look after its own interests, but I am keenly disappointed that the Brits would sacrifice justice for oil and cash. I have always admired the British, and I think America has benefited by having a stalwart, dependable ally. It is sad to see that relationship traded away for a few billion pounds.
Here’s an update on the Scottish decision to release Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, the terrorist convicted of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Great Britain’s Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has finally addressed the issue after being quiet for some time, and he has drawn criticism both for his delay in commenting and the substance of his remarks. His statement seems pretty mush-mouthed to me — “I was angered by the welcome the terrorist received, but it was Scotland’s decision, and by the way we are committed to fighting terrorism and pursuing peace” — and probably was carefully designed to try to appeal to people of just about every political persuasion.
I am a fan of the Brits; they have been stalwart allies in the fight against terrorism. You do have to wonder, however, whether their resolve may be wavering. After all, the notion that countries should show compassion for someone like the Lockerbie Bomber is a novel concept. For example, Rudolf Hess spent 41 years in Spandau Prison after being convicted at Nuremberg. Hess died there — even though he had flown to Scotland in 1942 in an effort to negotiate peace and was arrested at that time. Hess was sentenced to life in prison, and in those days life meant life.
Scotland’s release of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, the man convicted of killing 270 people in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, is an interesting story. The stated reason for the release is that al-Megrahi, who is 57, has terminal prostate cancer, and he was released on “compassionate grounds.” As a result, al-Megrahi served only 10 years of a life sentence. After his release he flew home to Libya, where he received a hero’s welcome.
The reaction to the release has been swift and, not surprisingly, harshly critical. I must confess I cannot accept the justification for the release. Doesn’t “life” mean, in fact, “life”? What difference does it make whether Al-Megrahi lived to a ripe old age before dying in a dank Scottish prison cell, or died in that same dank cell at an earlier age, due to prostate cancer? The whole idea of a life sentence, in this case, was to deprive a-Megrahi of his freedom forever because he deprived 270 innocent people of their lives.
One of the ongoing debates after 9/11 is whether terrorists should be dealt with by the military, through the criminal justice system, or in some other fashion. al-Megrahi’s release after serving only 10 years seems to make a mockery of the argument that the criminal justice system is the right means to determine and impose the punishment of terrorists. Scotland gave al-Megrahi compassion that he did not deserve and that he never showed to the people he killed. The relatives of the people he killed, and other civilized nations that are working desperately to thwart terrorism, have every right to be outraged.
Thever Lockerbie, Scotland, is carrying out the Lockerbie bombing that killed hundreds of people, is an interesting one.