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Lockerbie: 25 years of geopolitics over truth

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It has now been a quarter-century since Pan Am 103 exploded in the air and dropped onto the quiet town of Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 259 passengers and crew and 11 villagers.  No credible claim of responsibility was ever made, and the saga of the search for the guilty parties, still continues with various twists and turns.  A Libyan was convicted of the mass murder, but according to an Al Jazeera documentary that aired in the US last week, he was innocent.  Relying in part on disclosures made by a recent defector from the Iranian intelligence service, Abolghassem Mesbahi, the documentary concludes that Iran, Syria, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC, headquartered in Damascus), were to blame.

Ordinarily, the “revelations” of an intelligence service defector that conveniently accuse the enemies du jour of some spectacular crime should be treated with skepticism, if not downright contempt.  But this is no ordinary case.  In fact, the new documentary’s theory was the original focus of British and U.S. investigators for nearly two years following the air disaster.  Six months before Lockerbie, a U.S. Navy ship engaging in unnecessarily provocative games in the Persian Gulf had mistaken an Iranian civilian airliner as a threatening military response and shot it down, killing all 290 aboard.  Iran had vowed revenge, and was believed to have recruited the “Syrian-sponsored” PFLP group to carry out the retaliatory attack against the Pan Am jet.  Mohammed Abu Talb, a Palestinian arrested in Sweden shortly after Lockerbie and charged with several other bombings, was suspected of being one of the principals who had the bomb placed on board the plane.

While today, the US/UK would find this trifecta of Iran, Syria, and a Palestinian group to be an irresistible axis of evil to accuse of an act of terrorism, those were different times.  The truly suspicious shift in blame was made not today but in 1990, when the investigation against Syria and Iran became undesirable to pursue.  In August of that year, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had invaded Kuwait, and President George H.W. Bush was trying to cobble together a coalition, first to protect Saudi Arabia from further Iraqi incursion, and then to drive Iraq from Kuwait.  Bush hoped to have some Arab countries join, and Syria was eager to do so.  It didn’t look good to have an official state sponsor of terror on board, so any notion of a Syrian role in the Lockerbie bombing was abruptly abandoned without any explanation.  Iran also became an inconvenient culprit, as it was part and parcel of the Syria conspiracy, and also was a sworn enemy of Iraq (which then held the unofficial title of Most Evil Country on Earth), with whom it had just fought a brutal war for nearly a decade.

Of course, a new culprit had to be found, and Libya fit the bill perfectly.  Public attention first turned to Libya around October, 1990.  Not surprisingly, there also was brief mention of Iraq as a possible culprit.  It took a little while for official disinterest in Syria to filter down to the media.  In November, 1990, the NY Times still pronounced that “Syria is home to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, which is believed to have been deeply involved in the bombing of a Pan American World Airways jumbo jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, two years ago with the loss of 270 lives.”

But soon, the focus was entirely on Libya.  By the end of 1991, two Libyans, Lamen Khalifa Fhimah and Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, had been indicted and the UK/US were demanding their extradition for trial.  When Libya balked at turning over the suspects, sanctions already imposed were tightened. The standoff continued for years, until finally, in 1999, after suffering tens of billions of dollars in sanctions, Libya complied with the demand and handed over Fhimah and Megrahi.

The 2000 trial was held in the Netherlands before a panel of three Scottish judges and no jury.  While interest in a Libyan connection may at first have been genuinely based on circumstantial evidence worth investigating, it wasn’t long before the case against Fhimah and Megrahi looked thin and tenuous at best.  For just one example, the prosecution, with the assistance of a large cash reward of two million dollars, managed to obtain at best the lukewarm identification testimony of a Malta clothing store owner who sold garments packed next to the bomb.  The store owner, named Gauci, identified Megrahi as someone who looked like the clothes buyer, although his physical description of the suspect was of a much taller man.

The NY Times coverage of the trial was actually quite fair, with reporter Donald G. McNeil, Jr. repeatedly expressing skepticism about the prosecution, and giving prominence to commentators, such as Scottish Law Professor Robert Black, whose criticism of the Crown’s presentation bordered on ridicule.  In one article, Professor Black was quoted as stating unequivocally, “A conviction is — I kid you not – impossible.”  Journalists Andrew and Alexander Cockburn wrote at length of the legal farce in a less Times-like manner, calling it a “frame-up.”

Prof. Black’s prediction was wrong, of course, as the Scottish judges found Megrahi guilty while acquitting co-defendant Fhimah.  The judges’ written decision acknowledged the ”uncertainties and qualifications” of the prosecution’s case, that key witnesses had repeatedly lied, and that the prosecution had not explained how the bomb had been placed on the Pan Am plane.  Perhaps it was these deficiencies that led Professor Black to his misplaced certainty of total acquittal, but apparently he did not count on the intangible forces at work behind the scenes, including government pressure for at least some vindication of the high-profile accusation against a public enemy country.

Once again, Times reporter McNeil critically assessed  the judges’ reasoning.  However, once the verdict was in, Megrahi’s status as terrorist/bomber/murderer of 270 more or less became etched in stone.  If anything, the verdict acquitting Fhimah was portrayed as the more scandalous finding.

Megrahi’s initial preliminary appeal was denied, but after a four-year investigation, another Scottish appellate tribunal issued a mostly secret 800-page report concluding that “a miscarriage of justice may have occurred.”  This would be one of the rare cases in Scottish jurisprudence, fewer than 10%, in which the defendant would be entitled to a full-blown second appeal, the majority of which result in overturning convictions.

So the stage was set for a fresh look at all the facts, including new evidence not considered by the original three-judge panel, such as the multimillion dollar payment to secure Gauci’s ID testimony.  But fate intervened.  Megrahi contracted pancreatic cancer, which by 2009 appeared likely to be imminently fatal.  The British eagerly jumped at the opportunity to release Megrahi on “humanitarian” grounds to die in his home country.

It rightfully seemed bizarre and outrageous, especially to many grieving families, that a man who deliberately murdered hundreds of innocent people would be released for compassionate reasons rather than be allowed to die in prison, a fate far less horrendous than that suffered by his victims.  It seemed even more outrageous when Megrahi refused to die on schedule and lasted three more years rather than three months. But there obviously was more to Megrahi’s release than British officials were eager to publicize.  One of the conditions for release was that he withdraw his pesky appeal, which promised new scrutiny and new evidence that would have been highly embarrassing to governments and law enforcement and judicial authorities alike.

Against the backdrop of condemnation of Megrahi’s release by the likes of John Kerry, then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and President Obama himself, Robert Mackey, in his Lede blog at the Times, valiantly revisited the case.  Mackey acknowledged the “firestorm of anger” over the compassion shown to a convicted mass murderer, but observed that such outrage was “clearly based on the belief that [Megrahi] was responsible for the bombing.”  Mackey also refused to classify doubts about the conviction as the product of wild imagination, noting that such doubts “existed outside the murky precincts of the Internet where wild conspiracy theories are spun out.”  He then proceeded to review the questionable trial evidence in detail, and rue the fact that Megrahi’s appeal would never be heard.

Nearly a year later, a mini-scandal erupted when it was disclosed that oil giant BP, which had recently achieved mega-villain status for its Gulf Coast oil spill, had lobbied the British government for Megrahi’s release to protect an investment off the Libyan coast.  Kerry thundered that “commercial interests — oil or otherwise — should never be prioritized over justice for victims of terrorist acts and severe punishment for convicted terrorists.”  He might have added, “Geopolitical interests?  Well that’s a different story.”

By the time Megrahi died in 2012, the troubling questions about his guilt, including the original focus of investigators on Iran and Syria, had predictably been reduced to dismissible “conspiracy theories.”  Times reporter Harvey Morris noted that Megrahi had “either cheated the Scottish justice system or … cheated death by surviving beyond his allotted time.”  Morris asked, “But has he also cheated relatives of the Lockerbie victims by taking the real truth about the bombing to the grave?”  Apparently unfamiliar with the far superior coverage appearing in his own paper by McNeil and Mackey, Morris did not contemplate that the man might be innocent.

So if it was not Libya, was there any credibility to the original theory of Iran/Syria/PFLP-GC/Abu Talb complicity, the one that exclusively occupied investigators’ attention for two years after Lockerbie?  Alex Cockburn thought so, and this conclusion has now been embraced by the new Al Jazeera documentary.  Libya is no longer on the official enemies’ list, and with the existence of bona fide evidence against Iran, Syria, and the Palestinians, will there be renewed interest in this theory that was dropped in 1990 for no apparent reason other than galvanizing support for the first Gulf War?  David Horovitz,  the British-Israeli neocon at the Times of Israel, already has heartily endorsed the Alex Cockburn/Al Jazeera version.  I wonder if he ever thought he would side with those two against the official US/UK line.  There have been a handful of others to take notice as well.

Will the UK and US jump on board?  Very doubtful.  The UK already risked, and received, public criticism and ridicule for releasing Megrahi, deemed a small price to pay to save the embarrassment of his probably successful appeal.  Although it was a British prosecution, the US was steadfast in its support throughout.  Together, these two countries deliberately suppressed the truth, hounded an innocent Libyan man to his grave, perverted the Scottish justice system with political pressure, fabricated testimony purchased with millions of dollars, protected the guilty parties, extorted billions of dollars from Libya in sanctions and compensation payments to the families, and cared not one iota for the hundreds of grieving families who depended on their officials to seek actual justice.  One can hardly expect them to acknowledge perpetration of a two-decade long miscarriage of justice just to claim that Iran and Syria committed an awful crime in 1988.

And what about Israel?  Netanyahu, who professes to be 100% certain of Iranian guilt for every atrocity before the smoke clears and bodies are removed, has so far held his tongue.  On the one hand, Iranian guilt for one of the worst acts of terrorism in recent decades, at least against the West, seems too good to be true, not that truth matters a whole lot to Netanyahu.  On the other hand, even a credible allegation of Iran’s role is a little stale by now, and it may not be worth embarrassing Israel’s closest allies.

While this tale of government fabrication and suppression of truth for craven purposes is hardly unique, the scope of this dishonesty and the ease with which it was carried out are somewhat astonishing.  The last word goes to Cockburn, who loved to quote his father Claud:  “Believe nothing until it has been officially denied.”

Note: Earlier version of this post said Iranian airplane was shot down in the Mediterranean. It was the Persian Gulf. Thanks to Niko and others for correction. –Ed

About David Samel

David Samel is an attorney in New York City.

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30 Responses

  1. W.Jones
    W.Jones on March 19, 2014, 2:23 pm

    Maidhc Ó Cathail (How do you pronounce that anyway?) writes a different POV:

  2. Donald
    Donald on March 19, 2014, 3:19 pm

    This was discussed in a rather strange NYT Sunday Magazine article last year–


    Here’s the quote–

    “I asked de Villiers about his next novel, and his eyes lighted up. “It goes back to an old story,” he said. “Lockerbie.” The book is based on the premise that it was Iran — not Libya — that carried out the notorious 1988 airliner bombing. The Iranians went to great lengths to persuade Muammar el-Qaddafi to take the fall for the attack, which was carried out in revenge for the downing of an Iranian passenger plane by American missiles six months earlier, de Villiers said. This has long been an unverified conspiracy theory, but when I returned to the United States, I learned that de Villiers was onto something. I spoke to a former C.I.A. operative who told me that “the best intelligence” on the Lockerbie bombing points to an Iranian role. It is a subject of intense controversy at the C.I.A. and the F.B.I., he said, in part because the evidence against Iran is classified and cannot be used in court, but many at the agency believe Iran directed the bombing.

    • DaveS
      DaveS on March 19, 2014, 6:33 pm

      Donald, you’re right, strange but interesting article, and author. I don’t think this latest AJ documentary comes as a surprise to anyone who has looked deeply into the case the past 25 years, but I do appreciate the delicious irony that the craven choices made in 1990 prevented this from being high on the list of charges against Iran today. Of course the horror of the tragedy itself overshadows everything involved in this case.

      • Donald
        Donald on March 20, 2014, 1:51 pm

        ” I do appreciate the delicious irony that the craven choices made in 1990 prevented this from being high on the list of charges against Iran today.”

        It’s more than that–it’s an indictment of the NYT that their reporters know that Libya was probably framed and they don’t make it a front page story. Instead, they toss it into the middle of a silly gossipy piece about a spy novelist with intelligence connections.

        This is almost as revealing as the WMD lies put out by the US government in partnership with most of the mainstream press. If they talk about it, they show how little either our government or our so-called press watchdogs can be trusted. So they just mention it from time to time in the back pages.

  3. dbroncos
    dbroncos on March 19, 2014, 3:20 pm

    Great reporting, David. If Americans better understood the costs of supporting Israel, including the 40+ yr. history of terrorism against American citizens and the follow-on wars of revenge, Israel’s appeal in the US would collapse in a hurry.

    • LeaNder
      LeaNder on March 19, 2014, 7:46 pm

      Yes, great reporting, but in this case the usual standard does not quite fit:

      Six months before Lockerbie, a U.S. Navy ship engaging in unnecessarily provocative games in the Mediterranean had mistaken an Iranian civilian airliner as a threatening military response and shot it down, killing all 290 aboard.

  4. puppies
    puppies on March 19, 2014, 4:56 pm

    Great reporting, yes, but there should be some cautionary words about the new theories coming from turncoat spies. There still isn’t anything tangible –a lot of theory and undocumented gossip. Just as believable as the cui bono question that would justify just as effectively the thesis of a Mossad sabotage. Which, by the way, was the case in some real-life action and also in a threepenny thriller by Gérard de Villiers in the SAS series.

    • Walid
      Walid on March 20, 2014, 2:54 pm

      puppies, don’t totally discount the probability that Gaddafi may have have had a hand in Lockerbie, the man was not averse to stirring shit everywhere. He sponsored one of the 16 factions that kept the Lebanese civil going and he is still accused by Lebanese Shia community of having disappeared their most revered ecumenical cleric, Imam Musa al-Sadr that was on a tour to get the foreign players to stop funding warring factions in the civil war. The Imam made a stop in Libya before his scheduled trip to Italy but he never arrived there. He used paid Malian Tuaregs to fight in Chad, Sudan, Lebanon , Niger and others. Remember the Bulgarian nurses he held captive.

      • lysias
        lysias on March 20, 2014, 3:36 pm

        If Megrahi had been guilty, the British government wouldn’t have gone through such contortions to avoid deciding his second appeal.

      • Walid
        Walid on March 20, 2014, 8:12 pm

        lysias, I didn’t insist that Megrahi was guilty. I was only raising the prospect that Gaddafi may or may not have had something to do with it because of his track record. The British government, like any other, is not above doing something unethical if its national interests depended on it. Megrahi could have been innocent since from what I’ve read, he was convicted based on someone having received a huge reward for identifying him, which isn’t much of a proof.

      • puppies
        puppies on March 20, 2014, 9:48 pm

        That’s what I say too. Don’t discount any hypothesis out of hand when there is only gossip –#1 should be the one that profits most. When I heard of it my first thought was “Mossad again!” and I am still there, not having heard anything convincing since.

  5. Walid
    Walid on March 19, 2014, 5:10 pm

    Very interesting piece, David. Aside from having paid the billions in compensation to the families, did Libya actually admit to having been behind the bombing, or was it only an acceptance to pay the families? I remember that right after the payments, the French wanted a likewise compensation package for its charter flight shot down supposedly by Libya a few years earlier than Lockerbie..

    • DaveS
      DaveS on March 19, 2014, 6:09 pm

      Walid, I believe the compensation payments were interpreted as an admission of Libyan complicity but were obviously intended to lift the sanctions. I once had a client charged with murder, who I really believed was innocent, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter to get a much lower sentence than he would get if convicted at trial. He had to admit guilt or the judge would not have accepted the plea, and he was quite upset about that.
      For Libya, it seems to have been a business deal. There were some families who refused the compensation, saying they thought Libya was not involved. Jim Swire, an English doctor who lost his daughter, was a leader of this group, and even befriended Megrahi in prison and visited him in Libya. I did read a story about the new Libyan authorities trying two former officials for squandering public money in agreeing to the compensation payments – they were acquitted.

      • Walid
        Walid on March 20, 2014, 5:46 am

        “… compensation payments were interpreted as an admission of Libyan complicity…”

        You could say that the same indirect admission of guilt applied to the US since it settled out of court with Iran in 1996 to compensate each of the families involved about $213,000 (total of $62 million) although the US never openly admitted guilt or apologized for what it had done. The crew allegedly mistook the airliner’s signal for a Phantom. and this is possible, but most despicable is the US having decorated the crew for this supposed mistake; those medals said it all. We usually criticize Israel harshly for routinely commending their soldiers for vile actions that include killing Palestinians in cold blood but we keep forgetting how Israel keeps trying to imitate its American masters. Paul Tibbets Jr. was also decorated.

      • Walid
        Walid on March 20, 2014, 6:42 am

        I mentioned the French families that tried to piggy-back on the Lockerbie claim for the downed French DC 10, UTA Flight 772 from Brazzaville to Paris in September 1989 in which 170 people perished. After a trial and judgement in France which pointed directly at Libya, the court awarded each family from 3,000 to 30,000 euros in compensation depending on relationship to the dead, which the families refused. In 2004, the families (excluding the Americans that refused to join the group) accepted a Libyan compensation package of $1 million per victim for a total of $170 million that was paid in 2007. The 7 American families claimed $2 billion, to include cost of the plane, which a DC court awarded them but the Libyans are appealing this judgement.

        “… In October 2008 Libya paid $1.5 billion into a fund which will be used to compensate relatives of the:

        Lockerbie bombing victims;
        American victims of the 1986 Berlin discotheque bombing;
        American victims of the 1989 UTA Flight 772 bombing; and,
        Libyan victims of the 1986 US bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi.

        As a result, U.S. President George W. Bush signed an executive order restoring the Libyan government’s immunity from terror-related lawsuits and dismissing all of the pending compensation cases in the U.S.”

      • marc b.
        marc b. on March 20, 2014, 9:31 am

        It would be interesting to have a better understanding of Sarkozy’s apparent long-term relationship with Gaddafi, Walid.

        France’s second-largest public television channel has aired an audio excerpt from an interview with Muammar Gaddafi in which the late Libyan dictator repeatedly claimed that he financed Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential campaign in 2007.

        “It’s me who made him president,” Gaddafi said in an interview recorded in 2011, broadcast by France-3 on Wednesday. The former dictator was speaking in Tripoli in mid-March, just a few days before the first Western strikes that led to his downfall and killing by militias in October.

        “We gave him necessary financing to enable him to win presidential election. He visited me when he was Interior Minister and asked me for financial support,” Gaddafi told Le Figaro journalist Delphine Minoui, without providing any evidence.

        Asked whether he felt betrayed by France’s recognition of the opposition to the regime, Gaddafi, who was received in Paris with fanfare and grandeur in 2007, said he did, later adding that “Sarkozy has a mental disability.”

        NB it should be noted that the French Minister of the Interior serves a police/intelligence function in France, as distinct from what the US Secretary of Department of the Interior is responsible for.

      • Walid
        Walid on March 20, 2014, 2:14 pm

        Marc, Sarkozy accepting funds from Gaddafi wasn’t the first, Chirac beat him to it. Accused and subsequently judged to spend 2 years in jail for fraud committed while mayor of Paris with the 21 bogus employees in the city’s pay, he was to be also tried for having accepted illegal campaign funds for his runs at the mayoralty as well as the Presidency from the late Rafic Hariri, he got away from serving jail time and another trial by claiming he had a frail health and was suffering from dementia. He still lives in one of Hariri’s many Paris houses. Chirac though was more grateful than Sarkozy; he answered Hariri’s call twice to go to Beirut to help stop Israeli aggression or to give Lebanon a boost and also went there for Hariri’s funeral.

    • DaBakr
      DaBakr on March 19, 2014, 6:26 pm

      I think qadaffi only ‘excepted’ responsibility but to not admit (or confess) outright to committing the crime. this lockerbie case has been odd and convoluted from the very beginning. i can remember thinking at the time -with no proof as of yet-that it seemed MORE then obvious it was the Iranians exacting revenge for their 250+ civilians shot down by the US war ship. I remember a lot a security experts at the time assuming that Iran was obviously the prime suspect based on there vocal statements pre-lockerbie, the fact that it had tit-for-tat elements to it (suggesting revenge) and the lack of a convincing US argument that the shot they fired taking out the Iranian airbus was truly accidental (it probably was- but its hard to blame the Iranians at that time it was)

      Anyway-there was A:WAYS a Palestinian militant group mixed in with the case-be it throigh Libya or Iran-I recall that PLFP were always considered the ‘mercenaries’ or ‘soldiers’ who carried out the actual dirty work. No court ever went after then which is ashame.

      And the 2nd to last paragraph by author, “And what about Israel…” is nothing but a red herring thrown in to appease the gluttonous group-thinking true-believers of MW. Israel , perhaps in one of the only few dozen incidents over decades, had absolutely ZERO to do with Lockerbie. Bringing up a little juvenile ‘slap’ at Netanyahu is, well, just that, immature and juvenile. The geo-politics that existed back then vis-a-vis Israel/Iran were completely different. Iran had not started down its Jew-baiting Israel threatening path and was still considered less of a danger to Israel and the West then was Saddam Hussien. Israel made this clear before Bush senior jumped in to help Kuwait. In fact-all the Jew-haters and anti-Zionist that still think Israel wanted the war with Iraq which obviously was going to strengthen Iran have always been sorely mistaken. And now-Iran was handed Iraq and guess who is spreading their military wings in the region? Obama-even if it became crystal clear that Iran sponsered the Lockerbie downing-has NO stomach to pursue aggressive policies tha would deter Iran from pursuing its much vaunted ‘bomb’. Obama doesn’t even have the moxy to stand up to the gangster Putin (who has masterfully out maneuvered by Putin at almost EVERY turn in first the olympics and now with Crimea. Obama is outclassed, it would appear. I heard Putins speech to Russian house today using analogies to Kosovo, NATO, and bombing Belgrade as ways to but the crush on pathetic US ‘sanctions’ (which he pretty much laughed at anyway.) I believe that Obama may be closer then ever to handing your US another right-leaning president rather then a Hillary or Biden come 3yrs. I can not remember the last time the US was perceived as this weak -even if its a myth-nations like Iran-who look at nations like North Korea for inspiration[it’s absolutely true. they do] will be paying attention closely to how Obama has allowed things to pan out. The terrorist groups acting within national borders are surely taking notice as well. Let’s just wait and see what happenes with the Iranian/Iraqi, Iranian/Bahraini land disputes as well as how China and NK act in the face of the Crimea.

      It will also have some bearing on how much the world will continue to take the Isr/Pal conflict as front and foremost as it has based on EU US and ME media outlets.

      I am still left wondering what might have happened had the US aplologized profusely for the downing of the Iranian airline-or-if Iran contributed to the accidental shooting? Either way-the tit-for-tat helped nobody

      • Walid
        Walid on March 20, 2014, 8:19 pm

        “And the 2nd to last paragraph by author, “And what about Israel…” is nothing but a red herring thrown in to appease the gluttonous group-thinking true-believers of MW. ”

        DaBakre, Israel has a history. If it could do a USS Liberty, it could do a PanAm. There were many others.

  6. marc b.
    marc b. on March 19, 2014, 5:53 pm

    excellent article.

    I don’t want to take a trip down that rabbit hole here, but there is significant circumstantial evidence that some US military intelligence types may have been the target of the bombing, rather than the generic ‘western’ passenger plane. if you look at the case from that angle, it takes on a different complexion.

    as for the legal saga, it’s suspicious to say the least. nipping a trial in the bud is an oft used tactic to keep inconvenient facts out of the public domain. if I had to guess, that is probably what will occur with the ‘marathon’ bombing trial, the prosecution already putting the death penalty prominently in play, and the usual suspect death penalty specialist coming to the ‘rescue’ to convince the defendant that a trial is too risky. the metaphorical equivalent of killing bin laden. (better to have college drunks cheering his execution, than a multi-year trial with the facts of the case subject to daily scrutiny.)

    • Keith
      Keith on March 20, 2014, 3:30 pm

      MARC B- “…there is significant circumstantial evidence that some US military intelligence types may have been the target of the bombing, rather than the generic ‘western’ passenger plane. if you look at the case from that angle, it takes on a different complexion.”

      I vaguely recall a drug tie-in, the subject of which was the basis for a film called “The Maltese Double Cross” which was suppressed. I should point out, however, that these two scenarios are not mutually exclusive. I believe that Iran did contract out for a plane to be blown up in retaliation for the intentional shooting down of the Iranians jetliner by the USS Vincennes, but also, that the specific plane targeted may have been because of this drug/intelligence business, the perpetrator collecting a double payment. The so called intelligence agencies are extremely unsavory, unprincipled characters, their “assets” even worse. I put nothing past them.

  7. lysias
    lysias on March 19, 2014, 7:05 pm

    Capt. William C. Rogers III, the commander of the USS Vincennes, which shot down the Iranian Airbus, was outrageously given a medal after he left that command. (And so was his air-combat officer, LCDR Scott Lustig, who was if anything even more responsible for the shootdown.) CDR David Carlson, who commanded the USS Sides, which was alongside the Vincennes at the time of the shootdown, wrote a scathing article on Rogers and the shootdown for the Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute. I happened to work as a naval officer in the Pentagon shortly after the shootdown, and my boss, the second-highest-ranking civilian lawyer in the Pentagon, told me that Rogers had the reputation of being trigger-happy.

    • Keith
      Keith on March 19, 2014, 9:17 pm

      LYSIAS- “Capt. William C. Rogers III, the commander of the USS Vincennes, which shot down the Iranian Airbus, was outrageously given a medal after he left that command.”

      I believe that the entire crew received medals at the conclusion of their mission and have long ago concluded that the shooting down of the Iranian Airbus was no accident, it was an intentional act of terrorism approved at the highest levels.

      • lysias
        lysias on March 20, 2014, 12:05 pm

        George H.W. Bush on the shootdown: “I will never apologize for the United States — I don’t care what the facts are… I’m not an apologize-for-America kind of guy.”

    • Ellen
      Ellen on March 19, 2014, 11:39 pm

      Why were’t they put into a military trial? There could have been a series of charges for shooting down a civilian airline?

  8. kalithea
    kalithea on March 19, 2014, 8:19 pm

    On the one hand, Iranian guilt for one of the worst acts of terrorism in recent decades…

    But what the USS Vincennes doesn’t qualify as one of the worst acts of terrorism in recent history with only $61 million being paid to the families of 290 passengers when the U.S. extracted billions in sanctions and compensation from Libya for the Lockerbie tragedy, and then after not even apology for this vengeful horror inflicted on Iranians, the U.S. Government awarded medals and ribbons to all the crew of the missile cruiser that just happened to be cruising in Iran’s territorial waters on that fateful day!

    But neoooooh, these details don’t deserve mention because who cares about Iranian civilians and the truth they deserve. Only the West’s civilians get obsessive attention, only when it involves them is everyone interested in the cover-up and digging for the truth.

  9. Rusty Pipes
    Rusty Pipes on March 19, 2014, 9:36 pm

    What, no Hezbollah? Surely the Qatari news outlet could have worked them into its theory with Iran, Syria and PFLP-GC. As it is, Qaddafi and the Iranian airplane passengers are just minor speedbumps on the road to the next R2P intervention or Color Revolution (that never seem to deliver quite the democracy or freedom that we promise).

    In other news on BBC today: in the headlines, Syrian insurgents are claiming to have captured a prison in Deraa (according to their unverified footage). The in depth story about Syria was an interview with R2P proponent Michael Isikoff. Not making the cut: Syrian army advances west of Yabroud, making further steps toward securing the Lebanon border in the Qalamoun region. The US appointed a new envoy to replace Ambassador Ford at the same time that it revoked diplomatic immunity from the staff of Syria’s Washington embassy. Also, Israel bombed Syrian troops in unoccupied Golan.

  10. gamal
    gamal on March 20, 2014, 2:58 am

    “Six months before Lockerbie, a U.S. Navy ship engaging in unnecessarily provocative games in the Mediterranean had mistaken an Iranian civilian airliner as a threatening military response and shot it down, killing all 290 aboard.”

    Chomsky, wrote in a letter from Lexington from 1992

    “We might ask how the news columns can be so sure that the downing of the plane was “accidental.” Not everyone agrees. There is, for example, US Navy Commander David Carlson, who “wondered aloud in disbelief” as he observed from his nearby vessel as the Vincennes shot down what was obviously a civilian airliner in a commercial corridor, perhaps out of “a need to prove the viability of Aegis,” its high tech missile system (Carlson, U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, Sept. 1989). The Commander of the Vincennes did not go unpunished. In April 1990, George Bush conferred upon him the Legion of Merit award (along with the officer in charge of anti-air warfare) for “exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service” and for the “calm and professional atmosphere” under his command during the period when the airliner was shot down. “The tragedy isn’t mentioned in the texts of the citations,” AP reported. The media kept a dutiful silence — at home, that is. In the less disciplined Third World, the facts were reported in reviews of US terrorism (AP, April 23, 1990; Third World Resurgence, Malaysia, Oct. 1990).

    Iran called on the World Court to order reparations for the crime. In March 1991, Washington once again — as in the case of its terrorist war against Nicaragua — rejected World Court jurisdiction (Chicago Tribune, March 6, 1991). Commentators here were too mesmerized by our noble defense of international law in the Gulf to notice.

    In Britain, the director of a leading academic Research Institute for the Study of Terrorism responded sharply to a challenge to the US right to demand that Libya hand over the Lockerbie bombers in the light of the Iranian airbus tragedy and US atrocities generally. The “arguments are specious,” he declared loftily. In the former case, the US government “admitted to the tragic error” and “at least offered some compensation to the victims’ families”; and the fact that “the US has been a belligerent in a number of wars in which many have been killed…does not justify attacks on innocent civilians” (Manchester Guardian Weekly, Dec. 8, 1991). The first response omits a few pertinent facts. The second is correct, in the sense that the USSR was a “belligerent in a war in which many were killed” in Afghanistan, as was Hitler in France, Japan in Manchuria, etc. No surprises here. Like Walter Laqueur and other respectable scholars, and their counterparts in totalitarian states, the author adheres to the convention that terrorism and aggression count as such when attributable to official enemies, while crimes conducted by the states one serves are exempt from such categories (on the “scholarly” record, see E.S. Herman and G. O’Sullivan, The Terrorism Industry (Pantheon 1990), A. George, ed., Western State Terrorism (Polity 1991), and sources cited).

    Foreign Minister Hurd follows the same conventions. Needless to say, atrocities carried out by the UK or the boss in Washington do not count as “fiendish acts of wickedness.” The same is true of favored friends such as Saddam Hussein or General Suharto. Thus in February 1990, when the White House was rebuffing Iraqi democrats calling for parliamentary democracy in Iraq, the British Foreign Office cooperated by impeding their efforts to condemn Iraqi terror, for fear that it might harm Anglo-Iraqi relations. Two months later, after the execution of London Observer correspondent Farzad Bazoft and other atrocities, Hurd reiterated the need to maintain good relations with Iraq.

    A few months later, when Saddam committed his sole crime (disobeying orders), we were treated to much uplifting rhetoric about the sanctity of international law and the newly-discovered principle that aggressors must be brutally punished without negotiation. Meanwhile, Indonesia used the occasion to launch another major military operation in the annexed territory of East Timor, where its near-genocidal campaign far surpassed the horrors of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Britain again offered its cooperation. British Aerospace entered into new arrangements to sell Indonesia jet fighters along with co-production arrangements, “what could turn out to be one of the largest arms packages any company has sold to an Asean country,” the Far Eastern Economic Review reported (July 25, 1991), while atrocities mounted and Australia firmed up its new agreement with Indonesia to rob Timorese oil. Western civilization does not lack eloquent spokespersons. ”

  11. baz
    baz on March 22, 2014, 11:01 am

    I enjoyed the brief cameo by Morag Kerr who demonstrated the primary suitcase was introduced at Heathrow. However I had pointed this out to the authorities in 1996. Robert Baer (who, in his memoirs, thought it was part of his “anti-terrorism” duties to provide the Muslim Brotherhood with ground – to – air missiles!) made two interesting points about the transfer of funds to the PFLP-GC and Abu Talb.

    It may well be true that Marwan Khreesat built the bomb that destroyed flight PA103. When he was interviewed by Thurman and Marshman of the FBI (an interview from which the Scottish Police were excluded) he supposedly denied having ever built a bomb in a twin-speaker radio-cassette. This may be true but the evidence the “Lockerbie” bomb was within a twin-speaker Toshiba “Bombeat”radio-cassette is demonstrably and irrefutably fabricated.

    Unfortunately the remainder of the Al-Jazeera documentary was atrocious. As usual the alternative to the official version is the work of charlatans and fabricators. Many of the claims were manifestly untrue. A terrorist summit held in a poky little flat in Malta evidenced by a secret witness? Was Frank Drebin involved?

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