Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Twenty-two years ago last week, Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Scotland. The terrorist attack killed 270 people, including 189 Americans and 11 Scots on the ground in the small village of Lockerbie.
After a comprehensive international investigation and a lengthy trial held in the Netherlands, three Scottish judges found former Libyan intelligence agent Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi guilty of the 270 murders in 2001 and sentenced him to life in prison.
He served a mere eight years.
On Aug. 20, 2009, Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill authorized the "compassionate" release of al-Megrahi on the grounds that prostate cancer left al-Megrahi with less than three months to live.
Some 16 months later, Megrahi is still alive and "reportedly living in a luxury villa in Tripoli," according to a report released this month by Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.; Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; and Frank Lautenberg, D.-N.J.
The Menendez report and recent WikiLeaks stories spell bad news for Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and his ruling Scottish National Party.
For starters, the report found that "Scottish officials ignored their own prostate cancer experts, none of whom would agree to a three-month prognosis." Apparently, al-Megrahi's much improved health is not the result of a minor miracle. There was talk of releasing al-Megrahi a year before he was diagnosed with cancer.
The Menendez report also found that the British Labour government played a role in MacAskill's decision. That's not a surprise. Labour also had pushed through a prison transfer agreement that could have led to al-Megrahi's release.
Worst of all, the 58-page report concluded, "The Libyan Government successfully freed al-Megrahi by using commercial warfare."
Commercial warfare: Both Libya and Qatar pressured the Brits and Scots to find "a way out" for al-Megrahi or lose lucrative contracts, including a $900 million oil exploration deal being negotiated between Libya and the oil company BP.
Last year, I visited the Scottish Parliament and talked to Labor MSP Richard Baker, who was shocked that "Scotland's greatest ever mass murderer" had been awarded "special treatment."
At the time of al-Megrahi's release, Salmond compared his justice minister to Mahatma Gandhi, saying, "Sometimes someone has to break the cycle of retribution with an act of compassion." Now Salmond rejects the Menendez report and WikiLeaks stories about Libya's "thuggish" threats, while he contends that they back up the righteousness of his actions.
Let us not forget President Obama's feckless contribution -- informing Libya that al-Megrahi should not be welcomed publicly. Judging by al-Megrahi's hero's welcome on a Tripoli tarmac, strongman Moammar Ghadafi did not fear to ignore that request.
Susan Cohen's daughter, Theodora, died in the Pan Am bombing at age 20. In a letter to the U.S. Senate, Cohen wondered about the United Kingdom and the United States: "Would we stand up to Hitler? Would we stand up to the Soviet Union or China? I am not sure at all. If we are willing to kiss the feet of a tinpot tyrant like Ghadafi because all we care about is money, we'll cave in to more powerful nations when the moment's right."
Then, Salmond-like, we can hail our capitulation as worthy of Gandhi.
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See Other Commentary by Debra J. Saunders.
Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports.
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