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Barack Obama's presidency

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Posturing on the PanAm 103 'Bomber'

By William Blum
September 2, 2010

Editor’s Note: One of the most galling things about the mainstream U.S. news media is how it evades difficult truths that run counter to the conventional wisdom, no matter how obviously misguided. That’s especially true when some despised group is implicated.

Evidence and reason find no place in the process when, say, the villain is a Libyan and some “official” finding – no matter how blatantly wrongheaded – has deemed the villain guilty, as William Blum discusses in the case of the “convicted” Pan Am 103 bomber:

The British government recently warned Libya against celebrating the one-year anniversary of Scotland's release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the Libyan who's the only person ever convicted of the 1988 blowing up of PanAm flight 103 over Scotland, which took the lives of 270 largely Americans and British.

Britain's Foreign Office has declared: "On this anniversary we understand the continuing anguish that al-Megrahi's release has caused his victims both in the U.K. and the U.S. He was convicted for the worst act of terrorism in British history. Any celebration of al-Megrahi's release would be tasteless, offensive and deeply insensitive to the victims' families."

John Brennan, President Obama's counter-terrorism adviser, stated that the United States has "expressed our strong conviction" to Scottish officials that Megrahi should not remain free.

Brennan criticized what he termed the "unfortunate and inappropriate and wrong decision" to allow Megrahi's return to Libya on compassionate grounds on Aug. 20, 2009 because he had cancer and was not expected to live more than about three months.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement saying that the United States "continues to categorically disagree" with Scotland's decision to release Megrahi a year ago.

"As we have expressed repeatedly to Scottish authorities, we maintain that Megrahi should serve out the entirety of his sentence in prison in Scotland."

The U.S. Senate has called for an investigation and family members of the crash victims have demanded that Megrahi's medical records be released. The Libyan's failure to die as promised has upset many people.

But how many of our wonderful leaders are upset that Abdel Baset al-Megrahi spent eight years in prison despite the fact that there was, and is, no evidence that he had anything to do with the bombing of flight 103?

The Scottish court that convicted him knew he was innocent. To understand that just read their 2001 "Opinion of the Court," or read my analysis of it. [See’s “Pam Am 103 Verdict: Justice or Politics?” and the followup, "Ignoring the Truth about Lockerbie."]

As to the British government being so upset about Libya celebrating Megrahi's release — keeping in mind that it strongly appears that UK oil deals with Libya played more of a role in his release than his medical condition did — we should remember that in July 1988 an American Navy ship in the Persian Gulf, the Vincennes, shot down an Iranian passenger plane, taking the lives of 290 people; i.e., more than died from flight 103.

And while the Iranian people mourned their lost loved ones, the United States celebrated by handing out medals and ribbons to the captain and crew of the Vincennes.

The Vincennes shoot-down had another likely consequence: It appears to have inspired Iran to take revenge in December of that year, financing the operation to blow up PanAm 103 (likely carried out by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine –- General Command).

Though the Libyans were the favored villains of the day, there is no real evidence that they – and Megrahi – had anything to do with the attack.

William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2; Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower; West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir; Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire. Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at This article was originally published in Blum's Anti-Empire Report.

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