Posts Tagged ‘Lockerbie’

Today, the government of Scotland released the only person ever convicted of the terrorist bombing that destroyed a Pan Am Boeing 747, named Clipper Maid of the Seas.  The plane was flying high over Lockerbie, Scotland when a bomb exploded in the luggage compartment.  Pieces of the plane rained down upon the town.  Two hundred and seventy innocent people were killed, eleven of them were people in the town of Lockerbie.  The attack on the aircraft, the airline, the passengers on the plane, the crew of the plane, and the country the plane represented (the United States – Pan Am used to call itself Pan American World Airways) was made by a group of Libyan terrorists who were trying to make some sort of point, a point that was never very clearly enunciated before or since.  In the years since, Libya has renounced terrorism.  Ultimately, the terrorist attack achieved nothing.  It was a pointless killing of innocent people.  It was also the final and ultimate cause of the the demise of Pan Am and thus a loss to all of us for whom Pan Am will always be the symbol of what air travel used to be.

Many of the families of those killed by the terrorists have now expressed outrage over the release of the terrorist, who is dying from cancer.  The man is in the terminal stages of prostrate cancer and the cancer has spread throughout his body. He has no hope to live more than about three months – three months of suffering no matter where he is.  Today the Scottish Justice Secretary, Mr. Kenny MacAskill, released a statement explaining why he decided to release this convicted terrorist, despite the objections of the families of those killed and the objections of the U.S. government.  It is an eloquent statement that informs the listener or reader of the role of Scotland in this man’s imprisonment.  It also explains the system of justice in Scotland, and while many people in America would say, “let the man rot in jail till he dies”, Mr. MacAskill explains Scotland’s reasons for his release and his reasons are worth hearing.

The U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, has also released a statement. He has condemned the release of the terrorist, who is being sent back to Libya to die.  The emotion is understandable.  The crime was extremely heinous.  Yet, at the same time, Scotland calls us to face reality.  You can’t kill a dead man.  Keeping a man in jail is not nearly as severe a punishment as having a body racked with cancer.  The question is this: is keeping a man imprisoned, who is dying from cancer that has spread throughout his body, justice or is it something else?  Does it go beyond justice?  Is this cruel and unusual punishment?  Granted that this man is among the cruelest of the cruel people who have ever walked the Earth, what do we ourselves become when we deal out an eye for an eye, torture for torture?  Do we not then become that which we despise the most?   The urge to deal out intense and everlasting punishment to this man is understandable, but the Justice Minister from Scotland is right.  We Americans pride ourselves on our magnanimity, yet the facts dispute this belief.  Our prisons are chock full.  We imprison more people, per capita, than any country in the entire world. Perhaps one good thing that will come out of this tragedy is that we Americans might listen to a voice from Scotland that says, enough is enough.  Frankly, I doubt that we will. We are already too far down that road.  We have more prisoners than Russia or China, Mexico or Venzuela, Germany or Japan. We have more than anyone.  We are really into punishment.  Thank God we’re a Christian country.

Abdel Basset al-Megrahi will soon die no matter what happens.  His fate is sealed. May God have mercy on his soul – whatever God he reports to.  Ultimately, this terrorist failed in his assignment.  Yes, he brought down the plane, and yes he killed a lot of innocent people, and yes there are no longer any planes that fly around the world bearing the name Pan Am.  But Pan Am lives on in our memory, as do the innocents who were murdered.  In the years to come no one will remember the name of Abdel Basset al-Megrahi.  In the end he was just another murderer.  But the families who lost their loved ones will always remember the joy they had experienced with their families before that fateful day.  Families of the crew members will always treasure the memories of their fathers, wives, and children.  And American’s will always fondly remember the glory days of aviation and Pan Am that safely took so many of us to those far away places in a style and comfort that is unheard of today.

So today, instead of castigating a Scottish Justice Minister for showing more charity than we would, let us pause a moment to consider the innocent victims and their families who can never be made entirely whole again, and let us also pause a moment and reflect on the loss of the Clipper Maid of the Seas and the greatest airline that ever circled the world, Pan American World Airways.

Let’s just remember for a moment, for auld lang syne.

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