As I read headlines of online papers, and listen to the news stations reporting the latest stories I am underwhelmed. So much is left out, misrepresented or even lied about. One of the many things that surprises me is that the way we view Middle Eastern leaders. There is a historical reason we behave toward these leaders and the nations. It is why the topic of history is so important. Here is the story of Muammar Gaddafi and his role in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in Lockerbie, Scotland.
Muammar Gaddafi was the dictator of Libya until his death in 2014. There are many opinions about Gaddafi. Most of the world’s leaders considered him unstable, even insane. “Gaddafi was intolerant, often antagonistic [do you think antagonistic is harsh enough considering he jailed gay people?] toward the West, Arabs, Christian, Jews, homosexuals and white people.” (1) To his people, he raised their standard of living, education and provided many social services other countries would envy. All this because of nationalizing oil production in his country.
December 21, 1988, Pan Am flight 103 (transatlantic flight- Frankfurt Germany, to Detroit, Michigan, via London to New York) left London headed for New York. It was a Boeing 747. There was an explosion in the cargo area and at 7:02 p.m. it disappeared from air traffic control radar screens. The people of Lockerbie, Scotland that night had fire and wreckage rained down upon them…. Sherwood Crescent, a street close to the downed plane was destroyed… Residents living in the area said everything was on fire. It killed 243 passengers, 16 crew members and 11 people on the ground. It also plowed through a gas station and about 2 dozen homes.
The investigation was one of the largest in history, with workers combing the Scottish countryside. The debris covered an area of 845 square miles. The investigators examined each piece of debris found and interviewed 15,000 witnesses. At first there was fear it was a structural issue and the plane broke apart. It turned out a professionally created IED (bomb) was placed in a Toshiba RT-SF 16 cassette tape player, in a piece of Samsonite luggage. (2) It exploded a 2-ft. hole in the left side of the cargo hold.
The first theory was that it was an attack from Iran, as the U.S. had accidently shot down an Iranian passenger plane. There were 290 people that were killed including 66 children. It was thought it was a retaliation to the downed plane. As the evidence came in that proved not to be true. The evidence pointed to 2 men. In the suitcase, there was a shirt that was found that was traceable to the person it was sold to, Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi. Megrahi and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah were accused of the crime. They were Libyan nationals.
At first Gaddafi denied any involvement and refused to let Megrahi and Fhimah be extradited. In response, the UN applied sanctions to Libya that started with a restriction on air travel. After more sanctions, Gaddafi handed over the accused men who were extradited to the Netherlands to stand trial. Scottish law was used to try the two men. Fhimah was acquitted and Megrahi was sentenced to life in prison. This mean he needed to serve at least 27 years. After 8 years, he was released by Scottish court to travel home on compassionate release as he was dying of prostate cancer.
August 16, 2003, a letter was sent to the president of the UN Security Council admitting culpability for the Lockerbie Bombing, they never really admitted guilt. (3) Later in 2011, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, former Libyan Justice Minister revealed he had evidence that Muammar Gaddafi had personally ordered Megrahi to bomb Pan Am 103. (4)
Gaddafi was accused of other terrorist acts:
- Abdullah Senussi his enforcer was convicted in absentia of 1989 UTA passenger plane bombing over Niger, killing 170 people.
- He sold arms to the IRA.
- He armed groups in the Middle East and around the world.
- 1984 a gunman from the Libyan embassy open fired on a group of demonstrators in London, killing WPC Yvonne Fletcher, causing a break in ties with the UK.
- He offered sanctuary and training for dissident groups around the world.
- He also targeted anti-Gaddafi exiles.
- He bombed the German disco La Belle, a place frequented by American Soldiers stationed in Germany. He denied the bombing, but intercepting messages between Tripoli and European agents showed he was to blame. Two Americans and one Turkish woman were killed. 200 were injured in the blast. (5)
So, when young Americans paint Gaddafi as beloved leader maligned by America, they clearly do not have all the facts. There are many other Middle Eastern leaders that are painted with a similar brush. There are reasons they are handled by our state department in the fashion they have. Whatever Gaddafi was to his own people, he was not that to Americans. In fact, it is said he hated white people, called the U.S. “The Great Satan” and stated there was only room for one religion, Islam.
- Muammar Gaddafi Who Jailed Homosexuals and Said HIV/Aids Only Affects Gays is Dead, http://www.thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/muammar-gaddafi-who-jailed-homosexuals-and-said-hivaids-only-affects-gays-is-dead/politics/2011/10/20/28872
- Lockerbie Bombing Gallery, NY Daily News, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/back-lockerbie-bombing-gallery-1.9504?pmSlide=1.1556359
- Libya Admits Culpability in Crash of Pan Am Plane,http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/16/international/middleeast/16NATI.html
- Anne Barker (23 February 2011).“Gaddafi accused of ordering Lockerbie bombing”. ABC.
- Muammar Gaddafi and Libya’s Legacy of Terrorism, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/muammar-qaddafi-and-libyas-legacy-of-terrorism/
- The Lockerbie Bombing Documentary, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bF56aGuIBbw