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Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Outrage Over Lockerbie

The DJ on my car radio was incensed. The Lockerbie bomber had been released. My first thoughts echoed his: it was indecent that this killer was not only released, but received a hero’s welcome back home in Libya. Yes, I admit it; I’m just not that forgiving a guy. I don’t think a terminally-ill mass murderer should be released on compassionate grounds so that he might spend his last days with friends and family. If he truly is guilty, he deserves to spend his last days, his last breath, rotting in jail.

But other thoughts arose as well. One was that many of the Lockerbie victim’s families doubted his guilt. Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was killed, said: "I went into that court in Holland thinking I was going to see the trial of those who were responsible for the murder of my daughter. I came out of it thinking he had been framed." A bereaved father’s statement of support for the alleged killer of his child carries a lot of weight with me, as do those of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, which termed the conviction a possible miscarriage of justice. Where was the media coverage of these nuances? Surely they may even have played a part in his release, yet I heard nothing about them on CNN, ABC, NPR.

My next thought was even more troubling, and it brought me back to the outrage of the DJ, and to my own reflexive anger. How, I thought, can we all feel such outrage when the United States has been harboring a serial terrorist bomber for years?

Louis Posada Carilles is largely thought to be responsible for the bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed all aboard, including the mostly teenage members of the Cuban National Fencing Team. He has been convicted in abstentia in several countries for bombings and bombing plots, and was thought by our own FBI to have been involved in literally hundreds of bombings of Cuban targets in Cuba, Honduras, Panama and Venezuela. Washington even denied an extradition request from the Venezuelan Supreme Court, and Carilles continues to live in the United States though he has actually admitted to several bombings. He said of one bombing in Cuba, that killed an Italian-Canadian national: “It is sad someone is dead, but we cannot stop.”

He also worked for Colonel Oliver North and General Richard Secord as they secretly and illegally armed Contra death squads in Nicaragua. Of course, North, a man who did everything he could to subvert our constitution by doing an end run around our laws and our congress, is now a well paid radio and TV personality and a darling ‘patriot’ of the right. It seems that no bad deed goes unrewarded for these murderous thugs, and the airwaves are strangely mute about their crimes and our government’s continuing complicity.

George Bush senior once said these telling words: “One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist” – and there, in one sentence, is all you need to know about the moral expediency of the United States. We will protect a bloodthirsty killer involved in literally scores of bombings of civilian targets because he is the enemy of our enemy. And while protecting him, we will respond with self-righteous outrage when another bomber, whose guilt is far less established, is set free.

How sad that the frothing right, and even the average American citizen has forgotten the wisdom of Thomas Paine, one of the pivotal figures of the American revolution, who said “He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression.”. The American policy of covert wars against countries we do not like, wars that often kill innocent civilians, is immoral and reprehensible. America has no solid moral footing, and seems unlikely to develop one when the Obama administration is enthusiastically continuing Bush polices of rendition and holding people without trial at a sort of Guantanimo lite – the Bagram air force base.

Our government, our media, and most of our political commentators, appear to be rank hypocrites as they protest torture, terrorism and oppression in places like Libya and Iran while they refuse to acknowledge, or sometimes even actively cover up, their own country’s equivalent crimes.


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