By Calvin Palmer
The decision by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to allow the terminally ill Lockerbie bomber to go home Libya to die has provoked an angry response in the U.S.
The White House declared it “deeply regrets” the Scottish decision as Abdel Baset al-Megrahi left Greenock Prison and flew out of Glasgow Airport on a Libyan Airbus plane.
The reactions of relatives of the 270 people killed in the 1988 bombing outrage were less diplomatic.
“I think it’s appalling, disgusting and so sickening I can hardly find words to describe it,” said Susan Cohen, of Cape May Court House, New Jersey,whose 20-year-old daughter Theodora died in the attack.
Al-Megrahi, who had served only eight years of his life sentence, was recently given only months to live after being diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer.
Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said although al-Megrahi had not shown compassion to his victims — many of whom were American college students flying home to New York for Christmas — MacAskill was motivated by Scottish values to show mercy.
“Some hurts can never heal, some scars can never fade,” MacAskill said. “Those who have been bereaved cannot be expected to forget, let alone forgive … However, Mr al-Megrahi now faces a sentence imposed by a higher power.”
Al-Megrahi, 57, was convicted in 2001 of taking part in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 on December 21, 1988. He was sentenced to life in prison. The airliner exploded over Scotland, and all 259 people aboard and 11 on the ground died when it crashed into the town of Lockerbie.
The former Libyan intelligence officer was sentenced to serve a minimum of 27 years in a Scottish prison for Britain’s deadliest terrorist attack. But a 2007 review of his case found grounds for an appeal of his conviction, and many in Britain believe he is innocent.
The State Department released a brief statement by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is on vacation, saying she is “deeply disappointed” by the decision.
U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) issued a statement saying that it is the victims who deserve compassion, not al-Megrahi.
“As I’m watching him now, on television, getting ready to board a plane and go home to a parade, I’m getting angry,” said Joanne Hartunian of Delmar, New York, who lost her daughter Lynne. “And I didn’t want to get angry. I didn’t want to waste any more time thinking about this man.”
Loulie Canady of Morgantown, West Virginia, whose 25-year-old daughter Valerie was aboar PanAM Flight 103, also watched on television as the convict departed Glasgow. “I’m just sick at heart,” she said.
Bert Ammerman of River Vale, whose brother Tom was killed on the flight, said: “Twenty years later, this is the last sad chapter where government leaders have no moral backbone.”
But Briton Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died on Flight 103, welcomed the Libyan’s release, saying many questions remained about what led to the bomb that exploded in the cargo hold.
“I think he should be able to go straight home to his family and spend his last days there,” Swire told the BBC. “I don’t believe for a moment this man was involved in the way he was found to be involved.”
What we have here is the difference between a nation that has dispensed with the Old Testament “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” mentality and one that has not.
Compassion is not a quality usually associated with America. Just look at the sentences handed down to offenders. Its judicial system simply perpetuates the blood lust and the calls for vengeance.
Would a compassionate nation allow companies and individuals to profit from people’s health problems and see those people go bankrupt trying to get the necessary treatment? I think not.
America as a nation still has to grow up. It may well be the wealthiest nation on earth but it is still a young nation – an adolescent in comparison to European nations — and at times it behaves like a spoiled brat.
The reactions expressed by Americans might carry more weight if the case against Al-Megrahi was cut and dried. Clearly, it is not.
And a nation that invokes God at every opportunity needs to adhere to the values of Christianity, not merely pay lip service to them when it suits.
Hear endeth todays’s lesson.