As a precursor to the invasion and occupation of Iraq by the United States and the subsequent overthrow of Saddam Hussein in March 2003, there was a US-Iraq policy supported by the United Nations. It was called the Oil-For-Food Program. It was an outgrowth of the overall policy which constituted the post 1991 US-Iraq war, fought ostensibly to dislodge Saddam Hussein’s Iraq from Kuwait which Iraq had occupied as her so-called nineteenth province! The sanctions were very broad and wide ranging, it included economic, political, diplomatic and military, among others. Notably, the No-Fly-Zone and economic blockade or embargo made life for ordinary Iraqis miserable and countless deaths occurred as a consequence. Hence the eventual Oil-For-Food and Medicine Program supervised then by the United Nations.
The matter presently at hand is really about Libya on the one hand, and then, Britain, Scotland and the United States on the other. It will be recalled that Libya was accused of responsibility for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 out of the skies over Lockerbie in the dying days of December 19888. A so-called Libyan Intelligence agent, Abdel Basset al-Meghrahi and another Libyan of the same vocation, were fingered and accused and tried for that dastardly act. The other defendant was acquitted as the jury decided that there was insufficient evidence against that defendant. Abdel Basset al-Meghrahi was not so lucky as his professional partner. The sole evidence against Abdel Basset al-Meghrahi was a fateful purchase of a shirt he had made prior to the bombing of Pan Am flight 103. The merchant from whom he purchased the shirt, connected the dots, evidenced by the fact that a similar, if identical shirts was used in wrapping the explosives, which forensic evidence managed to have retrieved amidst the crashed site debris in Lockerbie Scotland. Base solely on this shirt and shopkeeper account, a connection albeit, tenuous, was made between the Abdel Basset al-Meghrahi, the shirt, the bomb, the bombing and the splintering of Pan Am flight 103.
Many in Scotland, including some victims of the bombing, were unconvinced that there was water-tight evidence against Abdel Basset al-Meghrahi to convict him of terrorist bombing of Pan Am flight 103. If there was no watertight evidence against the Libyan in the first place, many fair-minded Britons believed this to be the case were opposed to the conviction and sentence imposed on him in the end. The tragic loss of 270 persons in this fiery crash, which killed all 259 persons on board flight 103 and 11 more persons on the ground in Lockerbie, engendered understandable raw emotions and outrage. And the suggestion that that anyone or anything was responsible for such massive was of lives elicited revenge in the form of the severest punishments possible, for anyone who responsible.
Many western nations have routinely accused other nations of terrorism or sponsorship of same. Some nations as a consequence were named the Axis of Evil by George W. Bush a former president of the United States. Some nations were named rogue states, sponsors of terrorism and proliferators of atomic, biological and or nuclear weapons as well. Oppression and terrorism are evils which should be rejected by all persons. All reasonable persons! Some have argued and continue to argue that global inequalities and abject poverty wrapped in hopelessness is the cause source of terrorism, terrorism seem to derive from oppression, almost always and invariably so. It is therefore argued that global security attainment will be possible, only through the reduction of abject poverty and desperation worldwide.
Until a few years ago, was a labeled and castigated by western nations as a pariah in the international community of nations. When Pan Am airline was bombed out the skies in 1988, western nations “linked” Libya almost inexplicably to the flaming inferno and air crashing deaths in Scotland. Libya was at the time an outcast to Western nations. It is unclear how this perception of Libya by the West, seeming without direct and specific evidence precipitated the accusations against Libya as a rogue nation and therefore, Libyan agents as actors in the criminal enterprise of bombing Pan Am flight 103 out of the skies. There were raw emotions by the massive loss of lives, and these emotions were further inflamed, by the belief in the western world, that Libyan Intelligence agents were the culprits. This obviously may have impacted the outcome, the conviction and sentence of Abdel Basset al-Meghrahi, who allegedly acted in concerted with another defendant, who was never convicted. This exoneration of the other defendant heightens the possible innocence of Abdel Basset al-Meghrahi, but for his connection with the store-bought shirts as told to the trial by the storekeeper.
Many in Scotland, including some members of victim families doubted conviction and sentence of Abdel Basset al-Meghrahi, some in the legal community also expressed reservation as to the fact of a single evidence by the storekeeper which was never corroborated by anyone else or through any other source. Baset Meghrahi filed an appeal while that appeal was pending he became afflicted with cancer of the prostrate, and was told it was terminal. Scotland made a deal with the prisoner. He will be released, if he dropped his insistence on proving that he is innocent of the charges which led to his conviction and sentence to life in jail. After several years of confinement, coupled with being afflicted with cancer of the prostrate of terminal variety, there was really no choice to be made by the prisoner. He took the offer and jetted out of Scotland within hours of being freed from the slammer dungeon life.
Baset Megrhahi arrived in Libya to an uproarious flag waving welcome by joyously proud Libyans, this, according to critics in western nations, was contrary to the gentleman agreement entered into by the leader of Libya, Moumar Ghaddaffi. Adding the fuels and accelerants of tsunami of blistering criticisms in western nations, was what filtered out in the midst of all this. Britain had feigned powerlessness over the Scot’s legal system and political leadership, in the freedom-for-terrorist-affair; then came word, that some in Britain actually exerted pressure and lobby efforts targeting Scotland, on behalf of Libya, efforts and lobby, to free the prisoner, motivated by an oil deal which is in the works between Libya and a plethora of British oil multinationals.
Since this seismic revelations about this Oil-For-Terrorist angle of the twisted fate of Abdel Basset al-Meghrahi saga, high ranking office holders in the United States including Senator Charles Schumer, the senior US senator from the state of New York, as well as the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and sundry victim families, have publicly fumed about the release of Baset Meghrahi whose innocence they say is assailable. The FBI Director, Mr. Mueller actually, took an extraordinary step of writing to express his consummate displeasure to the authorities of Scotland, and Scotland promptly accused him of breaching order, protocol, convention and rules of diplomatic engagement etc.
It is worth a mention that these reactions were all in the works, as soon as suggestions and speculations surfaced in the media, regarding the possible release and freedom for Abdel Basset al-Meghrahi, and the tempo and intensity was made worse by the incremental indecencies which seemed to have belied the release of and freedom for Abdel Basset al-Meghrahi, this is so, in the eyes and perspectives of victims’ families in particular.
Those who were somewhat unhappy about release and freedom of someone who, in their assessment, remains the cause of their bereavements, release and freedom, hinged on compassion for a prisoner with terminal illness and near-death, became more incensed as they learned of the pressure and lobby efforts exacted on Scotland by Britain. Then, there is now the incendiary crescendo, for the victims’ fam
ilies as they now have to add acid and salt to their still very raw bereavement injuries, with the outwardly unconscionable outrage perpetrated against them and the memory of their loved ones, in the name of a contemplated business deal for British multinational oil companies.
In the eyes and from perspectives of victims’ families, this Oil-For-Terrorist deal is the unkindest cut, and the ultimate betrayal by those who saw to it, that Abdel Basset al-Meghrahi is now a freeman. Among the questions being asked by victims’ families and even the average person, is whether Baset should have remained in prison, while he pursued his appeals to determine whether his conviction remained sustainable, based on the sole uncorroborated evidence of a lone witness, the storekeeper who connected him to a particular shirt purchase.
Would he have been eventually vindicated? Did he compromise his insistence on his professed innocence in order to have a shortcut to freedom in view of his precarious state of health? Or, is his release justified? Is this really all about oil or compassion? Or is this really an Oil- For-Terrorist Release Program?