Monday, August 24, 2009

The Two Faces of Terrorism

On July 3, 1988, Iran Air Flight 655 was mistakenly shot down by the U.S. Navy warship Vincennes, killing all 290 passengers onboard. Vice President, George H.W. Bush, declared that the downing of the commercial airliner had been a wartime incident and that the crew of the Vincennes had acted appropriately to the situation at the time. He refused to apologize for the incident despite the fact that the Vincennes was unlawfully in Iranian territorial waters. When they returned to the U.S., the crew of the Vincennes were awarded Combat Action Ribbons and the United States has yet, some 20 years later, to issue an apology or to admit wrongdoing.

Five months later, on December 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was brought down by a bomb over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 259 passengers onboard as well as 11 people on the ground. Most of the passengers were Americans. The accused Libyan bomber, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, was released from a Scottish prison on Thursday despite outrage by victims' families and the U.S. government. President Obama condemned the hero's welcome he received in Libya as "highly objectionable." Al Megrahi has continuously denied involvement in the bombing and, despite my lack of evidence, I still honestly believe that Iran, not Al Megrahi or Libya, was responsible for this attack in retaliation for the Iran Air Flight 655 tragedy. The United States certainly wasn't going to hold Iran accountable for bringing down an airliner after refusing to be held accountable for bringing down one of theirs. To do so would be highly hypocritical. In order to appease the Pan Am victims' families, however, someone had to be brought to justice and Libya was the perfect scapegoat. In 1986, a bombing raid ordered by President Reagan on Libya killed the 15-month-old adopted daughter of Libyan leader, Muammar al-Gaddafi, thus giving him a reason to want to strike back at the United States.

Between the two air disasters, over 500 innocent lives were needlessly lost. And while terrorism is certainly to blame for the crash of Pan Am 103, the United States' arrogant lack of diplomacy in regards to Iran Flight 655 should certainly bear it's own responsiblity for the Pan Am tragedy.

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