Saturday, October 13, 2012

Why We're in Lybia: Remembering Pan Am Flight 103

Garden of Remembrance, Dryfesdale, Scotland. Photo by Chris Newman, Creative Commons.

Ambassador Chris Stevens never forgot the victims of Pan Am Flight 103. Neither should we.

Nearly twenty-four years ago, on December 21, 1988, a bomb exploded on Pan Am Flight 103, Killing 270 people, including 35 Syracuse University Students returning from a semester abroad. Those students left the relative safety of up-state New York to learn about a less-familiar part of the world.  They, and their friends and families, paid a terrible price for broadmindedness.

Only one individual, former Libyan agent Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, was convicted of the crime in 2001. It seems absurd to think Megrahi acted alone. A former Lybian justice minister claims Gadaffi personally ordered the bombing of the flight.

Having served less than nine-years, Megrahi was released from a Scottish prison in 2009, ostensibly for humanitarian reasons. Magrahi was diagnosed with prostate cancer. When Megrahi returned to Lybia he was met by Gadaffi and a "hero's welcome."

However, it's also been reported that Magrahi was released early to clear the way for a $30 billion oil deal between BP and Gadaffi's government.

Following a U.S. backed effort to support Lybian rebels fighting to topple Gadaffi , an effort accomplished with zero American casualties or American troops on the ground, the dictator was killed in October, 2011. Since then, after 42 years of dictatorship, Lybia struggles to form a stable national government.

Earlier this year Ambassador Chris Stevens invited the Victims of Pan Am Flight 103 to a telephone conference. Here are excerpts reported from that meeting (emphasis added):
"Amb. Stevens noted that right now, Libya is often chaotic, but it is his belief that the Libyan people are hopeful for democracy. He explained that Libya is structured around tribal affiliations and there are also regional divisions, but if there is a homogeneous desire, it is for democracy. He expressed his optimism for the Libyan people and nation...(he indicated) there are steps we can take...the FBI to continue to pursue information about PA103 and to assist the Libyan government to find that information; and the status of Megrahi, Senussi and Moussa Koussa.
"When asked what his priorities will be when he arrives in Libya, Amb. Stevens stated that he wants to help ensure that there is a stable democracy and to find justice in the Pan Am 103 case."
Chris Stevens was a friend to the Lybian people. He believed in democracy and justice. He believed most Lybians did, too. He dedicated his life working for those goals, it turns out, at great personal risk. At the American consulate in Lybia, the heavily-armed terrorists found a soft target. They'll find others, as they've done in the past.

We remember the victims and honor the living and fallen brave ones who've risked their lives for justice and freedom.  And we keep after the bastards who would harm innocents and have us live in fear.

Let's keep the real target in focus. Let's focus on the terrorists and not those who've done a good job keeping Americans safe.

Related material: A timeline of events related to the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing.
Photo credit: Chris Newman through Creative Commons.

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