It was the worst terrorist attack in Britain’s history, the deadliest assault on U.S. civilians until 9/11 and a political powder keg that roiled governments around the world. And via the latest WikiLeaks release we are finding out the real reason why the only man convicted for the attack was freed from a Scottish Prison sixteen months ago.
On Dec. 21, 1988, a bomb exploded in the forward cargo hold of Pan Am Flight 103, a jetliner flying from London to New York. Within less than a minute, the Boeing 747 splintered into thousands of pieces and fell 31,000 feet, smashing down in the village of Lockerbie, Scotland. The impact killed 11 villagers and destroyed 21 homes. None of the 259 people on board the aircraft survived.
On August 21, 2009 Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi, the only man convicted of the terrorist attack, was released from the Prison where he had been serving a life sentence. Because he supposedly had less than three months to live, he had been sent home to Libya to die. Under pressure from Great Britain, Scottish courts were forced to show more mercy to al-Megrahi than he showed to the 270 people he killed.
Almost a year and a half later, the mass murderer is still alive, according to the doctor who originally said he had three months to live the Lockerbie murderer may be around for up to ten more years and we are finally finding out the real reason the al-Megrahi was released.
According to State Department cables released by WikiLeaks, Great Britain released the mass murderer because of threats to its interests around the world, by the Libyan government, and despite all of the objections Obama made after the monster was sent back to Libya the United States knew exactly what was going on.
A cable sent in October 2008 said that Britain at the time was “in an awkward position” and “between a rock and a hard place”. The London charge d’affaires, Richard LeBaron, wrote, “The Libyans have told HMG [Her Majesty’s Government] flat out that there will be ‘enormous repercussions’ for the UK-Libya bilateral relationship if Megrahi’s early release is not handled properly.”
Another cable written in January, shows that the United States knew that British citizens would be in danger if al-Megrahi wasn’t released.
They do not anticipate that GOL [Government of Libya] officials will pursue another application for bail, and said they had no information from the FCO to suggest that al-Megrahi’s application for compassionate release, which was denied in November, would be re-submitted in light of his deteriorating medical condition. U.K. Emboffs began consulting with us in December about deliberations concerning their security posture and tripwires for action should al-Megrahi die in Scottish prison. Consistent with information reported reftel, GOL officials have warned U.K. Emboffs in demarches here that the consequences for the U.K.-Libya bilateral relationship would be “dire” were al-Megrahi to die in Scottish prison. Specific threats have included the immediate cessation of all U.K. commercial activity in Libya, a diminishment or severing of political ties and demonstrations against official U.K. facilities. GOL officials also implied, but did not directly state, that the welfare of U.K. diplomats and citizens in Libya would be at risk.
Later in the same cable it says:
The failure of Switzerland and Libya to resolve the dispute prompted by the arrest of Muammar al-Qadhafi’s son, Hannibal, last July has convinced U.K. Emboffs that the consequences if al-Megrahi were to die in prison or if the transfer under the PTA were denied would be harsh, immediate and not easily remedied
It also shows that the nascent Obama administration decided to stay quiet about the eventual release.
If the USG publicly opposes al-Megrahi’s release – or is perceived to be complicit in a decision that results in al-Megrahi remaining in prison – the U.S. Embassy and private Americans in Libya could face similar consequences.
And we also knew that Megrahi was going to live longer than than the publicly stated three months.
A cable said: “Megrahi could have as long as five years to live but the average life expectancy of someone of his age with his condition is 18 months to two years. Doctors are not sure where he is on the time scale.”The Libyans have not yet made a formal application for compassionate release … but HMG believes that the Scottish may be inclined to grant the request, when it comes, based on conversations between … Alex Salmond and UK justice secretary Jack Straw. Although the general practice is to grant compassionate release within three months of end of life, this is not codified in the law, so the release, if granted, could occur sooner.”
It seems that the release of the Lockerbie Killer is as much a failure of US policy as it is of British policy. Great Britain allowed itself to be bullied and threatened into releasing a mass murderer. But the United States knew exactly what was happening, made no attempt to help its British ally withstand the threats from Tripoli and after it all went down, acted with surprise and anger. Perhaps it was the lack of experience of the Obama Administration, or maybe it was the start of Obama’s move away from the US’s European allies, but either way it does show that the Obama Administration cannot be trusted.