Posts Tagged ‘Abdel Baset al-Megrahi’

Scotland key to Gaddafi dilemma – get him kilt

March 26, 2011

Intervention forces aren’t the only ones in Libya searching for an exit strategy. As last month’s protests against the 42 year rule of Moammar Gaddafi turned violent, many experts suggested the Libyan leader had to fight to the death because he had no alternative. If only Gaddafi (why doesn’t everyone call him Gaddafi Duck?) could take refuge somewhere, perhaps there could be a negotiated solution to end the bloodshed.

Scotland should step up and offer Gaddafi a safe haven. Since releasing Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi in August 2009, Scotland has had an empty Libyan mass murderer suite. It can fill that vacancy with the mastermind of the December 1988 bombing that killed the 259 passengers on Pan Am flight 103, most of them Americans returning home to spend Christmas with their families, and 11 people on the ground in the Scottish village of Lockerbie. Doctors gave al-Megrahi just weeks to live due to advanced cancer, but he’s survived more than a year and a half since his triumphant homecoming.

Upon granting al-Megrahi compassionate release Scotland’s Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill bragged about his country’s finely developed sense of humanity. “In Scotland, we are a people who pride ourselves on our humanity. It is viewed as a defining characteristic of Scotland and the Scottish people,” MacAskill waxed. “The perpetration of an atrocity and outrage cannot and should not be a basis for losing sight of who we are, the values we seek to uphold, and the faith and beliefs by which we seek to live.” Welcoming Gaddafi would give Scotland another chance to uphold those values, and MacAskill another chance to hear the beloved sound of his own voice beaming across international airwaves.

Scotland and Gaddafi could be a good fit – and not just due to growing sentiment Gaddafi ought to be kilt. There’s plenty of attractive countryside for pitching his tent. Some of that land is even owned by the guy who gave Gaddafi a place to raise a roof over his head in New York, Donald Trump. Another Gaddafi deal would help The Donald flesh out his foreign policy resume for a presidential bid.

Gaddafi could blend Scottish tradition with Islamic law by spending some of this alleged fortune on developing halal whiskey. Success in that venture could do more to build good relations between Muslims and non-Muslims than any international armed expedition.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.

Don’t boo Andy Murray because he’s Scottish

September 11, 2009

Watching the US Open tennis tournament, once Taylor Dent beat Ivan Navarro to set up a third round match with Andy Murray, I found myself hoping the New York crowd would boo Murray off the court. Not just because Dent is an American and the tournament’s top feel-good story after two operations for back trouble that could have left him in a wheelchair. Not just because I don’t like Murray’s playing style, personality, bad teeth, or rock star entourage before he’s topped the charts. No, I wanted the fans in my home town to bury Murray because he’s from Scotland. But as soon as I thought it, I knew it was wrong.

Scotland, you’ll recall, released convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi from prison last month. Most of the 270 victims of the Christmas week 1988 airliner bombing were Americans, bound for New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport, about 15 kilometers from center court at Flushing Meadow (note from Queens native: Flushing Meadow is correct; Flushing Meadows is wrong, no matter how often it’s repeated). Scottish Justice Minister Kenny Macaskill marked himself for near-universal approbation with his smug claims of superior compassion for al-Megrahi while showing none for the victims of the cowardly attack and their families.

Documents released since the release show the British government, Murray’s other national flag, shares culpability in the abhorrent decision. Moreover, the release seems so wrong, so ill-conceived, so irrational, that suspicion lingers – and evidence mounts – that there must have been an under the table deal with Libya, trading al-Megrahi’s freedom for oil or some other commercial consideration.

Americans and decent people all over the world have a right to be angry at the governments of Scotland and Britain. But that doesn’t give them any right to be angry at Scottish people like Andy Murray. Americans, of all people, should understand that.

For most of the George W Bush administration, America was the most vilified nation on earth due to the invasion of Iraq. (For some, Ameriphobia dates to Vietnam, Hiroshima, the dawn of the military industrial-industrial complex, or back to that Scotsman Adam Smith.) As an American living overseas, whenever nationality was mentioned, I took great pains to explain I didn’t support Bush or the Iraq invasion. I didn’t want to get blamed for the stupid things my government did.

Holding civilians responsible for the sins of their governments is precisely what terrorists do. Al-Megrahi and his co-conspirators, or whoever bombed Pan Am flight 103, didn’t ask any of the passengers what they thought about US support for Israel or its enmity toward Libya. No one checked the nationalities of workers filing into New York’s World Trade Center twin towers on that clear morning eight years ago. They became victims simply because they were presumed to be Americans by madmen who considered their nationality a criminal act.

Like ordinary folks, athletes don’t deserve to be victimized for their citizenship, but it happens. Recall the 1972 Olympics in Munich or the March ambush of Sri Lanka’s national cricket team playing in Pakistan. Tennis has escaped the violence but not the politics. Israeli players are routinely denied entry visas for tournaments in Arab countries. In the Fed Cup, the women’s international team competition, Indonesia chose to forfeit rather than play in Israel. On the other end of the scale, Murray, like his British number one predecessor Tim Henman, faces extraordinary pressure from the home fans at Wimbledon, the biggest tournament in tennis, where no British man has won the title since 1936.

Some years ago, I experienced a version of politics and sports mixing badly on a basketball court in Washington, DC. Some guy I’d never played with began roughing me up from the first dribble, pushing and elbowing in an otherwise relaxed game. I’m not that good a player, so hardly merited the special attention. It took me a couple of points to realize it had to be because I was white (the only white player in the game) and this young black man hated white people, or at least hated playing basketball with them. I’d never done anything to him, and I wasn’t a racist (certainly not as far as he knew). But he judged me solely on my membership in a certain target group and acted out, just as the terrorists do.

Athletes, like the rest of us, deserve to be judged on who they are, not what they are or where they’re from. So fellow New Yorkers and tennis fans everywhere, show your sportsmanship and enlightenment: don’t boo Andy Murray just because he’s Scottish. Boo him just because he’s Andy Murray, and delight with me that he crashed out of the US Open in the fourth round.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.

Don’t blame Libya for cheering bomber

August 22, 2009

Libya’s warm reception for convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi has become the focus of outrage. Pictures blanketing news programs showing crowds in Libya cheering al-Megrahi are fanning fury. But that anger is misplaced and misguided.

Anger over al-Megrahi’s release should be directed at the Scottish and British governments that freed him. Scottish so-called Justice Minister Kenny Macaskill’s pompous, self-righteous justifications for the release ought to make that that easy. Still, it’s hard to imagine why the authorities thought it was a good idea to let this guy go free. On the planet where I live, there’s no compassion due anyone who kills 270 innocent people without warning or cause other than the accident of their nationality.

Furthermore, if there was some inclination to release al-Megrahi, then Libya should have given something in return, such as turning over officials responsible for the 1988 pre-Christmas bombing that targeted Americans returning home for the holidays. It makes little sense for authorities to just let al-Megrahi go, adding credibility to the claim by Moammar Gadhafi’s son that there’s a trade deal tied to his release.

Despite the inflammatory pictures of cheering crowds greeting al-Megrahi, the reception was reportedly subdued by Libyan standards. Moreover, the issue of released prisoners is almost invariably bound to offend someone. Think of the homecoming of that certified American hero, Senator John McCain. His heroism traced to dropping bombs from the thousands of feet in the air, endangering innocent civilians even when not specifically targeting them. Imagine how North Vietnamese, particularly those who lost loved ones to American bombs, felt seeing him lauded and meeting with the president after his release. Terrorism is in the eye of the beholder.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.

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