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.