COMMENTARY | Abdel Baset al-Megrahi died peacefully at home on Sunday morning, surrounded by his family, finally succumbing to prostate cancer. He deserved to die alone in a windowless prison cell.
“He was too sick to utter anything on his death bed,” his brother Abdel Hakim told Reuters. What were we expecting, an apology?
Al-Megrahi murdered 270 people. A ruthless killer, he was convicted in 2001 of masterminding the 1998 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Stunningly, Al-Megrahi was released from a Scottish prison in 2009 on “compassionate grounds.”
At the time, we were assured he had only months to live. Yet he survived nearly three years, with each day of his freedom mocking the families of the survivors left behind in his wake after one of the most horrific and unjustifiable terrorist attacks in world history.
The U.S. investigated claims his release was a backroom deal between the British government and Moammar Gadhafi, to secure additional Libyan oil for the UK. Victims’ families clamored for Al-Megrahi to be extradited and re-imprisoned once Gadhafi fell from power in 2011.
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer told CNN, “Both the Scottish and British governments have not been forthcoming. The whole deal smelled of a deal for oil for this man’s freedom and that was almost blasphemy given what a horrible person he was and the terrible destruction and tragedy that he caused.”
Indignation from Schumer after Al-Megrahi’s death seems a little pointless, just as it did when President Obama criticized the decision immediately after Al-Megrahi’s release.
Why did Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron not stop Al-Megrahi from being released in the first place? Great Britain is our most loyal ally, our most trusted friend in the world community. Are we truly to believe that Al-Megrahi’s prison release was entirely a Scottish decision, with no input from Cameron or Obama?
189 Americans died instantly when Flight 103 exploded in flight, burning debris and burning bodies raining down on the citizens of Lockerbie.
The United States has faced other enemies in the last 25 years, notably Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Libya under Gadhafi was our most consistent enemy. And while Ahmadinejad and Hussein saber-rattled, they valued self-preservation enough that they seldom struck directly against the United States or our allies.
Though his rhetoric softened towards the end of his regime, and Gadhafi spoke the words necessary to regain some acceptance back into the world community, there was no détente. Gadhafi was a dictator. He was a terrorist, America’s most dangerous enemy, and he could not be trusted.
There can be no justice for the 270 innocent victims of Al-Megrahi’s terrorism. Time will pass, yet there will be no peace for the families they left behind, many which had no bodies to bury after the explosion. They did not want Gadhafi’s blood money, they wanted justice. They wanted Megrahi to die in prison. Instead he died with dignity, a national hero. They deserved better.