Many around New Jersey are up in arms over recent news that Libyan leader Muammar Kaddafi may be setting up shop in Englewood when he comes to speak at the United Nations next month (see Communal leaders rally to ward off murderous dictator). Although the United States has been on better diplomatic grounds with the African nation in recent years, Kaddafi’s action this past weekend shocked and dismayed many.
Convicted Pan Am 103 bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi received a hero’s welcome on Sunday and a warm embrace from Kaddafi, despite U.S. requests that Libya keep his homecoming low-key.
Scotland has said its decision to release al-Megrahi, the only person convicted in connection to the 1988 Pan Am bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, is based on compassion. Al-Megrahi has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Some reports, however, postulate that the decision may have had more to do with Libya’s vast oil supplies than with sympathy for al-Megrahi’s condition.
Let’s assume, for the time being, compassion was the reason. On one hand, we understand the desire to show compassion. Sometimes, though, compassion is misplaced. By showing compassion for al-Megrahi, Scotland essentially – and we assume unintentionally – spit in the faces of the friends and families of the 270 victims of Pan Am flight 103.
Some things should never be forgiven or forgotten. This is one of them.
A few months ago, the United States and Germany stood at a similar crossroads. John Demjanjuk stood accused of being a Nazi concentration camp guard. He had been living in the United State for decades, and after several trials, including one that accused him of being the brutal guard known as “Ivan the Terrible,” he returned to Ohio. New evidence surfaced in 2005, though, and Germany began demanding his extradition.
Demjanjuk’s family argued not only for his innocence, but also that at 89 he was too old and his health too poor for him to make the trip. In the end, the United States agreed to the deportation and last month he was officially charged in German court with 27,900 counts of acting as an accessory to murder.
In this case, compassion for the victims won out over compassion for the accused. With the wounds from Lockerbie still so fresh in the minds of those affected, we must seriously question Scotland’s motives.