“Seeking to forget makes exile all the longer; the secret of redemption lies in remembrance.” — Richard von Weizsaecker
Tomorrow night the President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, will as dress the people of this republic on why we are carrying out military action in Libya against Muammar Gaddafi. I don’t know what he will say, but I am sure, due his track record, it will be a weak speech filled platitudes to his brilliance and compassion as was his speech at the Tucson memorial.
No doubt he will give us a lot of gobbledygook about international coalitions, acting in concert with our partners and our responsibility to the UN. He will attempt to play on our heart strings as he talks about our humanitarian mission. I will guarantee there will be two words you will not hear — retribution and justice.
When I watch his address I will be thinking Jerry Don Avritt. Who may you ask is Jerry Don Avritt? Jerry was my neighbor while I lived in a modest middle class neighborhood on Westminster, California. Jerry was also the 46 year-old flight engineer on Pan Am flight 103, a Boeing 747 that was blown out of the sky on the night of December 20, 1998 over the town of Lockerbie, Scotland.
I did not really know Jerry, but he was still my neighbor and a member of my community. He lived in house similar to mine and his kids attended the same schools mine did. His wife shopped at the same grocery stores and they no doubt spent time Christmas shopping at our community mall, the Westminster Mall.
On that 20th of December the Westminster Mall was all decked out for Christmas replete with colored lights, Christmas wreaths and a Santa Claus for the children. I don’t know if Jerry got to see the mall with his wife and kids. You see he was busy flying back and forth to Europe for Pan American Airlines.
Jerry had 8,068 hours of flight hours and was on his way to becoming a second officer (co-pilot), something he never had the chance to realize. Twenty years ago, on 20th December 1988 at 7.03pm, flight Pan Am 103 named Clipper Maid of the Seas, exploded and pieces of the plane fell onto the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing 243 passengers, 16 crew and 11 residents of Lockerbie. A total of 270 people, aged from 2 months to 82 years old, from 21 nations died that terrible night. The Pan Am Flight 103 was 38 minutes into its journey when it was blown up at 31,000 feet.
It took thirteen years and much investigation to finally bring the bomber to justice in a Scottish court. On January 31, 2001, after 86 days of testimony and motions, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi was convicted by unanimous verdict of the bombing. His co-defendant, Lamin Khalifa Fhima, was acquitted. Al Megrahi was sentenced to life imprisonment, but was released on compassionate grounds after serving 8 years of his sentence. Upon his return to Libya he was greeted by Muammar Gaddafi and cheering crowds. Today he resides in a villa in Tripoli and his health is reported to be just fine.
There have many conspiracy theories out forth about the bombing of Pan Am 103, theories ranging from complicity by the U.S. Government in drug smuggling to a US/UK cabal with Libya for oil. Recently, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, Libya’s former justice minister, has claimed, “The orders were given by Gaddafi himself.” Jalil, Gaddafi’s sworn enemy and head of a provisional government, has courted Western sympathy, in competition with his former boss, using this claim as his trump card. If you spend some time searching the Internet you will find numerous sites and blogs asserting numerous theories behind the bombing. Just as in the case of the assignation of John Kennedy these theories will not doubt go on and on throughout the years even if Gaddafi is ousted and we find documents to prove he was responsible. Sometimes, in the principle of Occam's Razor, that principle that generally recommends selecting the competing hypothesis that makes the fewest new assumptions is the correct one.
Michael Isikoff writes for NBC News that A former top CIA official who helped oversee the agency’s investigation into the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, tells NBC News there is "no doubt" that Moammar Gadhafi personally approved the bombing.
"There are two things that you can take to the bank," said Frank Anderson, who served as the agency's Near East affairs chief between 1991 and his retirement in 1995. "The first one is, Pan Am 103 was perpetrated by agents of the Libyan government. And the second thing is, that could not have happened without Moammar Gadhafi's knowledge and consent.”
“The statement by Anderson — and other comments to NBC by a top FBI agent on the case — could give fresh momentum for a reopening of the Lockerbie investigation. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week that she intended to push for such a probe in light of new claims by Libya's ex-justice minister, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, that he had "proof" that Gadhafi ordered the bombing, which killed 270 people, including 190 Americans.” I hope, no matter the outcome of out kinetic military action in Libya, we can finally get the bottom of this case and silence the kooks and nuts that populate the Internet. Or maybe we should ask Julian Assange?
On August 24, 2010 the Christian Science Monitor ran a story addressing the rekindling of these conspiracy theories. “The fact that the former Libyan intelligence agent has now lived nine months longer than doctors predicted has rekindled conspiracy theories of Magahi’s innocence. The thinking goes that "compassion" for Megrahi was merely a pretext to release a man secretly known to be innocent without having to make embarrassing admissions of error.”
“But to Richard Marquise, the lead FBI investigator into the bombing, the public doubts expressed about Megrahi, who was convicted by a tribunal of three Scottish judges in 2001, are puzzling and frustrating. In his 31 years at the FBI, Mr. Marquise said he's rarely seen a "stronger circumstantial case" than the one against Megrahi, who was also caught repeatedly lying to investigators and reporters. "There's nobody else that I'm aware of anywhere in the world that has such evidence pointing to their guilt," he says.”
“Another Libyan agent tried along with Megrahi was acquitted. Megrahi was found guilty of planting the explosive device in a suitcase that was placed on an Air Malta flight originating in that country and tagged for transfer to the Pan Am flight. Investigators believe it was on the orders of Libyan intelligence.”
“Marquise says that "there were other people that we strongly believed were involved in terms of the planning process and ordering process.... Megrahi was the guy who was assigned to get it done. We think at least six were probably involved if you only had to make an intelligence case, but in terms of making a criminal case, we didn't have strong enough evidence."
On March 10, 2011 the parents of Mark Zwynenburg spoke out and asked questions about exactly who today’s Libyan rebels are … and if they’re the same people who cheered the return of the Lockerbie bomber to the middle eastern country. George Williams, 80, said Tuesday he never believed al-Megrahi acted alone in the bombing that killed his son, Geordie Williams, 24. Geordie Williams was a decorated Army officer who was flying home to spend Christmas with his parents when he was killed.
"We didn't suspect it, we knew it," George Williams said of Gaddafi. "He murdered his own people — imprisonment, terrorism, he tortured his own people."
Williams said his conviction that Gaddafi was involved in the Lockerbie bombing grew stronger in 2009 after the Libyan leader sent his private plane to bring al-Megrahi back to Libya after a cancer diagnosis prompted his release from a Scottish prison. Williams said he is looking forward to the U.S. government's actions toward Gaddafi, and hopes he gets to see justice served in his lifetime.
There are many more similar stories from the families of the victims of the Pan Am 103 bombing. And like George Williams they are hoping not only to get justice, but also the truth.
It is now up to Obama to put final closure on this story. For the sake of the family of Jerry Avritt he can do it.
The following videos tell the story of Pan Am 103.