[This is the heading over two letters published in today's edition of The Herald. They read as follows:]
No matter whether you believe that Libya and Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, seeking revenge for the bombing of Tripoli and Bengazi by the USAF in 1986, were responsible for Lockerbie, or whether you believe that it was Iran obtaining vengeance for the US destruction of its airliner in July 1988 with the loss of 290 lives, you are forced to the same conclusion: the Lockerbie atrocity was an act of revenge. What could better support Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s argument?
During the hearings in the Camp Zeist court, long before the verdict was reached, I heard a US citizen suggesting that “Libya should be nuked" and one of us was asked by another American how we (UK relatives) could bear to sit near the Libyan relatives in the public gallery. Was that a kind of school-bus racism or merely evidence of a presumption of as yet unproven guilt?
The US Lockerbie relatives I have met are decent folk with similar objectives in life to ours. Some have become friends and have been most generous on many occasions, welcoming us into their homes and sharing research with us. They deserve closure on their grief, just as we do in the UK, and it is very sad that some now seem unable to consider for themselves whether Megrahi really was guilty, preferring blindly to accept what their culture is telling them, a culture which seems to some of us, and I suspect to Cardinal O’Brien, to steer a path perilously close to revenge under the mantra of God’s Own Country “kicking ass”. But is the right ass being kicked, or is that of secondary importance in US culture?
It is as the cardinal says: there is a clash of cultures and, like him, I want to live in a culture capable of compassion. I believe that the Church of Scotland also supported compassionate release of Megrahi.
A culture tending towards vengeance will always find widespread support, because the lust for revenge is latent in us all. When I first went to see Colonel Gaddafi to ask that he allow his people to be tried in a Scottish court, I knew I did not want the alleged culprits to be tried in the US, where I felt sure that, given even a minimum of evidence, they would be found guilty and executed. Like the cardinal, I did not want that option to be available.
I also believed that Scottish justice was among the fairest available. I still believe that if Scotland can set up or allow a vehicle for the full objective re-examination of the evidence to be created, she could redeem her reputation for fairness. We must remember that our own Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission found after more than three years of careful scrutiny that this trial may have been a miscarriage of justice.
History would look askance upon a country that left so great a question unresolved, and with such evidence available. The world might be more credulous of the result if Scotland allows a distinguished, expert and uninvolved set of examiners to address the issues. Yes, Scottish heads might roll, and to applaud that risks being vengeful, but there are still the entities of right and wrong in this world, and the Scottish nation has existed long enough to know the difference.
There was evidence at Camp Zeist that made me and many others doubt Megrahi’s guilt. Much more has accumulated since, and the total of it now strains credulity beyond breaking point. Not only that, some of the evidence which has accumulated, even since the SCCRC made its comments, suggests connivance in the perversion of justice. More detailed allegations should await a fully empowered re-assessment.
Rightly, Scotland accepted the burden of bringing justice down upon the heads of those responsible. For that privilege, it must now bear the responsibility for making sure that the verdict reached is sound, and seen to be sound, beyond any reasonable doubt.
The world owes us all the truth, and we need a system of justice in which we can have faith.
Dr Jim Swire
Cardinal Keith O’Brien has not missed and hit the wall. He is absolutely correct to attack the US “culture of vengeance” and support Scottish officials’ decision not to go crawling to America.
While every sympathy must go out to the bereaved families in America, it sometimes tends to be forgotten that Scotland also suffered greatly in the Lockerbie atrocity. I fully agree with Dr Jim Swire when he says we should look for justice rather than vengeance.
The night before the US led invasion of Iraq, I recall a telephone conversation I had with an American friend when we spoke of our horror of what was to come. We agreed that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, but as my friend sadly remarked: “America has to blame someone, and anyone will do.”