Saturday, 15 August 2015

And so it begins...

"I will never apologize for the United States — I don't care what the facts are... I'm not an apologize-for-America kind of guy." - Vice-President George H W Bush on the presidential campaign trail, quoted in Newsweek on 15 August 1988, six weeks after the USS Vincennes had shot down Iran Air flight 655 in the Persian Gulf killing all 290 on board.

1 comment:

  1. Yup, that's where it began right enough.

    Th IR655 incident was an accident, albeit the result of an "accident waiting to happen" in the form of the over-aggressive captain of the "Robocruiser". But the Iranian authorities believed it was a deliberate, provocative attack.

    If Reagan and Bush had reacted in a mature and statesmanlike manner, admitting error, apologising sincerely for the loss of life, paying proper compensation without being forced or shamed into it, and demoting that bloody captain rather than pinning a medal on him, it's just possible that Iran would have been mollified. But they didn't, and it wasn't, and 270 more people lost their lives in Scotland later that year.

    I'm certain that, rather than anything to do with the Gulf War, was the reason for the US enthusiasm to blame Libya for the atrocity. Reagan tried to blame Libya the minute it was confirmed that explosion-damaged debris had been found at Lockerbie. Even though the strong circumstantial evidence pointing to the PFLP-GC and Iran forced him and his successors to back off on that, there's a distinct undercurrent of "Libya, Libya" discernible in the first year or so of the investigation. After the effort to pin the crime on the PFLP-GC ran into the sand (due to the police being perversely convinced the crime had happened in Malta when it actually happened at Heathrow), the Libya narrative was simply dusted off and re-introduced.

    No doubt that was very convenient a few months later when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. But I'm certain the primary impetus was a desire to decouple Pan Am 103 from Iran Air 655, and avoid the repercussions for the Reagan/Bush administrations of their refusal to handle the latter incident sensibly and compassionately.