Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Vincennes. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Vincennes. Sort by date Show all posts

Monday 11 January 2016

A look at Lockerbie: Iran Air Flight 655

[This is the headline over an article, the first in a projected series, published yesterday on the website. It reads in part:]

The tragic story of the Lockerbie bombing begins in Iran, with the US downing of Iranian Air Flight 655 killing 290. Part 1 of a multi-part series.

Following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the Shia of Iran were asserting autonomy from Western control. Sunni leader Saddam Hussein, nervous about the influence that the revolution might have on his own country's Shia majority, invaded Iran and started the Iran-Iraq war of 1984-1988. Saddam, fully supported by the United States, felt confident that his victory would be swift. However, after a long stalemate the tide had started to turn on Iraq, and by 1987 the country was facing the serious possibility that it would be conquered by Iran. In 1988, the US, anxious to save their friend Saddam from destruction, began attacking Iranian oil platforms and ships. US operations had killed 56 Iranians by June of 1988.

One US naval vessel dispatched to the region was the USS Vincennes, commanded by Captain Will Rogers III. The Vincennes was a state-of-the-art Aegis cruiser. Designed to fight against advanced Soviet weaponry, the Vincennes was purported to be able to shoot down 200 incoming missiles at once. As Newsweek would later write in its in depth analysis of the events, “The Vincennes had a dubious reputation inside the U.S. fleet in the gulf…By early July, Rogers was widely regarded as ‘trigger happy,’ according to several high-ranking officers.” Indeed few could scarcely imagine just how apt this description would prove to be.

On the morning of July 3rd, 1988, Rogers successfully provoked gunboats into attacking his recon helicopter in Iranian territorial waters. Rogers quickly rushed to engage the gunboats despite it being a clear violation of Iranian sovereignty. When he arrived, the helicopter was no longer in any danger. However, even though the boats posed no threat to the Vincennes (which Newsweek speculates the gunboats might not have even seen), Rogers claimed on the radio that the gunboats were headed towards him and that he needed to engage in self-defense. At this time, David Carlson, the perplexed captain of the nearby USS Sides, wondered if Rogers in his billion dollar Aegis Cruiser felt threatened by the gunboats (little more than speedboats with crude weapons attached), then why didn’t Rogers simply turn around and leave? Rogers did not leave and instead received the go ahead from his commander in Bahrain to engage. However, the Aegis cruiser was designed to shoot down advanced Soviet weaponry, not lightly armed speedboats, so the task proved more difficult than Rogers first imagined it would be and he became involved in a protracted battle between his billion dollar ship and four speedboats with small guns attached to them.

Right around this time, Iran Air Flight 655, was taking off from Bandar Abbas Airport with 290 people on board. The flight was on its regularly scheduled flight to Dubai, which it ran twice every week. At the time of take off the USS Vincennes, identified Iran Air Flight 655 as “assumed hostile” and sent a computerized query to the airplane’s transponder to see if it was civilian or military. The plane’s computer identified itself to the Vincennes as civilian, but Vincennes crew-members were suspicious. Initially monitoring the situation was Petty Officer Andrew Anderson. Anderson, apparently confused by the time zones of the Gulf, did not find the regularly scheduled flight in the Navy’s book of commercial air traffic and speculated that the plane might be an F-14 fighter posing as civilian. Anderson alerted his commander Scott Lustig and his commander alerted the captain that a possible Iranian F-14 was inbound. (...)

Even if it was an F-14, the models that the Iranians owned (which were sold by the US to the Shah in the 1970s), were outdated and designed only for air-to-air combat, and therefore could do little against the Vincennes. However, after trying to hail the plane on military channels (which of course the passenger flight did not respond to because it was communicating on civilian channels) Rogers gave the green light to shoot down the aircraft. After announcing his intentions over military channels to take down the aircraft, USS Sides captain David Carlson, “wondered aloud in disbelief”, but assumed that the Vincennes must have some information that he did not. Attempting to fire, Scott Lustig pressed the wrong keys on his console 23 times before finally launching the missiles. Upon confirming that the missiles struck their target the crew of the Vincennes issued “a spontaneous cheer,” as Rogers would later recount in his farcical book, Storm Center.

Soon reality came crashing down on the crew of the Vincennes as wreckage and bodies from the civilian airliner began falling. All 290 passengers, including 66 children were killed. An entire Iranian family of sixteen, on their way to a wedding in Dubai, was killed, the children wearing their wedding clothes. It is assumed that many, if not most of the passengers were alive as they fell from the sky.

The reaction of Western leaders and the media was despicable. In an address to the UN Security Council Vice President George HW Bush said that the Vincennes acted “in self-defense,” and that “Iran, too, must bear a substantial measure of responsibility for what happened.” Bush went on saying, “There are three ways for Iran to avoid future tragedies… Keep airliners away from combat. Stop attacking innocent ships. Or, better still, the best way is peace.” An op-ed written on July 5th in The New York Times argues that Rogers “had little choice” other than to shoot down the airliner. “Blame may lie with the Iran Air pilot for failing to acknowledge the ship's warnings and flying outside the civilian corridor. Iran, too, may bear responsibility for failing to warn civilian planes away from the combat zone of an action it had initiated.” Conveniently, the Iran Air pilot, Mohsen Rezaian, was not alive to counter these accusations. Referring to US lies claiming that the Vincennes was engaged with Iranian gunboats to protect a German merchant vessel, William Safire wrote in a New York Times op-ed, “As the plane approached, ignoring repeated warnings and reportedly sending conflicting signals, the naval officer must have thought of the fate of the frigate.” Safire went on to criticize what he called, “military second-guessers”, and that “responsibility lies with the nation that started the war (Iraq) [sic] and the nation that grimly demands victory (Iran) [sic].” Never mind, of course, the fact that Iran was invaded by Iraq which attacked with the full support of the US government.

US government lies about what had occurred shifted daily as their statements became disproved. Initially the government claimed that the flight was descending in “attack mode” rather than ascending. This initial lie led to disgusting op-eds in Western media outlets speculating that the Iranian pilot was trying to fly his plane into the Vincennes. However, it would soon be proven by David Carlson and a nearby Italian naval vessel that the flight was in fact ascending not descending. Vice President Bush claimed that the Vincennes was rushing to the aid of a merchant vessel under attack, a claim which was a complete fabrication and which would later be retracted. It would then be claimed that the flight had been communicating the wrong signal, which was not true and was misinterpreted by crew members of the Vincennes. The lies were dispatched succinctly in a Newsweek article analyzing the disaster.

After news of the story broke, and a degree of international scrutiny was fixed on US actions, citizens of Vincennes, Indiana, began to pay more attention to an ongoing fundraising drive for a monument to the USS Vincennes in their hometown. (...) Robert Fisk writes, “When the ship returned to its home base of San Diego, it was given a hero’s welcome. The men of the Vincennes were all awarded combat action ribbons. The air warfare coordinator, Commander Scott Lustig, won the navy’s Commendation Medal for ‘heroic achievement,’ for the ‘ability to maintain his poise and confidence under fire’ that enabled him to ‘quickly and concisely complete the firing procedure.’” Captain Rogers retired honorably in 1991 after receiving the Legion of Merit award for “exceptionally meritorious conduct as a commanding officer (of the Vincennes).”

Following this crime, and the subsequent arrogance of the US leadership, the Iranians and people across the Middle East became convinced that the crime was committed intentionally. The Iranian leadership interpreted it as an act of war and furthermore believed that unless they retaliated the US would continue to shoot down its commercial airliners. In the months that followed, the Iranian leadership would host several meetings of bomb experts across the Middle East, and would start to forge a plan to show the West that Iran was capable of retaliating in a significant manner.

Wednesday 1 October 2014

The psychology of the USS Vincennes incident

A fascinating long extract from cognitive psychologist Viki McCabe’s recent OUP book Coming to Our Senses: Perceiving Complexity to Avoid Catastrophes has just been published on the UTNE website. The extract is headed Structural Perception in the USS Vincennes Incident and deals with the errors in perception by the captain of the ship that led to the shooting down of Iran Air flight 655, and what caused those errors. The following are brief extracts, but the whole piece deserves to be read:]

At 9:54 am on July 3, 1988, the US Navy cruiser Vincennes mistakenly shot down Iran Air’s Flight 655, killing all 290 people on board. It was the ninth worst incident in aeronautical history and to make it even worse, the decision that led to these deaths was based on a theory of the situation rather than on supporting evidence. (...)

When this incident began, the Vincennes was in Iranian territorial waters in violation of international law and had been mixing it up with several Iranian gunboats. At 9:47 a.m., a distant blip—an airplane lifting off from Bandar Abbas airport—was picked up by the Vincennes’ radar, whose crew responded immediately with a standard Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) query. They received a Mode 3 Commair response, which indentified the plane as a commercial airliner. But during the gunboat fracas circumstances on the Vincennes had become chaotic, and in the confusion the crew ended up providing mixed messages—one speculating that the blip could be an enemy F-14 fighter jet and another insisting the blip was a civilian plane.

“In the cramped and ambiguous combat environment of the Persian Gulf…the captain chose to rely on his own judgment.” He reportedly ran a simulation of the situation in his mind where he tried “to imagine what the pilot was thinking, what the pilot’s intent was.” His belief—that without direct evidence, we can nonetheless deduce what someone whom we do not know and cannot see is planning to do—could qualify as magic thinking. Yet without checking further, the captain developed the theory that the plane was an F-14 fighter and that it was diving directly at the Vincennes.

A simulation is not the situation itself. It is only a theory of the situation. A key point is that no one else actually saw this theorized threat. In fact, a crew member standing right behind the captain later “testified that he never saw indications that the aircraft was descending.” Further, the commander of a nearby frigate, the USS Sides, reported that his radar showed an ascending, not a descending plane. That plane was not only much larger than a fighter jet, but it was also flying in Iranian airspace over Iranian territorial waters on its regularly scheduled twice-weekly flight from Tehran, Iran to Dubai, United Arab Emirates via Bandar Abbas, Iran. The radar-tracking systems of the Sides and the Vincennes both covered that same airspace. When the record of the Vincennes’ tracking system was later reviewed, the information it showed was found to be identical to the one from the USS Sides. How was it that the captains of these two ships reported seeing such different situations? (...)

University of Michigan psychologist Richard Nisbett testified before Congress that both the Vincennes’ captain and his crew suffered from “expectancy bias.” Expectancy bias occurs when people expecting something to happen allow this to distort their view of what is actually happening to match their expectations. Nisbett proposed that because the Vincennes’ crew believed the blip was a hostile plane, they failed to see the ascending Airbus. Instead they apparently imagined a descending enemy fighter. But expectations, like simulations, are similar to theories. All three are mental versions of situations as opposed to perceptions that reveal the situations themselves. In other words, by pointing the finger at the people involved and their possible propensities to see what they expected to “see” instead of what was actually there, Nisbett overlooked the more basic role that substituting a cognitive for a perceptual process—a theory for actual evidence—played in promoting this event. We often forget that our cognitive processes lack windows on the world. They receive their information about what goes on outside ourselves from our perceptual systems. They then translate that complex intelligence into simpler symbolic forms that are often influenced by our preconceptions, theories, beliefs, and general worldview. Without such a theory to set the stage, the captain’s and the crew’s expectancy bias would have no ground upon which to play out.

The Navy compounded the situation by creating false videos to cover up what actually happened. The Iranians were enraged at such a maneuver and accused the United States of a “barbaric massacre” and “vowed to avenge the blood of their martyrs.” There have been unconfirmed rumors that to retaliate, the Ayatollah Khomeini retained a hit man who, on December 21, 1988, blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. On November 16, 2003, the International Court of Justice concluded that the actions of the Vincennes in the Persian Gulf were unlawful. The most important fact to take away from this dismal tale is that the outcome would have been very different if the captain and crew of the Vincennes had simply put their theories aside and paid more attention to the information on the radar screen. That information revealed the true structure of this complex event in which the location of the blip, the commercial airspace on the radar, and the ascending Airbus in the sky were linchpin components.

Thursday 23 April 2015

"Exceptionally meritorious conduct" by USS Vincennes officers

[What follows is the text of a report published in The Washington Post twenty-five years ago today:]
The Navy has awarded special commendation medals for "meritorious service" to two of the top officers who were serving on the USS Vincennes at the time the cruiser shot down an Iranian airliner over the Persian Gulf with 290 people aboard.
The citations for the special commendations to former Vincennes skipper Capt Will Rogers III and Lt Cmdr Scott E Lustig, who was the ship's weapons and combat systems officer, do not mention the downing of the aircraft on July 3, 1988, an error that took the lives of the plane's passengers and crew.
The medals were awarded to the two men early last year.
Instead, the Navy citation to Rogers states, "The president of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Legion of Merit" -- the armed forces' second highest peacetime award -- "for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service as commanding officer ... from April 1987 to May 1989."
After describing the Vincennes' skirmish with seven Iranian boats minutes before it shot down the civilian aircraft, the medal citation states, "Captain Rogers's dynamic leadership, logical judgment and unexcelled devotion to duty reflected great credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the US Naval Service."
Lustig, the Vincennes's weapons officer on that day, was given two Navy commendation medals -- one for his four years of service on the Aegis cruiser, the other for his role in the surface skirmish.
The Navy praised Lustig for "heroic achievement" in connection with firing on the seven Iranian boats and lauded his "meritorious service" as weapons and combat systems officer from 1984-88.
Navy officials said this week that while Rogers and some of his officers made mistakes in connection with the shooting, the commendations were awarded for their "contributions to the USS Vincennes over their entire tour on board."
The Navy, in its official report on the jet's downing, did not discipline any of the officers involved but blamed the shooting on a series of human errors that snowballed in the chaos of the ship's Combat Information Center, where Rogers and Lustig were positioned.
"Mistakes were made on board Vincennes," retired admiral William J Crowe Jr, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote in his review of the incident, adding, "This regrettable accident, a byproduct of the Iran-Iraq war, was not the result of culpable conduct aboard Vincennes."
But the skipper of another ship that was on the scene of the July 3 incident wrote in the September 1989 issue of the US Naval Institute Proceedings that the Vincennes had gained a reputation for being an overly aggressive "robo-cruiser" and "likely provoked the sea battle with the Iranian gunboats that preceded the shootdown."
"Having watched the performance of the Vincennes for a month before the incident, my impression was clearly that an atmosphere of restraint was not her long suit," wrote Cmdr David R Carlson, skipper of the frigate USS Sides, which monitored the jet's downing. Carlson added, "My guess was that the crew of the Vincennes felt a need to prove the viability of Aegis (the highly sophisticated anti-aircraft system on the cruiser) in the Persian Gulf, and that they hankered for an opportunity to show their stuff."
Both decorated men remain in the Navy: Rogers is commanding officer of a Navy unit that trains senior officers in military tactics; Lustig is executive officer of another Navy cruiser, the Navy said.
[RB: Less than six months after the shooting down of Iran Air flight 655 with the loss of 290 lives, Pan Am flight 103 was destroyed over Lockerbie with the loss of 270.]

Tuesday 4 July 2017

US blames Iran for downing of IR 655

[What follows is excerpted from a report published on this date in 1988 in the The Washington Post. It provides evidence of the official disinformation that was being disseminated by the United States Government in the immediate aftermath of the shooting down of Iran Air flight 655 by the USS Vincennes:]

A US warship fighting gunboats in the Persian Gulf yesterday mistook an Iranian civilian jetliner for an attacking Iranian F14 fighter plane and blew it out of the hazy sky with a heat-seeking missile, the Pentagon announced. Iran said 290 persons were aboard the European-made A300 Airbus and that all had perished.

"The US government deeply regrets this incident," Adm William J Crowe Jr, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Pentagon news conference.

The disaster occurred at mid-morning over the Strait of Hormuz, when the airliner, Iran Air Flight 655, on what Iran described as a routine 140-mile flight from its coastal city of Bandar Abbas southwest to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, apparently strayed too close to two US Navy warships that were engaged in a battle with Iranian gunboats.

The USS Vincennes, a cruiser equipped with the most sophisticated radar and electronic battle gear in the Navy's surface arsenal, tracked the oncoming plane electronically, warned it to keep away, and when it did not fired two Standard surface-to-air missiles.

Navy officials said the Vincennes' combat teams believed the airliner to be an Iranian F14 jet fighter. No visual contact was made with the aircraft until it was struck and blew up about six miles from the Vincennes; the plane's wreckage fell in Iranian territorial waters, Navy officials said. (...)

Iran accused the United States of a "barbaric massacre" and vowed to "avenge the blood of our martyrs."

President Reagan in a statement said he was "saddened to report" that the Vincennes "in a proper defensive action" had shot down the jetliner. "This is a terrible human tragedy. Our sympathy and condolences go out to the passengers, crew, and their families . . . . We deeply regret any loss of life."

Reagan, who was spending the Fourth of July holiday at Camp David, said the Iranian aircraft "was headed directly for the Vincennes" and had "failed to heed repeated warnings." The cruiser, he said, fired "to protect itself against possible attack."

News of the downing of the plane began with sharply conflicting accounts from Iran and from the Defense Department of what had transpired in the Persian Gulf. Early yesterday, Tehran broadcast accusations that the United States had downed an unarmed airliner.

The Pentagon at first denied the Iranian claims, declaring that information from the fleet indicated that the Vincennes, equipped with the Aegis electronic battle management system, had shot down an attacking Iranian F14 jet fighter. But after sifting through more detailed reports and electronic intelligence, Reagan directed the Pentagon to confirm there had been a tragic case of mistaken identity in the war-torn gulf.

Crowe, in his hastily called news conference at the Pentagon, also backed up the skipper of the Vincennes and faulted the Iranian airline pilot.

Crowe said the Airbus had flown four miles west of the usual commercial airline route from Bandar Abbas to Dubai and that the pilot ignored repeated radioed warnings from the Vincennes to change course.

Why and how the Vincennes mistook the bulky, wide-bodied Airbus A300 for a sleek, supersonic F14 fighter plane barely a third the transport's size will be the subject of "a full investigation," Reagan promised. A military team under the command of Rear Adm William N Fogarty of the US Central Command will leave this week to begin that investigation, Defense Department officials said.

Sunday 9 April 2017

A classic mix of incompetence ... and deviousness

[What follows is the text of an article about Iran Air flight 655 that appeared on The Trusty Servant website on this date in 2014 (maps and graphics omitted):]
It was an Airbus A300 on a flight from Tehran to Dubai shot down by USS Vincennes on 3 July 1988 using guided missiles. All 290 people on board (16 crew, 274 passengers, including 66 children) were killed.
It was a classic mix of incompetence leading to the accident, and deviousness in trying, and eventually failing, to cover up what actually happened.
At first sight the shooting was hard to believe. The flight had a stop-over at Bandar Abbas. It took off normally from there at UTC 06:47, 27 minutes late. It flew normally down the commercial air corridor Amber 59, a 20-mile wide direct route to Dubai airport. It followed the normal flight plan of climbing steadily, aiming to reach 14,000 ft, then cruise briefly, then descend to Dubai. Its transponder was broadcasting the regular civilian code (“Mode III”, easily distinguishable from the military “Mode II”). When it reached 10 miles from the Vincennes still climbing, it was shot down on the basis that it must be an Iranian F-14 descending on its final attack run.
The Vincennes was at lat 26.513056N, long 56.015833W, 10.8 miles from the nearest point of the Iranian coast (the little island of Hengam, just south of Qeshm), inside Iranian territorial waters, and was in the process of attacking small Iranian gunboats which it had lured out with a decoy “Liberian ship” the Stoval. It was neither a ship, nor Liberian, but essentially just a transmitter to fool the Iranians into coming into range of the Vincennes’ helicopters and various other US ships that were in the area.
Indeed it turned out that the US had been engaged in a secret naval war in the Gulf for some while, a war for which it did not wish to seek authorisation under the War Powers Act.
The Vincennes had all the latest kit, known as Aegis.
This was a complex computer system linked into umpteen radars, intelligence feeds and other systems, designed to allow the ship to engage up to a hundred air or surface threats simultaneously.
It performed flawlessly.
The snag was apparently that the crew did not believe the information it was giving them. They expected the plane to be a hostile Iranian plane rushing to defend the gunboats, so that is what they managed to see.
There was also a classic time-zone mix-up. The ships clocks were on UTC + 4hrs, whereas Bandar Abbas was on UTC +3.5 hrs. So although the crew knew all about the IA655, they knew it could not be the plane on the radar, because the timing was wrong.
But part of the problem was that the Vincennes had too much information. All kinds of people were intercepting, real-time, the communications between IA655 and the Bandar Abbas control tower: GCHQ and NSA (with listening stations in Oman, including Goat Island), an AWACS plane (a Grumman E2-Hawkeye) above the Gulf.
All this information may not have been much help to the captain of the Vincennes faced with only a few minutes to make a decision as the plane closed on his position at about 6.5 miles/minute. Having said that, I am not inclined to be particularly sympathetic. There was precisely one scheduled flight out of Bandar Abbas that morning, IR 655, due to depart at 09:50 local time = 06:20 UTC. It was flying direct to Dubai, which would take it directly over the Vincennes. Clearly, avoiding downing that flight was a priority.
But the information was certainly a problem afterwards. Aegis provided a flawless audit trail. It showed that the crew had imagined things when they thought the flight was descending. It did nothing but ascend. There followed a lengthy period of giving out a mixture of flat untruths and heavily redacted truths, but the truth did emerge several years later.
Full details, and amusingly commented original documents etc, are available on Charles Harwood’s site.

Saturday 15 November 2014

"The White House took care of Lockerbie just as smoothly"

[What follows is excerpted from an article by Jack Cashill published on the WorldNetDaily website on this date in 2007 and referred to here on this blog:]

On the Sunday morning of July 3, 1988, at the tail end of the Iran-Iraq War, an Aegis cruiser, the USS Vincennes, fired two Standard Missiles at a commercial Iranian Airbus, IR655.

The first missile struck the tail and right wing and broke the aircraft in half. All 290 people aboard were killed. Misunderstanding America, the Iranians claimed that our Navy had intentionally destroyed the plane.

The Navy did no such thing. It does not destroy innocent commercial airliners intentionally. As retired Navy Capt David Carlson has well-documented, however, the shoot down was recklessly executed, relentlessly misreported, and dumped into the dustbin of history prematurely and all too consequentially.

Carlson was in a position to know. He commanded the USS Sides, a guided-missile frigate, just 20 miles from the Vincennes at the time of the incident and under its tactical control.

To this day he faults himself for not intervening in the Vincennes’ hasty command decision to launch the fatal missiles and for not speaking out sooner against “the corruption of professional ethics” that defined the incident’s assessment. (...)

As Carlson has reported, it served the career interests of the Vincennes’ command and the short-term national security interests of the White House to present the incident as an unfortunate result of an Iranian provocation.

In the waning days of the Reagan administration, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm William Crowe and Vice President George H W Bush took the lead in defending the Vincennes crew both against domestic critics and before the United Nations.

At the time, before the incident reports were complete, the two may have protested America’s innocence sincerely. Once voiced, however, these protests would prove difficult to rescind.

The Iranians were not pleased by the obfuscation. According to David Evans, former military affairs correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and Carlson’s writing partner, the Iranians responded by placing $12 million in a Swiss bank account to fund the revenge bombing of an American airliner.

Reportedly, the Palestinian terrorist group Ahmed Jibril took the Iranians up on the offer. This plot culminated less than six months after the IR655 incident in the destruction of Pan American Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. The on-board bomb killed 270 people, including 188 Americans and 11 sleeping Scotsmen below.

As might be expected, the media and Congress had no enduring interest in protecting a Republican administration. In July 1992, in the heat of the presidential election, Newsweek ran a bold cover story, “Sea of Lies,” which detailed the “cover-up” of this “tragic blunder.”

Following the article’s publication, Les Aspin, Democratic chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, held public hearings on the Vincennes incident and grilled Adm Crowe in the course of them.

“While it is not our policy to respond to every allegation that appears in print or goes out over the airwaves,” Aspin pontificated, “these charges go to heart of a very major historical event.”

On Sept. 19, 1992, a month after testifying before Aspin, the politically savvy Crowe made an unlikely pilgrimage to Little Rock, Ark. There, according to Carlson and Evans, Crowe “declared his fervent support for presidential candidate Bill Clinton.”

Upon being elected, Clinton appointed Aspin secretary of defense, and the probe into the Vincennes quietly died. Helping it stay dead was the newly appointed chairman of the president’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, none other than Adm Crowe.

A lesson may have been learned here. To keep the TWA Flight 800 story dead and buried a decade later, the Clintons saw to it that the executioner of the TWA Flight 800 deception – then Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick – was appointed to the 9/11 Commission. (...)

The White House took care of Lockerbie just as smoothly. Wary of engaging either Iran or Iraq despite continued provocations from both, the Clinton White House put the squeeze on the defenseless Libya.

In 1999, Clinton convinced Libyan honcho Gadhafi to hand over a pair of his hapless subjects, one of whom was eventually acquitted and the other of whom continues to protest his innocence.

It seems likely that in turning the White House over to George W Bush in 2000, the Clintons had reason to believe that the state secrets they shared with the elder Bush would be protected by the son.

So far at least, they have been proved right.

Wednesday 6 August 2008

The USS Vincennes affair

The following comes from Ed's Blog City:

'In the midst of the continuing appeal by the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing and the approaching Pan Am 103 Lockerbie 20 year anniversary, there was another painful anniversary marked last month. July 3rd marked two decades since Iran Airbus 655, carrying 290 civilians was downed over the Persian Gulf by an American warship and relatives of those killed gathered at Bandar Abbas to commemorate them.

'Many believe, contrary to the official line taken by the US and UK government's, that this particular event in July 1988 led directly to the attack on the Pan Am flight just before Christmas in 1988.

'The US, despite paying compsenation to the Iranian victims families, has never apoligised for the incident and in fact still to this day seems reluctant to show any remorse for the attack, wiping all recollection of the atrocity from memory.

'In a daily press briefing on July 2, 2008, the following set of questions and answers took place between an unidentified reporter and Department of State Spokesman Sean McCormack:

'QUESTION: Tomorrow marks the 20 years since the U.S. Navy warship Vincennes gunned down the IR655 civilian airliner, killing all 300 people on board, 71 of whom were children. And while the United States Government settled the incident in the International Court of Justice in 1996 at $61.1 million in compensation to the families, they, till this day, refuse to apologize...


'QUESTION: – as requested by the Iranian Government. And actually, officials in the Iranian Government said today that they’re planning on a commemoration tomorrow and it would, you know, show a sign of diplomatic reconciliation if the United States apologized for this incident.


'QUESTION: Do you think it sends a positive message if, on the 20th anniversary of this incident, the United States Government apologize?

'MR. MCCORMACK: You know, to be honest with you, I’ll have to look back and see the history of what we have said about this – about the issue. I honestly don’t know. Look, nobody wants to see – everybody mourns innocent life lost. But in terms of our official U.S. Government response to it, I can’t – I have to confess to you, I don’t know the history of it. I’d be happy to post you an answer over to your question.'

And the following, from the same blog, comes from Wiredispatch:

'Some 300 relatives of victims as well as artists and officials sailed from the southern port city of Bandar Abbas to the spot where the Iran Air Airbus A300 crashed into the water on July 3, 1988, killing all on board.

'The USS Vincennes shot down the airliner shortly after it took off from Bandar Abbas for Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Washington said the Vincennes mistook the airliner for a hostile Iranian fighter jet. Iran maintains it was a deliberate attack.

'In recent years, as tensions with the U.S. have increased, the anniversary has become an annual outpouring of anger at America, and it has drawn wider coverage in state media.

'Participants shouted "Death to America" and "We condemn U.S. state terrorism" as helicopters showered flowers on the crash site.

'"This crime will remain a disgraceful blot on the forehead of the United States (government). We are here today to say we will never forget the horrendous crime Americans committed against civilians," said Roya Teimourian, an Iranian actress.

'The participants released 66 white pigeons into the air in remembrance of the 66 children killed in the attack. Relatives of the victims tossed flowers into the water while a navy band played the Iranian national anthem and the song "Death to America."

'"How could a sophisticated warship like the USS Vincennes have mistaken a passenger plane for a fighter jet, which is two-thirds smaller?" said Mehdi Amini-Joz, who lost his father in the attack.

'Ali Reza Tangsiri, a military official, said the incident was a deliberate attack.

'"The airliner was increasing its altitude and was flying a commercial route. The Airbus has a general frequency which shows it is a nonmilitary plane. ... It was deliberately targeted by two missiles from the Vincennes," he said.

'Iran has called for the commander of USS Vincennes at the time, William C. Rogers III, to be brought to trial. In 1990, then-U.S. President George H. W. Bush awarded Rogers the Legion of Merit for his service as a commanding officer.

'Iran has said it received $130 million from a 1996 settlement that included compensation for families of the victims.'

Sunday 5 January 2020

Libya got the blame, but many in US and UK intelligence believe Iran gave the instructions

[What follows is excerpted from a long article by John Simpson in today's edition of The Mail on Sunday:]

Following the assassination of General Qasem Soleimani in the early hours of Friday morning – personally ordered by President Trump from his Florida holiday home, Mar-a-Lago – retribution is now a major priority for Iran’s leaders and their forces. And, as my Iranian friend implied, they have plenty of options. There are only two requirements: whatever action they take should satisfy Iran’s instinctive desire for vengeance, yet it should not be so blatant that it provokes the United States into an all-out war. (...)

There is a huge variety of alternative strategies. Iran has often staged cyber-attacks against Western targets, with some success; but although cutting American power supplies or the flow of information might be briefly satisfying to Iran’s leaders, it won’t have the element of personal revenge they want. As in the past, Iran can use proxy groups to attack international shipping in the Gulf. But Western intelligence and tactics have improved recently, and this may not be as effective as in the past. (...)

An eye for an eye has always been the approach of the clerics who control the government of the Islamic Republic. (...)

On July 3, 1988, the USS Vincennes, a new guided missile cruiser, was on patrol in the Gulf at a time of greatly heightened tension between Iran and the US. It found itself involved in a shoot-out with a group of apparently hostile Iranian gunboats. While the firing was still going on, an Airbus A300 of Iran Air took off from Bandar Abbas, a civil as well as military airport on the Gulf coast of Iran, and flew south towards the Vincennes.

As a result of a catastrophic technical mistake, the defensive systems on the Vincennes identified the Airbus as a military jet coming in to attack. Vincennes fired two radar-guided missiles at it, bringing it down with the loss of all 290 people on board.

By chance, a television team was filming on the bridge of the Vincennes that morning. The cameraman captured the delight of the crew when they thought they had shot down a hostile fighter, and the change to horror when it became clear what had really happened.

William Rogers, the captain of USS Vincennes who gave the order to fire the missiles, was cleared by a board of inquiry, but Iran believes to this day that the destruction of the Airbus was deliberate, and its leaders announced that they would avenge it.

Almost six months later, on December 21, a small group of Libyan terrorists associated with Iran’s close ally Syria planted a bomb on an American PanAm airliner. It blew up over Lockerbie, killing 270 people altogether. 

Colonel Gaddafi’s Libya got the blame, but many people in the American and British intelligence community believe that Iran gave the original instructions for the attack, to avenge the shooting down of the Airbus. (...) 
[RB: While many believe that Iran commissioned the destruction of Pan Am 103, no-one that I'm aware of has ever suggested that Abdelbaset Megrahi or Lamin Fhimah were members of "a small group of Libyan terrorists associated with Iran's close ally Syria" nor is there any evidence that such a group existed. If Iran was the instigator, the evidence points to the actual perpetrators being Ahmed Jibril's PFLP-GC and there is no evidence of any Libyan link to that group.]

Iran’s religious leaders believe their authority and the reputation of Iran now depend on getting specific retribution for President Trump’s ordering of the assassination of General Soleimani and his companions.