Archive for the ‘Iran’ Category

What the NYT Doesn’t Say About the Lockerbie Bombing

Pan Am Flight 103, bound for New York, exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988.  A total of 270 people were killed, including 189 Americans. Credit: Martin Cleaver/Associated Press

Robert McFadden’s article “Megrahi, Convicted in 1988 Lockerbie Bombing, Dies at 60” appears in today’s New York Times print edition and reports on the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in which two-hundred and seventy people were killed in the terrorist attack. And while McFadden offers a lot of information on the incident and the controversial case of the suspected bomber, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the article stops short of an alternative explanation.

McFadden writes that Al-Megrahi was “the only person convicted in the 1988 bombing of an American jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland.” This much is true.

It is also true that al-Megrahi “insisted that he was not guilty,” as well as that he was a “former Libyan intelligence officer.”

And it is true that “after doctors said he was likely to die within three months, he was freed in 2009 under a Scottish law providing for compassionate release of prisoners with terminal illnesses.”

And of course it is true that,

Cheering crowds greeted his return to Libya, escorted by Colonel Qaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam in a grim propaganda coup. His release infuriated many families of the bombing victims, touched off angry protests in Britain and the United States and was condemned by President Obama and other Western leaders.

But compare the incident with what happened five months before the Lockerbie bombing when the U.S.S. Vincennes—which was patrolling the area in service to Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in his war of aggression with Iran—shot Iranian Air Flight 655 out of the sky, killing all of its 290 civilian passengers.

The captain of the U.S.S. Vincennes, a Mr. Will Rogers, was not only greeted by cheering crowds following his indisputable act of terrorism (as opposed to the dispute surrounding al-Megrahi), but was rewarded for it. That is, according to the New York Times article in late 1988: “Crew of Cruiser That Downed Iranian Airliner Gets a Warm Homecoming.”

Not only is the differential treatment revealing, but the incident itself will have some bearing on the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.  

Which brings us to when things begin to unravel in the case against al-Megrahi.

The enigmatic Mr. Megrahi had been the central figure of the case for decades, reviled as a terrorist but defended by many Libyans, and even some world leaders, as a victim of injustice whose trial, 12 years after the bombing, had been riddled with political overtones, memory gaps and flawed evidence.

Following years of Libya refusing to turn-over al-Megrahi, he finally agrees to turn himself over for a trial, which lasted just under 90 days. On the trial McFadden writes that, “None of the witnesses connected the suspects directly to the bomb.”

And even though McFadden reports that “Tony Gauci, the Maltese shopkeeper who sold the clothing that forensic experts had linked to the bomb, identified Mr. Megrahi as the buyer,” it is noted that “Mr. Gauci seemed doubtful and had picked others in photo displays,” and that,

It emerged that Mr. Gauci had repeatedly failed to identify Mr. Megrahi before the trial and had selected him only after seeing his photograph in a magazine and being shown the same photo in court. The date of the clothing sale was also in doubt.

McFadden then goes on to briefly explore how other witnesses were found to be “untruthful and unreliable,” and that one witness “admitted that he had lied at the trial” and that “the fragment [of a piece of evidence] he identified was never tested for residue of explosives, although it was the only evidence of possible Libyan involvement.”

The problems of the trial are compounded when McFadden reports how “Hans Köchler, a United Nations observer, called the trial ‘a spectacular miscarriage of justice,’ words echoed by Mr. [Nelson] Mandela.”

It is true that, as McFadden writes, “Critics charged that Mr. Megrahi’s release had been a part of Libyan oil and gas deals with Britain.” But what McFadden doesn’t report on is the pecuilar arrangement surrounding the release. Part of the deal was that al-Megrahi had to promise to drop an ongoing appeal. This is significant because in June of 2007 the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) noted a hand-full of incidences in the trial that validated Köchler’s declaration of a “miscarriage of justice.”

The most McFadden gives to this is the brief comment was that al-Megrahi “dropped a second [appeal] to clear his repatriation.” No explanation or details provided.

In other words, more than 1,500 words is dedicated to the trial and conviction of a man where the evidence of his guilt is non-existent, and the only trial that succeeded in finding him guilty was a declared “miscarriage of justice.”

Worse, the victim of this injustice had to promise to drop his appeal—which would prove embarassing to those who “reviled” him—just to be able to go home and die in peace, after struggling with terminal cancer.

By ignoring the U.S. bombing of an Iranian air liner, the more probable alternative explanation for who was behind the Lockerbie bombing is also ignored.

The alternative has some merit. Prior to the focus being put on al-Megrahi the U.S. government had built up their case against the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command (PFLP-GC) leader, Ahmad Jabril. A U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency memo from 1989 says the PFLP-GC were contracted by Iranian authorities for $1 million to carry out the bombing.

And while McFadden reports that, “The court’s inference that the bomb had been transferred from the Frankfurt feeder flight was also cast into doubt when a Heathrow security guard revealed that Pan Am’s baggage area had been broken into 17 hours before the bombing, a circumstance never explored,” McFadden doesn’t explore the incident further, or provide relevant context.

It was a German investigation that found that the PFLP-GC were familiar with the components of the Lockerbie bombing, as they had used them before, and that the PFLP-GC had cased out the Frankfurt airport.

All signs pointed to Iran as the culprit for revenge for the Flight 655 bombing, but as the U.S. entered in slightly improved relationships with both Syria and Iran in 1990, the focus mysteriously changed to what McFadden calls the “enigmatic Mr. Megrahi” whom “little is known about.”

It is curious how McFadden and the New York Times can ignore the U.S. bombing of Flight 655 and the considerable evidence against Iran. Because in February 1989, in the aritlce “Palestinian Group and Iran Tied to Pan Am Bomb,” the Times noted that, “Evidence in the investigation of who planted the bomb that destroyed a Pan Am jumbo jet over Scotland in December increasingly points to a Palestinian terrorist group working in concert with hard-line elements within the Iranian Government, United States officials say.” A U.S. official is even quoted as saying that, ”There is no question that there is some organizational connection between the P.F.L.P. – G.C. and factions of the Iranian Government.”

When the U.S. went to war with Saddam in early 1991, they clearly wanted the support, or at leat the non-intereference of Syria and Iran. In a September 1990 article by Thomas Friedman, “CONFRONTATION IN THE GULF; Assad Assures Baker of Support in Gulf,” we are told that former Secretary of State James Baker met with Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, and that “their meeting was the first between a senior American official and the Syrian President since the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which United States intelligence agencies widely believe was carried out by a Syrian-sponsored Palestinian organization”—the PFLP-GC.

Following this there was no more talk about the PFLP-GC, and Iran. The “evidence” that was “increasingly” pointing in one direction, and which had officials saying “there is no question” that it points this way, all of a sudden is disposed down the memory hole. Now it is Libya and al-Megrahi, and the New York Times didn’t miss a beat.

This is all a testament to the service provided by the propaganda system, which the NYT is a part of. It speaks volumes about the quality and integrity of the “paper of record” when it’s focus depends more on who Uncle Sam is eyeing as the perpetrator—which is clearly centered around politics—and less the available facts. We have seen this switch in countless other examples. At one time Saddam Hussein was a good guy. At one time it was Iran who was accused of the chemical warfare attack in Halabja, Iraq. And just as the U.S. government will change its tune to reflect the political environment of the time, the New York Times will follow suit. This latest article attests to that.


NYT Admits Ahmadinejad Never Threatend to Wipe Israel Off the Map but . . .

April 19, 2012 Leave a comment
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

After seven long years of warmongering fanatics in Israel and the U.S. claiming that Iran’s President Ahmadinejad threatened to exterminate Israel, the New York Times finally decided to investigate.

In Robert Mackey’s blog, “Israeli Minister Agrees Ahmadinejad Never Said Israel ‘Must Be Wiped Off the Map’,” readers are told how Israel’s minister of intelligence and atomic energy, Dan Meridor, recently sat down with Al Jazeera’s Teymoor Nabili, where the latter said,

This idea that Iran wants to wipe Israel out, now that’s a common trope that is put about by a lot of people in Israel, a lot of people in the United States, but as we know Ahmadinejad didn’t say that he plans to exterminate Israel, nor did he say that Iran’s policy is to exterminate Israel.

—to which Meridor replied, “You’re right.”

Elsewhere on the fringe of the media it was widely known that Ahmadinejad never said Iran wanted to exterminate Israel, and that a more accurate interpretation was that the current regime will not last; that history will eventually see the nightmare pass. It was more a prophetic statement about what Ahmadinejad saw as inevitable. The Zionist government in Israel, that is stealing and occupying Palestinian land, abusing non-Jews, and waging wars against its neighbors will not last forever.

And while it’s still a bomb-shell of an admission there is a “but.” Despite the fact that Mackey finally lets the cat out of the bag, Iran’s negative view of Israel is still harped on as some sign that they are the bad guy. It is never considered that the myth has been exploited for seven years by those who want war, and how such warmongering from the U.S. and Israel might be behind Iran’s negative views. You see, we can be frothing at the mouth with eagerness to attack another country—while running for President back in 2008 Hillary Clinton can say she would “totally obliterate,” and President Obama can smile while saying “all options are on the table” when referring to a military attack against Iran—but our press will ignore that and focus on those who are declared an “enemy” of the state.

For example, Mackey writes that, “Mr. Meridor also pointed out that Iran’s leaders have continued to deny Israel’s right to exist and used highly inflammatory terms to describe the state.” The blog continues with numerous examples of this, even accompanied with pictures that are supposed to show the depth of Iranian depravity.

Mackey, however, does not deal with the grim realities of Israel’s polices in the region, and towards its own non-Jewish minorities. In other words, the context of why Iran, and many others, hold such negative views of Israel is never explored. The word “Palestine” or “Palestinian” is not mentioned at all, nor are the settlements and massive wars of aggression like the attack on Gaza in 2008/2009. Decades of expanding settlements, kidnappings, Mossad terrorist attacks against Iranian scientists, Israeli invasions, torture, murder, and more are completely expunged—leaving nothing but the horrible things Iran says about Israel.

In the middle of all this talk about not recognizing Israel’s right to exist, or wiping Israel off the map, there is no talk about Israel not recognizing Palestine’s right to exist, or there very real policies of slowly wiping Palestine off the map.

Notice this map ends at 1999; a lot more land has been gobbled up over the last 13 years

It was also very disconcerting to read where Mackey wrote that Ahmadinejad has “made so little effort to explain that he was misquoted,” but he never questions why Western media made so little effort to ask him.

And that brings up another thing that I have always found revealing about the journalistic integrity of the New York Times, and other Western media sources.

In May 2003 it was revealed by investigative journalist Gareth Porter that Iran made a peace offer to the U.S. and Israel, and that President Bush punished the messenger for delivering the offer.

We also know that Iran has supported FISSBAN, an international program that would put nuclear facilities under strict control and supervision of a team of international inspectors.

This begs a few questions: Why, in the middle of the drums to war, has the NYT, and other mainstream sources of the so-called “free press,” not explicitly asked Ahmadinejad: “Mr. President, does your 2003 peace offer still stand?,” and, “Does your government still support FISSBAN?” These two questions could go a long way to easing tensions and making peace. Readers of the Times should be inquiring as to why the “paper of record” has “made so little effort” to use their prominence, and simply ask.