Carlton Meyer, “American Bungling Destroyed Pan Am 103” (Tales of the American Empire, May 2020)
To understand the rush of information in this short video about the role of the incident in which the USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655, a civilian passenger jet, setting in train moves by the Iranian government to seek vengeance on the Americans, leading to the bomb explosion that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie in Scotland in December 1988 for which Libya was made to endure unending global opprobrium and an economic blockade, and see one of its citizens convicted and imprisoned for the crime, viewers need to have an open mind to accept the possibility that the US government bears ultimate responsibility for the terrorist attack on the ill-fated American passenger jet – not least because the captain of the USS Vincennes at the time it shot down the Iranian passenger jet was a man known by his peers as overly aggressive towards to the Iranian military while the USS Vincennes was stationed in the Persian Gulf. This means considering the very real possibility that Libya never had anything to do with a crime for which the country has endured decades of opprobrium and economic blockade, and for which one of its citizens was wrongly convicted and imprisoned for several years. The video probably needs repeated viewing at least a couple of times for the details about how the Iranian government conspired with a radical Palestinian group to plant the bomb on board, perhaps with the connivance of the CIA and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), to sink in. Once the viewer is familiar with these details, the film’s central premise – that a captain responsible for combined deaths of over 530 people ends up receiving an award instead of being court-martialled for reckless behaviour, and that the US covered up for the Iranians to preserve its reputation as a superpower and an exceptional nation that cannot be brought down by a lesser power – eventually sinks in.
Perhaps a slower pace would have been more ideal for the voice-over narration: the video quickly sweeps through Lester Coleman and Donald Goddard’s book “Trail of the Octopus: From Beirut to Lockerbie – Inside the DIA” which posits that terrorists had infiltrated a DEA drug operation outside the US and the DEA’s own incompetence allowed these terrorists to smuggle a bomb on board Pan Am Flight 103. Scant attention is given to a possibility that the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) themselves were fighting a turf war: the scenario is that the CIA was running a heroin ring in the Middle East which had been busted by the DIA; DIA agents boarded Pan Am Flight 103 in London with evidence of this ring; the CIA colluded with its Middle Eastern partners (who themselves had indirect links to the Iranian government) to replace the DIA suitcase containing incriminating evidence with one containing the bomb. Even less attention (that is, zero) is given to the possibility of South African involvement in the bomb plot.
The video expounds at some length on why Libya was picked as the scapegoat for the Lockerbie disaster: the US had long detested Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Ghaddafi for overthrowing Libya’s monarchy in 1969, shutting down a US base on Libyan soil and establishing a society on socialistic lines. Blaming Libya for the bombing rather than Iran conveniently killed three birds with one stone, leaving Libya further out in the cold from the international community, preserving US superpower status, one supposedly impenetrable from challenges by dirt-poor Middle Eastern states, and diverting public attention away from asking hard questions about the actions of the USS Vincennes in shooting down a civilian airliner. By doing this, the US revealed itself as much a coward as it was a liar.
In all of this, the role of other nations, especially Britain, in aiding and abetting an injustice against Libya and Abdelbaset el-Megrahi is unfortunately ignored – but then this video is part of a series of works on US military and political interference around the globe. What other countries, especially European countries like France and Italy, hoped to get out of ganging up on Libya remains unknown. The cynicism and hypocrisy involved in blaming Libya for a heinous crime carried out by other parties with the connivance of their allies in the West are breath-taking.