Volume , Number 0
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Companies Cash in on Patriotism
Media War Without End
Anthrax, Drug Transnationals And TRIPs
Bioterror And Biosafety
Feminist Analysis and the Crisis
A Country Abandoned
Richard alan Leach
Are You A Patriot?
The New World Order Rule â€¦
The Politicization of Terror
Shake, Rattle, and Rolling Over â€¦
On Terror And War
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The New World Order Rule Of Injustice
The Lockerbie case
The U.S. war against Afghanistan was entitled “Operation Infinite Justice,” before this was changed after Arab protests that only God displays infinite justice. This shows once again that Arabs do not understand New World Order reality: what the United States does is simply because it chooses to do it. When it decides, its allies, the UN, and the “international community” follow obediently.
Such actions are just even when they clearly and explicitly violate international law. New Humanitarian Richard Falk explains that the Afghan war is “the first truly just war since World War II,” although its justice “is in danger of being negated by the injustice of improper means and excessive ends” (Nation, October 29, 2001). Law is irrelevant as the “perpetrators of the September 11 attack cannot be reliably neutralized by nonviolent or diplomatic means,” although Falk couldn't know who these perpetrators were. But his “analysis” satisfied him that violence was necessary for “justice” and “to restore a sense of security at home and abroad” (presumably including Afghanistan, Pakistan, India). He misses the point that even if force was required it can follow lawful processes. His statement on factors possibly rendering the just war less just, “improper means and excessive ends,” were already operative at the time he wrote. If a million Afghan civilians starve as “collateral damage” in this war, presumably it will remain just, because it is “truly just” in advance of actual effects and despite being negated.
It is now a long tradition that international law does not apply to the United States. During the Reagan era the United States even vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling on countries to abide by international law. When in 1986 the International Court of Justice found that this country had engaged in the “unlawful use of force” against Nicaragua and should pay reparations, the United States ignored the Court; the New York Times condemned the Court as a “hostile forum” and supported the U.S. position that the court could be disregarded. So did the liberal law professor Thomas Franck, who wrote in the NYT, July 17, 1986 that this country must retain the freedom to act as world policeman—it “needs the freedom to protect freedom,” as it had done in Guatemala, Chile, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia.
The U.S. uses the law and the UN when they serve its interests, and ignores them when they interfere (for numerous illustrations, Phyllis Bennis, Calling the Shots; Noam Chomsky, Rogue States). As Madeleine Albright said in 1993, the United States will act “multilaterally when we can, and unilaterally as we must.” When it acts multilaterally and uses legal processes, the multilateralism is usually nominal only, and the legal processes are bent to a political end with little regard for substantive due process.
This was dramatically evident in the Lockerbie case. After a decade of sanctions imposed on Libya by the UN (read: United States and its British lieutenant) for failure to yield to the imperial partners the two individuals alleged to have carried out the bombing of Pan Am 103, there was a trial in the Netherlands that convicted one of the Libyans on evidence that can only be described as laughable. (The decision is under appeal.) This show trial was nevertheless treated as entirely fair in the West and especially in the United States. The only remaining problem, the New York Times editorialized, was that Iraq, now “shown to be complicit in the attack,” must accept responsibility, “disclosing all it knows about the Lockerbie bombing and paying appropriate compensation to the victims' families” (“The Lockerbie Verdict,” February 1, 2001).
Western liberals and leftists also refer to the Lockerbie case as a model to follow more often, where, for once, the United States and Britain used legal processes instead of making war. Walden Bello, for example, claims that, “patient diplomacy secured the extradition from Libya of suspects in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jumbo jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, and their successful prosecution under an especially constituted court in the Hague” (“How to lose a war,” BusinessWorld, October 23, 2001).
But the case wasn't tried in The Hague, although the 1971 Montreal Convention explicitly says that disputes shall go to the International Court of Justice, which is located in The Hague. The partners chose instead to bypass the International Court in favor of an easily managed Security Council. Bello also overlooks the politicization of the case from beginning to end, the dishonest police work in the conduct of the investigation—including the harassment of those challenging the official line—and the compromised trial and final outcome, as well as the seriously damaging effects of the sanctions imposed on Libya.
This kindly treatment of the Lockerbie case calls to mind David Binder's conclusion after the Sandinistas were ousted in an election in Nicaragua in 1990, that this was a testimonial to U.S. “patience” (“Nicaragua: Victory for U.S. Fair Play,” NYT, March 1, 1990). After all, the United States had not invaded Nicaragua to remove a government it disapproved of—instead, for a decade it used a terrorist army to destroy and kill, imposed a boycott, and prevented international institutions and banks from lending to Nicaragua, thereby halving Nicaragua's national income. At election time in 1990 it openly threatened more of the same unless voters ousted the Sandinistas. But it did not invade, so this was the “good” United States in action.
The Pan Am 103 plane shot down over Lockerbie in December 1988, with 259 victims, was almost surely targeted under Iranian auspices in retaliation for the destruction of the Iran Airbus 655, with 290 civilian victims, by the USS Vincennes in July 1988. The U.S. media have carefully avoided mentioning this link, which is awkward. The Iranian plane was shot down by a U.S. naval vessel on a mission to help the then U.S. ally Saddam Hussein fight Iran; the Iranian airliner was on course and, according to a nearby Naval Commander, unthreatening. On his return to the United States, the commander of the ship that shot down the Iranian airliner was given a hero's welcome and, in 1990, was awarded a Legion of Merit for “exceptionally meritorious conduct.” This must have made the Iranians furious, but no U.S. media source criticized the hero's welcome or award for meritorious conduct or found the destruction of the plane to be a criminal or terrorist event, although in connection with the Soviet downing of KAL 007 in 1993, the New York Times editorialized that “There is no conceivable excuse for any nation shooting down a harmless airliner” (ed., September 2, 1993).
Early in the investigation of the Lockerbie shootdown, the Iran connection was clear and the Iranian instrument was seen to be a noted terrorist group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), led by Ahmed Jibril. This group had cells in West Germany and had access to and experience with bombs such as the one used on Pan Am 103. Airport security at Frankfurt was lax, and introduction of a suitcase with a bomb was practicable. Libya was not mentioned in reports of the early investigations. It was alleged that the suitcase with the bomb might have been routed through Malta, and cloth found at the Lockerbie crash site was traced to a store in Malta. The storekeeper there, who later more or less fingered the convicted Libyan Abdul Basser Ali Al-Megrahi, first gave a much more positive identification to one Abu Talb, who was allegedly connected to the PFLP-GC.
Politicization Of The Lockerbie Case
The fairness of the Lockerbie case was compromised from the start by political interference. There is compelling evidence that there was a CIA-related drug connection involved in Pan Am 103 and that much effort was expended in removing drugs from the crash site and covering up that connection thereafter. The Scottish police and doctors all made it plain that the CIA and other intelligence agents were at the crash scene quickly and interfered continuously with—and compromised—the gathering of evidence. This interference also raised the possibility of planted evidence, as manipulation of the data at the site has been convincingly demonstrated. (Excellent accounts of these and other aspects of the case can be found in John Ashton and Ian Ferguson, Cover-Up Of Convenience: The Hidden Scandal of Lockerbie, Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing, 2001; and Paul Foot, “Lockerbie: The Flight From Justice,” Private Eye, May-June 2001.)
The almost certain involvement of the PFLP-GC and Ahmed Jibril was the official and media line until the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and ensuing war. The PFLP-GC was based in Syria, and it suddenly became Western policy to placate Syrian dictator Assad in building an anti-Iraq coalition. President George Bush quickly declared that “Syria took a bum rap on this,” and officials and the compliant media dropped the powerful case built earlier. It was Libya's turn, and the rush was on to find evidence for the new line. The media from then till now have been extremely insensitive to the political opportunism of this turnabout.
The media have also been conveniently naive and deceptive about Libya's resistance to the turning over of its nationals to be tried in the United States or Britain. Under the 1971 Montreal Convention, signed by both the United States and Libya, Libya is permitted to try the suspects in its own courts and it offered to do this with international observers present. The United States and Britain objected and used their political clout to get the Security Council to demand the unconditional extradition of the two men to the United States and Britain. Libya's refusal led to severe sanctions. Libya contended that a fair trial was unlikely in the United States or Britain but, from 1994 onward, it agreed to a trial in a neutral country. Thus, the New York Times lied in stating, “It took seven years for the United Nations sanctions to persuade the Libyan leader...to turn the suspects over for trial (ed., February 1, 2001). Walden Bello misstates the facts in saying that “patient diplomacy secured the extradition from Libya of suspects of the 1988 bombing” (op. cit.): there was no extradition, and Western intransigence delayed the trial.
Furthermore, the trial showed that a fair trial in the United States or Britain was unlikely. During the trial, the United States dragged its feet in turning over CIA cables bearing on the reliability of their star witness, Libyan defector Majid Giaka. Only under considerable court pressure did they produce a limited number of documents, which showed Giaka to have been an incorrigible liar and the CIA, the United States, and prosecuting attorneys to be dishonest. (The prosecutors had claimed that the documents the CIA was refusing to turn over had no evidential value, quickly demonstrated to be false.) Such pressure almost certainly would not have been exerted or effective in a U.S.- or British-based trial. But even the Scottish judges displayed a high degree of pro-prosecution bias that resulted in a conviction worthy of a Stalinist court (as described below).
Violation Of Rules
As noted, the CIA interfered with the evidence within hours of the Lockerbie crash. There were two key pieces of evidence allegedly found at the site, a part of a circuit board that was eventually traced to a possible Libyan source, and a timer of the type allegedly used by the bombers and available to Libyans. But the claims of the investigators about who found these items, and when, was not only contradictory, there were unexplained alterations of the on-the-scene records.
It was also odd that although numerous fragments of the Toshiba radio-cassette player that exploded were found at the crash scene, only one fragment of timing device was identified. Apart from the compromising of the evidence from the beginning, it turned out that both the circuit boards and timers were available not only to the PFLP-GC, but to the CIA as well. The prosecutors and court were not keen on pursuing the evidence that the CIA had access to timers of the type found at the crash site (Cover-Up).
It was also disclosed during the trial that the two leading British forensic experts working on these materials had a record of doctoring evidence in favor of the prosecution and a main U.S. forensic expert in the case had a record of “routinely altering the reports of scientists working in the FBI Explosives Unit” (an Inspector General's report).
Once the Libya connection was the official line, it was reiterated by U.S. and British officials that the proof was absolutely conclusive, which was not only false, but made it difficult to hold a fair trial. Equally important, all other explanations of the bombing were ignored and those in charge of the case halted their investigations of these other options and refused to pursue subsequent leads. This includes the drug finds at the crash site, along with numerous claims of a drug connection to placement of the fatal suitcase in the plane. Ashton and Ferguson state that not only did the Scottish police and FBI fail to interview Pan Am's investigator Juval Aviv about the findings of his Interfor Report, which made the case that Ahmed Jibril (PFLP-GC) had taken advantage of a CIA-protected drug connection to smuggle the suitcase-bomb onto Pan Am 103, “instead the FBI smeared him.” Pan Am's chief attorney James Shaughnessey's evidence along the same line was not only ignored, he also “found himself under FBI investigation.”
The FBI and CIA regularly interfered with efforts to extend the inquiry beyond the official boundaries, and criminal charges were brought against a series of individuals—Ashton and Ferguson name four, plus three threatened with prosecution—all of whom had one characteristic, they “had, in their various ways, threatened the official line on Lockerbie.” They were denounced through compliant media conduits like “60 Minutes,” and the FBI and other government agencies spent substantial taxpayer resources hounding these dissidents. This suggests that there were strong political reasons for preventing challenge to the party line. It is also incompatible with an honest investigative and judicial effort.
The Lockerbie case should have been thrown out for abuse of investigative procedures at the crash site and later by individuals and agencies that had manipulated and forged evidence in the past and had a political agenda. The U.S. government had also refused to provide relevant information to the court and interfered with Scottish police efforts to collect information from others. Despite this, the three judges regularly and arbitrarily took on faith official integrity. Confronted with evidence of improper procedures at the crash site, the court simply said: “We are satisfied that there was no sinister reason for it and that it was not tampered with by the finders.” This touching faith is not compatible with justice.
There was also no hard, or even soft, evidence that the two Libyans were involved in the crime—there was “not one single piece of material evidence linking the two accused to the crime,” as Dr. Hans Kochler, the UN-selected observer to the trial concluded. There was also no evidence whatsoever that the suitcase with the bomb was delivered to the Malta airlines and sent on to Frankfurt, where it was supposedly transferred to Pan Am 103. The Malta airlines had exceptionally careful security arrangements, and Granada TV was successfully sued by the airline for suggesting otherwise. In the course of that proceeding, the airline showed that all 55 bags on the flight from Malta to Frankfurt were attributable to named individuals and that none were transferred to Pan Am 103. They also have a final bag count to see that no unauthorized bags have entered the system. So this line of evidence points to Frankfurt or London as the entry point of the deadly suitcase. The timing of the explosion, 35 minutes after takeoff from London, also points away from Malta and toward Frankfurt, and, especially, London.
The identification of Megrahi as the purchaser of clothing in Malta that was found at the Pan Am crash site was also, as the court admitted, problematic. The storeowner, Tony Gauci, had originally said the buyer was about 50-years old and 6 feet tall, and that it had rained and the buyer bought an umbrella. Megrahi was 36-years old and 5 feet 8 inches tall. It also hadn't rained on the desired day; meteorological evidence showed that even a “few drops of rain” in the vicinity were given only a 10 percent probability.
In early identifications Megrahi did not fare well; but by trial time Gauci was able to point him out clearly. But again, the court was pleased to find this “circumstantial evidence” relevant, even if imperfect. As Gauci had identified the earlier alternate villain Staub more authoritatively, there can be little doubt that this pliable court would have convicted him, if the prosecution had asked.
As noted earlier, the circuit board and timer evidence was no better.
There was also a diary of the second defendant—who was acquitted—found by the police on his desk in Malta, which mentioned getting “tags” at an airport, although for what purpose was not stated. Pretty amazing that a spy would leave his diary on his desk. The diary gave two names of individuals to pick up the tags, neither of which was Megrahi. Also amazing that a professional like Megrahi would dispatch the bomb through an airport that had a military guard, regular sample baggage checks, and counted all its bags; that he chose a route requiring complex transfers and threat of delays, worse during the Christmas season; that he bought clothing in a manner that would attract maximum attention; that he left identifying labels on the clothes, and used timers heavily invested in by Libya. Robert Black stated after the trial “there was weightier evidence against the Syria-based PFLP-GC, led by Ahmed Jibril.” But Libya is the designated enemy, so a Libyan must be found guilty.
Foolish beyond belief, but consistent with an alternative model—of a design by others to incriminate Libya. But the Lockerbie court considered neither this nor any other alternative model. It was satisfied with the different nuggets of “circumstantial evidence.” The distinguished Scottish law professor, Robert Black, who had helped negotiate a trial in the Netherlands and who followed the trial closely, found the conclusion “astonishing.” He lambasted the court for not following Scottish law, which requires that “evidence be corroborated.” He was “reluctant to believe that any Scottish judge would convict anybody, even a Libyan, on the basis of such evidence.” He stressed the injudicial way in which, once the focus was on Libya, “anything which didn't fit into that framework was simply discarded.” Dr. Hans Kochler, among many other criticisms, noted that as “the indictment in its very essence was based on the joint action of the two accused in Malta, it is “totally incomprehensible” that one was found guilty and the other not guilty.
The Lockerbie trial was a political trial, and it almost surely convicted an innocent man. Dr. Hans Kochler concluded that the trial “was not fair and was not conducted in an objective manner,” that “foreign governments or [secret] agencies may have been allowed, albeit indirectly, to determine, to a considerable extent, which evidence was made available to the court,” and that the evidence presented led logically to a verdict of “not proven.” Robert Black stated after the trial, “There was weightier evidence against the Syria-based PFLP- GC, led by Ahmed Jibril.”
The mainstream U.S. media, who never once cited Dr. Kochler, found the trial result acceptable, even if not sufficiently far reaching. For them, Kadaffi was demonstrated to be a villain, so continued sanctions on Libya were appropriate. For the New York Times the decision “seems a reasonable one based on the prosecution's case, which was largely circumstantial” (ed., February 1, 2001). This was a small lie; it was at best entirely circumstantial. The editors go on, “The Lockerbie prosecutors were hampered by having no witnesses who saw either defendant actually put the suitcase bomb on board the plane.” Again, a small lie, in that no witness linked them to the suitcase, the bomb, or the airport; “hampered” is a substitute for acknowledging lack of evidence. The editors state that the prosecutors “credibly linked him [Megrahi] to bomb-making materials and presented persuasive testimony that he worked for Libya's intelligence services.” The first is another misstatement—there was no linking to bomb-making materials; his employment by Libya's intelligence services has nothing to do with proving this specific case.