What is going on in Libya is not just another revolution raging in North Africa. I was watching the news the day before yesterday and caught the comments of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and NATO’s concern and strategy regarding Libya. Rather than sit back and see how this revolt turns out, it looks like there will be some kind of action on the part of the U.S. and NATO because Libya is different from the other countries in the region rising up to rid themselves of oppressive dictators. Libya has oil for one; it’s large, strategically important; and its leader, Muammar Gaddafi, has long been a thorn in our side.
I was talking to a friend about the news yesterday, and we were ticking off a list of all the foreign oil companies in Libya. Considering what’s at stake there, he reminded me of a story from just a couple of years ago in 2009: the release from a Scotland prison of a major terrorist, Abdelbaset Mohamed Ali al-Megrahi, back to Libya.
On December 21st, 1988, a Pan Am 747 blew up over Lockerbie Scotland, killing everyone aboard: 243 passengers, 189 of them Americans, and 16 crew members, as well as 11 people on the ground in Lockerbie who were also killed as the debris came raining down on their houses. Al-Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence agent, was tried and imprisoned in 2000, the only person convicted of the crime. Incredibly, in 2009, on grounds he had three months to live before he might die of terminal prostate cancer, he was allowed by Scotland, presumably under pressure from the U.K., to be released back to his home in Libya as an act of compassion. President Obama said the release was a big mistake and some kind of intervention was anticipated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to stop it but somehow as unpopular as the decision was here and in Britain, it went through. Later, however, a Senate hearing was ordered.
Al-Megrahi returned home a hero. President Muammar Gaddafi proclaimed, “It is a new dawn for Libya,” and met with him personally to congratulate him. I imagine the idea back in Britain was that al-Megrahi would return quietly home to die, thus alleviating some of the embarrassment and guilt to the parties involved in this shameful sellout. But sources have it this notorious terrorist is still alive in Tripoli today.
BP Oil, our friends who laid waste to the waters and shores of our coasts last summer, upsetting the ecosystem and destroying the livelihood of millions from the Gulf of Mexico to the South Atlantic coast, actually admitted in 2009 that they facilitated al-Megrahi’s release by lobbying the British government because BP was trying to protect their $900 million oil and gas exploration deal in the Mediterranean waters near Libya.
What kind of message does this send the world? It’s an outrageous story and for that reason it’s worth refreshing everyone’s memory on the topic. Government bending to the will and influence of big corporations to do what is morally wrong. All I can hope is that Gaddafi will soon join his peers in the Ousted Dictators of North Africa Club somewhere, and perhaps we’ll all get a fresh start and some much needed justice in that part of the world.
Isabel Nazarian contributed to the writing of this story.
Image courtesy of Chad Teer under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 generic license.