The human pawns of Pan Am 103

Pamela Varkony Contributor
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Warning: This commentary is not funny, clever or snarky. It is personal and filled with anger, sadness and moral outrage over what appears to be the oil-for-murderer swap of Abdel al-Megrahi, the only person convicted of the Pan Am 103 bombing.

When you consider the expanded circle of family and friends connected to the 270 people who died as a result of that terrorist act over Lockerbie, Scotland, the number probably encompasses several thousand people: I am one of them.

Thomas Britton Schultz, age 20, the son of my friend Jane, was studying with the Syracuse University International Program in London. He carried a 3.8 grade average while lettering in cross-country and track. He was anxious to come home for Christmas because family holidays had taken on even more significance since the death of his brother, Andrew, at age 8, ten years earlier.

Thomas boarded Pan Am Flight 103 on December 21, 1988. His body was returned to his parents and his homeland on his 21st birthday.

On countless occasions I’ve heard people say to Jane, “I don’t know how you survived it”.

Perhaps when you consider the alternatives, survival becomes the better option. Who will fight for justice, who will keep the pressure on, if those left behind give up or lose their minds?

I’m not going to recap all the historical details of this nightmare over the past twenty years. If you’re reading TheDC you’re already a well enough informed consumer of news to know them.

In August of 2009, when al Megrahi was released by Scotland on humanitarian grounds, the story that it was a business arrangement to allow British Petroleum access to Libya’s oil fields, started to circulate among the Pan Am 103 inner circle on the secure website provided to them by the Scottish government. With the perception of a grieving mother, Jane Schultz wrote a personal letter to Scottish Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill, stating:

Make no mistake that in the coming days and years, Qaddafi will make a mockery of the Scottish compassion shown today. Libya’s oil and gas fields are the only winners in your decision.

Also outraged over the release, former FBI Director Robert Mueller wrote his own letter to MacAskill. In one of the most straightforward and damning pieces of correspondence I’ve read in political or diplomatic circles, Mueller accused MacAskill of making “a mockery of the grief of the families.” Mueller goes on to charge that MacAskill:

made this decision without regard to the views of your partners in the investigation and prosecution…you never once sought our opinion…preferring to hide behind opaque references to the need for compassion

Now almost a year later, Jane Schultz looks like a psychic and the doctor who swore that a mass murderer had only thirty days to live is now reportedly admitting he was paid off: al Megrahi is still alive, doing surprisingly well, and reportedly living in luxury in Libya, while British Petroleum is about to start a lucrative new drilling operation off the north coast of Africa.

Four Democratic Senators Lautenberg, Gillibrand, Schumer, and Menendez have called for the U.S. State Department to investigate the matter. I know I promised this piece wouldn’t’ be snarky, but I just can’t help it. Excuse me while I choke on one of the last shrimp sandwiches I may eat for a while.

These are members of the same Senate, that in a blazing display of ineffectiveness, has been sitting almost silent while BP allows the lives of thousands of our own citizens to drown in the company’s spilled oil, which according to the latest news is now going to continue unabated since the new capping operation has apparently failed, and we’re supposed to believe that this U.S. government can actually influence that same company to give up billions of dollars in profit for the sake of several hundred grieving families. In this championship match of international chess, the victims of Pan Am 103 are simply pawns in the game. And the United States has been outmaneuvered.

Author’s Note: As of July 15, BP admitted to “meddling” in al Megrahi’s release.

Pamela Varkony is a writer, commentator, and native Pennsylvanian. Her work has taken her across four continents including two fact-finding missions to Afghanistan. Her blog is: http://perspectives.pamelavarkony.com.