Libya, Lockerbie and the Fox/MSNBC Convergence

U.S. airstrikes in Libya have brought renewed focus on the 1988 explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Some are making the argument that the U.S. could–and should–be getting revenge for this act a mere 22 years later.

Last night (3/21/11), one cable news host said this:

Given the fact Americans died on that 747 over Lockerbie, I’m all for this mission…. I’m an American. You’re an American. We all have opinions. I have always believed that Qaddafi was a terrorist. Let’s look at the tape again of flight Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Do you need any more evidence? Has Qaddafi ever proven his innocence?

Another one said this:

President Reagan bombed Libya in 1986 over a terrorist incident in Berlin where two American soldiers were killed. Two years later the Pan Am plane was blown up. So the USA owes Qaddafi payback. And you don’t kill Americans and get away with it, as President Reagan said.

The first quote came from liberal MSNBC host Ed Schultz, the second from Fox‘s Bill O’Reilly.

It is a little odd for Schultz to say he supports the Libya airstrikes “as an American” because Qaddafi hasn’t “proven his innocence.” Our justice system tends to see things a little differently.

As for Libya and Lockerbie, the U.S. position has long been that Qaddafi was responsible. And former Libyan intelligence officer Abdelbasset Al-Megrahi was found guilty in a Scottish trial in 2001. Questions have long lingered over the fairness of the trial and the evidence against Megrahi.

And as Ed Herman noted in Extra! (10/09), initial reporting and speculation centered on Iran as the most likely culprit, acting in response to a U.S. attack on an Iranian airliner:

The Lockerbie case arguably begins on July 3, 1988, with the shooting down over the Persian Gulf of Iranian Air Flight 655 by the U.S.S. Vincennes, a missile cruiser that was in that neighborhood helping Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran.

Although 290 civilians were killed in that shootdown, the United States suffered no international sanctions or even reprimands, and Vincennes Captain Will Rogers was greeted as a hero on his return to the U.S. some months later (“Crew of Cruiser That Downed Iranian Airliner Gets a Warm Homecoming” was the New York Times headline–10/25/88). Rogers was even awarded a Legion of Merit, one of the highest military honors, for “exceptionally meritorious conduct.” The shootdown was treated very benignly by the U.S. corporate media (Extra!, 7-8/88).

The bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie followed the destruction of the Iranian plane by only five and a half months, and officials and experts quickly saw Iranian vengeance as a possible motive.

Iran, of course, hasn’t “proven its innocence” in the Pan Am 103 case. Would Schultz have the U.S. bomb Iran in retaliation for Lockerbie as well?

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.