"Libyans Receive Al-Megrahi’s Release with Open Hands" by the thousands, The Tripoli Post joyously reported. But in the English-speaking world, the news has unleashed a torrent of rage and sorrow. Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, who was in a Scottish prison for his role in the bombing, was freed today on grounds of "compassion" for his terminal cancer. American reaction was put most poignantly by Giacomo, a family member of one of the 270 passengers incinerated over Scotland:
My brother was aboard Pan Am 103 that fateful evening, and so this I can say with certainty. After conviction for the calculated murder of 270 individuals by terrorist bombing the key to al-Megrahi's cell should have been melted and then thrown away.Across the spectrum, American pundits are showing a rare unity in their lament. Commentators from the cerebral leftwing New Republic to the hotblooded conservative Michelle Malkin have condemned the Scottish justice secretary for allowing al-Megrahi to die at home with his family. Sentiment in the UK was hardly more forgiving, hinting that Libyan oil--not sympathy--swayed British minds.
Why do they believe the liberation of al-Megrahi is so wrong?
- It's All About Oil, says David Blair in the London Telegraph. "Keeping Libya happy matters a great deal, particularly as the country also possesses 42 billion barrels of proven oil reserves and a similar abundance of natural gas...Britain needs to make sure that nothing interferes with what diplomats call "our bilateral relationship" with Libya."
- A Political Decision, says an editorial in The Guardian (UK). "As a rule, ministers should not be asked to do the work of judges. They inevitably concern themselves with issues like raison d'état, party advantage, self-promotion and press reaction as much as dispensing justice or maintaining the rule of law."
- Like It or Not, the UK's Choice, says James Joyner of the Atlantic Council. "The decision, of course, is rightly with the UK. They, not the United States, have the jurisdiction here and, while our government has every right to express its wishes, they have the right to carry out the policy they think best.
- Proof of Muslim Sway in Europe, says David Pryce-Jones in the National Review Online. "What events like these really prove is the way that the demands and practices of absolute Muslim states are encroaching on Europe, however dangerous this may be to democracy, justice, good governance, and in the final analysis, independence."
- Contempt for Victims, says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. "The Scots say that they treated him according to Scotland's values. Apparently, they value innocent life at around 11.57 days, which is the number that Megrahi served for each person he murdered in that terrorist attack. If we don't value innocent life more than that, how exactly does that make us different from thugs like Megrahi?"
It is hard to see how insisting that he live his remaining weeks behind bars would bring any greater "closure" to the Lockerbie affair. Megrahi, in the end, is not the main issue. The questions that still swirl around this murky episode remain and would have done so regardless of the decision announced by Kenny MacAskill today.