I am disappointed with the view of some knowledgeable commentators over Scotland’s release of the dying man who was convicted of the Lockerbie-airline bombing.
From a purely power-politics point of view, of course, they are right: judging by the ugly noises echoing across the oceans fromAmerica, Scotland has done itself no favor.
But if all affairs are to be carried on in every country from that point of view, it seems to me that it is acceptance of America's right to dictate every matter over the planet, including such intimate matters as how individual countries interpret justice and the government of laws.
This is the acceptance of a de facto aristocracy running the world since American voters—and only about half of eligible Americans bother to vote—represent only a percent or so of the planet’s population. It is remarkable how many Americans do not understand the basic point that not everything a democracy does is democratic or decent or even acceptable, especially things done outside its borders.
Democracies abuse power just as surely as any other form of government, and a democracy with the immense military power of the United States—a power virtually cancerous to genuine democratic values—provides a case study in the inexorable workings of Lord Acton’s dictum ("Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.").
It would also represent a repression of all the better motives from which individuals and societies act now and then, surprising us and raising the standard of human behavior from the violent-chimpanzee standard that tends to hold for much of humanity and is especially notable in America’s international affairs.
That is unacceptable to most people who are not Americans or who are not dedicated flatterers of America seeking leftovers being dropped from its groaning table.
You only have to ask yourself how Americans themselves would react to others telling them how they should run their court system. The sound would be deafening, like the bellowing of walrus bulls on a stony beach in mating season, which is actually pretty close to the sound of some of America’s professional-victim families today.
Mercy is never misplaced, and I think Scottish justice has reached an admirable decision despite the bellowing of the unthinking American families we have heard from for years.
Apart from that, and a very important consideration, it is almost certain that al-Megrahi is innocent, having been fitted up by American intelligence desperate for a scapegoat with the relentless political pressure of the walrus-bull families.
I have to say, also, I always find it troubling to read the press repeating the lines about 270 victims for the thousandth time. It is an American mantra, emphasizing the special and precious nature of American lives over all others, at least, that is, the lives of upper middle-class Americans.
Rarely do we read an accurate perspective on the Lockerbie event.
The United States Navy stupidly shot down an Iranian airliner with 300 souls aboard as it observed the devastation of the Iran-Iraq War, a devastation America had an important hand in extending.
Those 300 innocent men, women, and children received no mercy, and their horrible deaths certainly never saw any justice. Their families never received compensation. And no apology was even offered by Americans, a disgusting set of behaviors, entirely.
Lockerbie was absolutely clearly revenge, but no one knows who actually committed the act of revenge.
I might offer the observation, too, that it is the same bellowing Americans always ready to use capital punishment or torture and assassinate opponents or, indeed, to invade the lands of those with whom they disagree, bombing and killing countless innocents—three million just in Vietnam, another million or so in the Cambodia they de-stabilized, and another million or so in Iraq.
The whole pattern of the two acts of wanton destruction explains the basis for the so-called War on Terror. It is simply America's saying, “I can do to you, but you can't do to me.”
John Chuckman, a former chief economist for a large Canadian oil company, is a member of no political party. His articles can be found on such sites as YellowTimes, CounterPunch, SmirkingChimp, and Democrats with Spine. He encourages reader comments: email@example.com.
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This story was published in the Baltimore Chronicle on August 25, 2009.