Making Libya Pay

By Aijaz Zaka Syed – Dubai

After the endless circus over the release of Abdel Basset Al Megrahi, Britain now wants Libya to compensate the families of Irish Republic Army victims.  Why? Because, you see, the Irish Republican Army terrorists had been once supported by Libya.

Poor Gordon Brown, already under fire over his ‘collusion’ with Libya’s Col Moammar Gaddafi for the release of Al Megrahi, the terminally ill, alleged planner of Pan Am bombing over Lockerbie, has been hauled over the coals by the Sunday Times suggesting the Prime Minister had “failed to press” Tripoli for compensation to the families of IRA bomb victims in the turbulent 1980s and 1990s.

In all fairness to the dour Scot, Brown apparently reasoned then it would be ridiculous to ask Libya to pay for the IRA bombings in Britain because the regime in Tripoli had once supported the Irish terrorists.

For good measure, the Times report suggests the British government chose not to push the Libyans because of the business deals worth billions of dollars that it has clinched with Tripoli.  And the families of IRA victims have accused Brown of putting “trade before justice.”

Now a red-faced Brown has turned around on the Libyans demanding they compensate the IRA victim families.   Insisting, he “desperately” cares about the IRA victims; Brown has vowed to send a team of top diplomats and officials to Tripoli to negotiate the ‘compensation’ deal with Libya.

Britain claims Libya financially supported the IRA for years and even shipped the notorious Semtex plastic explosives used by the Irish guerrillas in their fight against the British rule over Northern Ireland.

Ever since Gaddafi came in from the cold following the US invasion of Iraq and bought his peace with the West by offering a whopping $2.7 billion in compensation to the families of Lockerbie bombing victims, there’s been an endless parade of fortune seekers salivating over easy Arab money.

Even though Libya never conceded its role in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 that killed 270 people, most of them Americans, it agreed to pay because it was desperate to bury the hatchet with the West and move on.   (Few people know that six months before the Pan Am tragedy, on July 3, 1988, another civilian airliner was blown up in the air. The Iran Air Flight IR655 was on its way to Dubai when it was shot down over the Straits of Hormuz by the USS Vincennes, killing all 290 passengers and crew aboard, including 66 children. Strangely, Iran has never demanded any compensation from the US!)

Now that political desperation of Gaddafi has brought all the vultures out with everyone seeking a slice of the Libyan pie. I have nothing against the families of IRA bombing victims.  In fact, they deserve all our support and sympathy for what they have been through.

I don’t know what international laws and conventions have to say on this.  But if Libya had indeed materially supported the IRA and provided those deadly plastic explosives, it should do something to reach out to those families and compensate for their invaluable loss.

But going by the same logic and reasoning, shouldn’t other countries, far bigger players and states than Libya, do the same to pay for their crimes?

I am no fan of Gaddafi.  He makes both his friends and foes nervous around him.  His shenanigans at Arab summits are a constant source of fun for the media.

If Libya has remained stuck in a time warp over the past four decades despite its rich natural resources, chief of them being oil, you know where the credit lies. But Gaddafi’s ‘crimes’ appear almost juvenile compared to what the big boys of our world have repeatedly inflicted on us.

If Libya has to pay for supporting and arming IRA guerrillas against innocent British civilians, what about those who have constantly financed the mighty State of Israel, supplying it with the deadliest arms and ammo known to Man that are routinely used against a defenseless Palestinian population?

It is hardly a secret that Israel is the largest recipient of financial, economic and military aid from the US.  In fact, without the crutches of Uncle Sam and the political and economic lifeline provided by the US establishment and Israeli lobby, Israel wouldn’t last one day out there. 

From Israeli tanks and bulldozers that routinely annihilate everything in their way  – Palestinian homes with their owners inside and even noble souls like the young American peace activist Rachel Corrie –  to F-16 jets that recently bombed Gaza back to the Stone Age, everything in Israel’s arsenal comes with love from Uncle Sam. 

The monstrous killing machine that is Israel runs on the fuel provided by the world’s self-styled champion of freedom and human rights.

As former US president Jimmy Carter and many others blessed with a conscience have repeatedly pointed out, it is the US arms, tanks and jets that have been used over the past half a century against a people enslaved and imprisoned in their own homes and land.  The awesome might of the greatest power in history has been repeatedly used against a completely helpless, unarmed people.

More innocents have died in Israel’s war on Gaza earlier this year than the IRA might have killed in its entire history.  How come nobody calls for compensating Palestinians for all that they have suffered at the hands of Israelis and its Western backers?

Or how about compensating the people of Iraq for what they have been through over the past six years? A million people killed and a whole country – the cradle of civilization – has been completely destroyed? All for a Himalayan lie and Oedipal complexes of a politician! Who will compensate them? Who will pay for the crimes against Iraqi people?

And what about the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan? Who will pay for the endless trauma and loss of thousands of precious lives? Who will compensate for all those airstrikes and drone attacks targeting schools, hospitals, wedding parties and even funerals?

The US commander in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal has ordered an inquiry into this week’s coalition air attack in Kunduz province, which killed nearly a hundred people.  At least, 70 of those killed were innocent civilians who had gathered to collect fuel from two tankers impounded by Taleban.

This is not the first incident of the coalition of the willing killing the very people it claims to protect and help. And this wouldn’t be the last.  Just Google ‘Afghan casualties’ and see how many innocents have died in the West’s war for “freedom and democracy.”

Bush told us this war was necessary to protect America and protect Afghan people from the terrorists.  It’s a strange way of protecting people.  This year alone, between January and May, at least 800 civilians died in the coalition airstrikes. Last year, according to the UN, 828 people were killed.   I can go on.

How about compensating those Afghans – and Pakistanis – for the endless nightmare of the past eight years? Shouldn’t the US, UK, Germany and other leading lights of the coalition pay for what their fighter jets, drones and tanks have inflicted on a proud people who never harmed anyone and never stole anyone’s land or home? Or do we have two sets of rules and standards, one for the powerful and another for the vulnerable?

 – Aijaz Zaka Syed is Opinion Editor of Khaleej Times, He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: aijaz@khaleejtimes.com.

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