Paul Greenberg

Moammar Gadhafi is dead. Abdelbaset al-Megrahi isn't. Despite his being convicted of planting the bomb that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 on the night of December 21, 1988, killing all 259 people aboard and 11 others on the ground when it crashed in the vicinity of Lockerbie, Scotland, scattering debris and bodies in its wake.

Mr. Megrahi was duly tried and convicted of murder, and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Anybody who thinks that was the end of the story doesn't understand power politics. For after his appeals were denied, the aforesaid Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was released anyway -- in care of Moammar Gadhafi's regime, in whose intelligence service he had long served. He was freed on "compassionate" grounds.

The only clear compassion the British government showed at the time was for BP, formerly known as British Petroleum before it decided to be identified only by its initials. Initials that would become infamous, as in the BP Oil Spill.

It seems BP and the Libyan government had a big oil deal going a couple of years ago, and Mr. Megrahi's presence was urgently requested in Tripoli. He was released without further ceremony and whisked home by chartered jet.

Connections count. As for the survivors of those killed in the crash of Pan Am 103, their opinions didn't.

That's where things stood when history, aka the Arab Spring, caught up with the old established firm of M. Gadhafi and Sons. At that point, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi prudently disappeared from view for a while, but surfaced the other day. Long enough to be found by a reporter from the London Telegraph, whose attentions clearly were not welcomed by Mr. Megrahi.

The account in the Telegraph described the veteran intelligence agent as looking "frail and unshaven, with his breathing laboured." Maybe he's a sick man, or maybe it's just his conscience acting up. One condition doesn't rule out the other.

Mr. Megrahi told the Telegraph his role in the bombing had been "exaggerated," and in any case he had only "a few more days, weeks or months" to live. Which is what the world was told when he was released for officially compassionate reasons in August of 2009, two years ago. He claims he'll be exonerated one day, "hopefully in the near future," and wants to be left alone. Which may be the only thing he made clear.

The accused -- and convicted -- describes himself as just an innocent agent of Libyan intelligence, which is the first time I've ever heard that job description.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.