If you want to know how Americans may look at Sept. 11 in another 10 years, look to Libya. In a luxury villa in Tripoli, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi -- the convicted bomber of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 that left 270 dead -- has been living in style since his "compassionate release" from a Scottish prison last August, precipitated by reports that al-Megrahi had less than three months to live. You may recall the scene at the Tripoli airport, where the Lockerbie bomber received a hero's welcome before a crowd waving Libyan flags and Scottish saltires.
Seven months later, Seif al-Islam Khadafy, the Libyan strongman's son, told an Arab newspaper that al-Megrahi's health is "greatly improved." Seems the reports of the mass murderer's imminent death were greatly exaggerated. Last month, the Pan Am bomber's father said he hopes that his son will beat cancer, adding, as the Daily Telegraph reported, "I think that the sick are not just cured by medicine, but also having a high morale and a sense of freedom, and these were not available to Abdel Basset in prison."
"His name is revered by numerous families, with newborn babies being named after him everywhere," the father told the Sunday Mirror. Some 30,000 well-wishers have visited his "death bed." Oh, and The Scotsman reports that the convicted bomber had some $2.69 million stashed in a Swiss bank before his conviction.
Brother Mohammed Ali explained al-Megrahi's good life thus: "My brother sacrificed 10 years of his life to assist in the lifting of the economic blockade against Libya."
Thus, the bomber and his government are trying to peddle the story that al-Megrahi, a one-time Libyan intelligence operative, is innocent. Forget that Libya paid $2.7 billion to the families of the 259 passengers and crew and 11 victims on the ground in Lockerbie. The payout now ostensibly was to promote trade. Thus Tripoli is spinning time to sanitize a horrific, premeditated slaughter.
Brian Flynn, whose 21-year-old brother J.P. Flynn died in the bombing, told me over the phone that he knew when Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill released al-Megrahi last year that the Lockerbie bomber would be alive and living large in Libya today. Flynn expects the Lockerbie bomber to live for years.
It was bad enough when a Scottish court convicted al-Megrahi, then sentenced him to life, which made the bomber eligible for parole after 27 years. Then to watch the only man convicted be released some eight years after his conviction -- that can only be called "injustice."
This was the largest terrorist attack on Americans before 9/11. "Maybe people are starting to forget," Flynn observed. "It doesn't seem to drive people crazy that the guy who did it and the guy who paid him to do it got away with it."
And: "Ten years from now, will we do the same thing to bin Laden?" Maybe. Last month, Libyan leader Moammar Khadafy called for a "jihad" against Switzerland, which passed a law banning the construction of mosque minarets. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley responded to question about Khadafy's jihad with a mild quip. Tripoli demanded an apology, threatened repercussions and won an apology from Crowley.
As Flynn sees it, Team Obama should have had a different reaction: "How about no?"