[Pan Am 103 Series]
Adam Larson / Caustic Logic
December 24 2009
FRANK DUGGAN LEADS THE NEW BATTLE
In recent moths a loud new presence has dominated the U.S. government side of the Lockerbie discussion - Frank Duggan, current President of the board of “Victims of Pan Am 103, Inc.” (hereafter “the Corporation”). In an excellent article for The Scotsman, John Forsyth explains how long before his current headlining of the official “American Families Group,” Duggan’s connection started in August 1989 with his appointment, by President Bush, as "Liaison to the Families" on the President's Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism.  [do please note his involvement did not start with losing anyone in the crash – he is not himself a victim of 103]. Duggan described this to Forsythe as "the Cadillac of commissions” due to “the quality of its work and the number of recommendations, some 60 of them if I recall." Its report, issued 15 May 1990, according to the Corporation’s website, “describ[ed] the lapses in security by Pan Am and the FAA and decried the lack of 'national will' to fight terrorism.” 
Mr Duggan maintained his contacts with the families over the years as the blame officially shifted to Libya, as leverage and negotiations led to the trial at Camp Zeist and a partial victory with Megrahi’s conviction. But only in 2008 did he become president of the Victims of Pan Am 103 Inc., which had in the years since proven a highly effective lobbying group, trading leverage for settlements from Pan Am and Libya, netting billions for survivors, lawyers, PR, board members, and so on. It doesn’t seem their shares were publicly traded, but Duggan told Forsyth:
"I could not say no to them. I told them I didn't think there was much more to do. Legally and politically the battle was over. Libya was recognized and compensation had been paid. Then they released Al Megrahi and a 20-year-old story was back on the front pages again." 
These developments needn’t have been a surprise to those who followed the news. In June 2007 the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission had announced Megrahi may have “suffered a miscarriage of justice” and should have his appeal heard. Duggan’s election/appointment was clearly after this omen, and perhaps (I don’t know the date) after the prisoner’s September 2008 diagnosis with advanced, terminal cancer. That would be two bad signs – “compassionate release” was known of at the time, as were prisoner transfer deals already being discussed. The increased publicity following the convict’s eventual release and inevitable “hero’s welcome” would, predictably, stimulate both anger and also attention to the case. With all this plus more evidence than ever available, 2008 was a year rife with threats to the official stasis – time to circle the wagons if ever there was one.
And Duggan is well equipped for verbal battle, tackling the growing ranks of official story critics as “Libya shills,” a “shameless band of conspiracy mavens,” and “no worse than Holocaust deniers who will not accept the facts before their faces”.  He told Forsyth he’s “through trying to reason with Prof Black or MSP Grahame," reasoning that seems to consist of repeating the most basic of decontextualized facts, straw man fallacies, and ad hominem attacks.  He also seems to suffer from a lack of sarcasm recognition. 
THE FRIAR'S STAND
Earnestness of the wrong kind however he's got a nose for, and used it in preparing for the 21st anniversary service, held Monday at Arlington National Cemetery. As in years past, the somber occasion was largely organized by the Victims’ Corporation, but this year’s ceremony happened under this new shadow of no one behind bars and newly loud questions upsetting the usual calm.
Shadows are cold places to be in December, as Friar Pat Keegans knew 21 years ago, and as he was just reminded. He was parish priest of Lockerbie at the time Flight 103 came down nearby. Through natural outreach following the disaster, he connected early with many of the victim’s families, becoming especially in-tune with Dr. Jim Swire, who has steadfastly denied the official Libyan villain storyline. Nonetheless, Duggan explains “in previous years, we have asked [Keegans] if he would like us to read a statement from him, as a number of US families are very fond of him.” 
These past submissions were presumably read to those gathered, and since he was invited back this year, I suspect any support for Megrahi’s innocence was muted if present at all, and tolerable with he safety of his conviction and imprisonment. But on the 21st anniversary, the divide of the Lockerbie Line was more pronounced, and Friar Keegans stated in part:
I want to say very clearly that I believe, irrespective of guilt or innocence, the release of Abdelbasset al-Megrahi on the grounds of compassion was the right decision. […] I hold that it was the right decision to make and it took great courage. The doubts concerning the conviction, the evidence and the reliability of witnesses have been well documented and led to an appeal.
I know that this is not the view generally held within the United States of America; however it a belief held by me and many others in Scotland who have been closely and personally involved since that dark day of December 21st 1988. I do believe that he is an innocent man and that in time the truth of that will emerge. But he was not released because of doubt concerning his conviction. He was released on strict legal grounds and because of the important element of Christian compassion which has influenced the legal systems of Scotland and Europe. 
It’s his feeling and opinion, tastefully stated without pushing it down any throats. Should the introduction of questions somehow lessen the importance of remembering the lost? Of course not – variant opinions should be embraced as part of the eternal search for truth these guys are always on about. But that‘s not really the issue, now, is it?
NOT A PLACE FOR POLITICS
The friar’s statement was pre- screened by Mr. Duggan and the Corporation, and it clearly rubbed them the wrong way. It may have been cast in a different tone than in previous years, or perhaps just the different circumstances had changed the standards. “We would have read his note this year,” Duggan explained in an e-mail to another journalist, “except that it was deemed by the Board, not by me, to be inappropriate for a memorial service.”  He made the distinction due to reports it was his own decision - in fact it would seem to be systemic to the Corporation. Doubts had no place in "a day to remember 270 innocent souls murdered in an act of state sponsored terrorism,”  so “Fr Keegans' note was sent out to the families on our mailing list rather than read at the cemetery on December 21st.”  So it's not outright censorship, but Keegans was denied a very tall soapbox for his "controversial" beliefs (another "Libya shill," and the world's getting crowded with them).
I don’t have the Corporation’s rules book in front of me, but from Duggan’s characterization, we have as reasons for the decision to nix Keegan's statement the following: “It is not a day for politics, a discussion of the bomber's trial and conviction or of his health." And “We try to avoid any political statements or any discussions of the convicted bomber." Friar Keegans’ remarks are “politics” in a real sense, using a platform to amplify his message of conscience. And political interpretations are not a good fit at the solemn parts, with the silence pierced by a ringing bell and the names of the victims. To penetrate that sanctified space with an upsetting statement of Megrahi’s innocence would be tasteless.
But of course no one ever suggested Keegans’ remarks would be said in that part of the ceremony. The other presenters did, as I had guessed they would, speak well past that hallowed point, into the anger or sense of justice or injustice emanating from the attack. Ignoring any hint of the false premise of the official story is tacitly accepting it as the de facto basis of all the post-remembrance activity. What was finally spoken was far worse than tacit acceptance, and in retrospect it’s just a bit clearer than before the ceremony that the dismissal of certain “political” views was nothing if not political in itself.
BRENNAN’S VERY TALL SOAPBOX
It would not take long to test these rules in action. President Obama sent John O. Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, to represent the team at the cemetery. It’s not clear whether he had his comments pre-screened, or used any coercive force to demand his lopsided views got a prominent airing on the backs of others’ sorrow. Whatever the case, the results are a horrific breach of memorial protocol.
Thank you, Frank, for your introduction and for your stewardship of this incredible organization ... on behalf of President Obama, and on behalf of his administration, let me say this. The evidence was clear. The trial was fair. The guilt of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi was proven beyond a reasonable doubt. His conviction stands. The sentence was just. And nothing—not his unjustified release and certainly not a deplorable scene on a tarmac in Tripoli—will ever change those facts or wash the guilt from his hands or from the hands of those who assisted him in carrying out this heinous crime.
The mention of "those who assisted him" is of course highly political, aiming the cartoon narrative (with a 50% conviction rate so far) at Libya in general. The "unjustified" release, actually justified on established "compassionate grounds" by the prisoner's near-death state, is a verbotten reference (in the negative) to Megrahi's health issues and "controversial" release. In another jab at this issue, Brennan quipped
Indeed, for any who truly seek it, it is here, in Arlington, among this gathering of families and friends, where you will find “compassionate grounds.” And that is where your government will always be — here, with you and your families.
Wow, that doesn't sound manipulative in the slightest! Solemn and loving memorial with no political spin whatsoever! I suppose Mr. Duggan will announce his regret that the Administration chose his event to air its controversial views? Would that really be too much to ask since the mission here is accomplished anyways? It needn't be, and perhaps can't be, sincere even. To just flat ignore, or tacitly approve, this violation, would show some real temerity, audacity. gall, chuztpah, impudence, nerve, forvovenhed, طيش, تهور, unbesonnenheit, наглость, 蛮勇, and shameless brazen double-standarded effrontery and hypocrisy. On behalf of the Obama administration of course.
[1, 3, 5] Forsyth, John. "After 21 years no end in sight to wrangles over Lockerbie." The Scotsman. 21 December 2009. http://news.scotsman.com/opinion/After-21-years-no-end.5926777.jp