By NEMS Daily Journal
Terrorism slammed its deadly force into Northeast Mississippi’s consciousness long before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The Dec. 21, 1988, in-flight bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 from London to New York killed 270 people on board and on the ground in Lockerbie, Scotland. Among the victims were native Tupeloan Joe Woods, his wife Dedera and their two young children. The family was coming home for the holidays on leave from Woods’ military posting in Germany.
Moammar Gadhafi was ultimately responsible for that mass murder; his government’s covert agents made and placed the bomb on the flight.
Early Thursday, Libyan officials confirmed that revolutionaries had killed Gadhafi in a civil war that began eight months ago. He was on the run after being driven from the seat of power, but rebel forces tracked him down and found him in Sirti, his home town.
We hope death at the hand of the people he brutally and despotically ruled for 42 years brings a measure of closure and sense of justice to the thousands of surviving relatives and friends of the victims of Flight 103.
After the shock of the attack began to subside, an organization named Victims of Pan Am Flight 103 was formed, and its pressure was substantially responsible for an executive order by President George H.W. Bush for the U.S. government to fully review airline security and efforts to thwart terrorism.
That executive order in 1989 led to creation of the president’s Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism, with a mission to evaluate aviation security, using Pan Am Flight 103 as a starting point.
Those efforts continue more than 20 years after the fact of Flight 103. What was done in the early days under presidents of both parties was only the beginning.
In May 1990, the Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism issued its report describing lapses in security by Pan Am and the FAA, and decried the lack of “national will” to fight terrorism. The will to fully engage hardened after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.
Gadhafi’s demise and the killing of Osama bin Laden by American special forces earlier this year removed two of the principal sources leading international terrorism, but more work remains.
The U.S. participated with and supported NATO in its military assistance for the Libyan rebels.
Now, all the partners in NATO have a stake in helping Libya form a stable, democratic government capable of and willing to resume normal relations with western Europe and the United States.