Been Here Before, Ladies and Gents
Anyone really interested in figuring out who bombed that plane, and why, cannot ignore history. It is a history of our own government's playing hardball, sometimes even doing (or at least contemplating) crazy and evil-seeming things in the service of a perceived greater cause. One example of this, and not the only one, is Operation Northwoods, a proposal from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, rejected by an incredulous John F. Kennedy, which would have involved committing acts of terrorism on US soil that could be blamed on Fidel Castro's government. It was seen as regrettably leading to the loss of innocent life. But the proponents argued that the ends -- setting the stage for an American invasion and the removal of Castro -- justified the means.
This kind of thing is unpleasant, to put it mildly -- almost too awful to contemplate. And discussing it is to invite tremendous hostility from those who don't know better (and from those who do as well). But raising these uncomfortable truths is called...journalism. History shows us that US and allied intelligence operations will go to almost any lengths to gain the upper hand psychologically, to defame enemies of the state in order to persuade the public to go along with more overt moves, ideally by surrogates. (See Iran 1953, Guatemala 1954, Congo and Dominican Republic 1961, Vietnam 1963, Indonesia and Congo 1965, Cambodia 1970, Chile 1973"may we stop here?).
Meanwhile, governments like Libya under Qaddafi, or Iran under the mullahs, despicable though they are in many respects, have little real incentive to commit such acts against much more powerful countries. They gain nothing and stand to lose everything. Indeed, we can see strong indications that Qaddafi was railroaded over many years (but the effort was put on a bullet train last year) using Lockerbie as well as allegations of mass rape and mass murder, among other issues, as laid out here. If getting rid of the irksome and fiercely independent Qaddafi was a priority, Iran is much, much more important. The effort to remove the current leadership of Iran and bring it back into the Western political, military and corporate fold is one of the highest priorities of the US, its allies, and their spinmasters. (Read this and this to learn more)
Burns's Times piece is yet another in a long string of unsupported claims of Iranian nefariousness, which are practically a staple of the Western news diet. But reporters needn't be complicit. One can accept that the Iranian mullahs and their cohorts are brutal and contemptible without being willing to traffic in falsehoods about them.
If the repositioning from McFadden's good work that Burns' piece represented wasn't enough, we get this, from the Times-owned International Herald Tribune and republished by The Times, headlined "Lockerbie Bomber Dead, Conspiracy Theories Survive." The message is, "If you don't have time to read this, and you probably don't, just remember: when anyone tries to tell you there's more to this story, just dismiss them and their notions with the back of your hand."
Every time we see a journalist use the term "conspiracy theory," let's add one of two thought bubbles: Either "I'm lazy" or "I'm worse." It usually means the reporter is not actually looking into any of the assertions, just taking five minutes to type out references to them, and then subtly undermine the whole train of thought. Because the term "conspiracy theory" immediately telegraphs to readers that they can safely ignore the claims contained therein.
A proper headline, based on the cumulative facts, would be, "Lockerbie Bomber Dead, Big Questions on Bombing Sponsors Unresolved." (Message to Times and IHT: Happy to help you with headline accuracy -- and even headline buzz!)
The Plot Thickens--and Another Person Dies
If you're still not convinced that dark forces of a particular sort have a deep interest in how this all plays out, consider this development: the mysterious death Sunday of Sukri Ghanem, Libya's former Oil Minister. Ghanem's early defection turbo-charged the effort to unseat Qaddafi. What's so interesting, besides his ending up floating in the Danube, is that he had long insisted that Libya had no connection to Lockerbie, nor to the 1984 shooting of a British policeman outside the Libyan embassy in London, four years before Pan Am 103, that was cited as the basis for severing UK-Libyan ties.
Call Ghanem the man who knew too much. And please compare to a fellow defector, the Libyan Justice Minister Mustafa Mohamed Abud Al Jeleil, who, unlike Ghanem, was perfectly happy to stoke the fires against Qaddafi -- by announcing, after he had switched sides, that Qaddafi personally ordered the bombing, and promising to produce evidence.
He... never has. It is now more than a year since the media ran its Jeleil headlines that were so damaging to Qaddafi, and no one, including the Times, has bothered to go back and see if he kept his word. (Background on that can be found here.)
The Pan Am 103 story could provide crucial linkage to the invasion of Libya and removal of Qaddafi--and lead to a real understanding of why some "accidents" happen, of why some "unavoidable interventions" happen. And no, it's not always, or even usually, for the stated reasons. Just as the isolation of Libya over Lockerbie was, it seems, not really motivated by justice, the Western support of an externally-planned and -stimulated "indigenous" uprising was not really motivated by a concern for the human rights or the lives of the Libyan people.
This is not to pick on any particular reporter. On some level, all but the very stupidest journalists know how things really work. But they aren't permitted to tell the rest of us. Thinking of digging deeper when that's strongly (albeit implicitly) discouraged? There's a simple choice: your conscience or your job.