As rebel forces continue to make gains in Libya, it looks like the end of the reign of Moammar Gadhafi soon will arrive. In recent years Col. Gadhafi attempted to convince the West that he had changed his ways and become a responsible national leader, a ruse that soon evaporated when he reverted to his true nature and began to brutally repress the rebellion in Libya. It is unfortunate how willing western nations were to accept Gadhafi’s supposed change of heart when it was politically convenient to do so and his fall from power is long overdue. Perhaps, we may mark the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 not only by the continuing war against al-Qaida but also by the final downfall of one of the late 20th century’s most brutal tyrants and international terrorists.
In this week when we look back and reflect upon the murderous activities of al-Qaida, which led to the tragedy of the 9/11 attacks, it is well to remember that Gadhafi was, for decades, one of the leading sponsors of terrorism in the world. While al-Qaida’s attacks of 9/11 led to a far greater number of innocent deaths in one incident, Gadhafi and his secret service agents accounted for many deaths by terrorism as well.
When I watched the airplanes crash into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11, I was not only overcome by the grief and rage every American felt at these evil acts, I was also reminded of another terror attack on Americans plotted and carried out by Libyan agents apparently under orders from Gadhafi: the destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 on Dec. 21, 1988. The bombing of Flight 103 murdered 270 people: 243 passengers, 16 crew members, and 11 residents of Lockerbie, Scotland, the site of the crash. Of the 243 passengers killed, 189 were American citizens, including 35 Syracuse University students who were returning from a study abroad semester. On the day the plane was destroyed I was just finishing my first semester as the dean of the law school at Syracuse. In fact, I was at the law school’s holiday party when I received an urgent message from the chancellor’s office informing me of the tragedy. Over the next weeks, I and my colleagues at Syracuse watched with horror as the parents, friends and teachers of the murdered students came to grips with their deaths, deaths ordered by Moammar Gadhafi.
For me, the day when the Libyan rebels capture Gadhafi will be a day for both remembrance and celebration. If it should come within the commemorative period for 9/11, it will seem particularly poignant. Both the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the defeat of Moammar Gadhafi should remind every American that terrorism neither began with the tragedy of 9/11 nor has it ended yet. We cannot become complacent. The battle against terrorism is an ongoing struggle against evil men and women who would murder innocent men, women and children to achieve their political ends. It is a disease from which there is no easy cure but one which must be eradicated if the world is ever to know true peace. In the days to come, let us remember the victims of 9/11, of Pan Am 103 and of all terrorist attacks against innocents. Let us rededicate ourselves to the war against all terrorists and commit ourselves never to rest until that war is successfully brought to an end.