[Diary of a Vengeance Foretold]  Part 61
Wednesday, Sept. 1, 1988

“Now that the war is winding down, Iraq is able to turn more attention to its Kurdish problem. We’ve seen a number of indications that the Iraqis are making a determined push to bring the Kurds to heel, once and for all.”

US State Department official

A United Nations report, to be made public Thursday, accuses Iran of using mental pressure on Iraqi prisoners. The three-member team has visited prisoners in both nations. The purpose of the pressure is allegedly to turn Iraqi captives into pro-Khomeini militants.

The report stops short of confirming Iraq’s assertion that Iraqi prisoners in Iran have been “brainwashed” to support Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini but diplomatically suggests that Iran exercises on the Iraqi prisoners a form of “spiritual guidance that is indistinguishable from mental pressure.”

Iraq has begun a major offensive against Kurdish rebels. Kurdish leaders are characterizing it as “an effort by the authorities in Baghdad to crush the 40-year-long insurgency once and for all.”

Kurdish leaders have also protested to the United Nations that Iraqi forces are using chemical weapons against Kurdish camps and villages in the rugged mountains of northern Iraq.

In a letter to the editor of The New York Times, Robert L. Boehm, a member of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, raises an interesting issue regarding the inherent dangers of high technology by the military.

Now that the Navy’s investigation of the downing of an Iranian civilian airliner by the cruiser Vincennes is complete, with an exoneration of all those involved, it’s time to draw some lessons from this tragedy. In “11 Minutes to Downing of an Airliner” (Aug. 20), you state: “The senior officers who reviewed the incident today called the compression of time a major factor leading to the fatal errors. In fact, the civilian aircraft, Iran Air Flight 655, was not descending but continuing to climb on its scheduled path across the Persian Gulf.”

Applying this lesson to the Strategic Defense Initiative (popularly known as Star Wars), we must wonder how the military men who must advise the President when to push the button will be able to size up objectively and accurately the approach of nuclear missiles in less than seven minutes. The consequences of a mistake in judgment will be far greater than the death of 290 innocent people. It could mean a tragedy for millions and even the end of the world we know.

Intelligence (1988)

During the coming month, Ahmed Jibril is organizing the bombing of one, possibly several airliners, in Germany. As a first step toward achieving his goal, Jibril requests one of his most trusted lieutenants to travel from Germany to Yugoslavia where the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) operates a safe house. The senior bomb maker of the organization is also sent to Yugoslavia and then to Germany.

Meanwhile, Abolghasem Mesbahi acts as a back channel for Hashemi Rafsanjani, then head of the parliament, with his contacts in the European governments and the United States. In this position he is involved in freeing Rudolf Cordes, a West German hostage seized in Beirut by the Shiite group Holy Strugglers for Freedom in January 1987 and held until the Sept. 12, 1988.

Near the end of this month, US and Iranian negotiators reach an agreement on the release of the American hostages held in Lebanon.

Inside Iran, factional rivalries intensify as the health of Khomeini is fast degrading. On Sept. 26, Rafsanjani is the target of an assassination attempt. Ali Akbar Velayati organizes a major conference in Tehran to discuss plans to escalate the conflict with Israel. By the end of the conference, Jibril calls for the establishment of a formal Palestinian-Iranian alliance.

All these events, and many others, will be covered in this series during the month of September.

Back to the Present (2008)

On Sunday, BBC 2 broadcasted a documentary regarding the bombing of Pan Am 103. I have not yet seen it but it appears that the program reported little news.

According to an Independent television review,

Truth and lies were hopelessly tangled up in The Conspiracy Files, too, a strand that has done some useful work in the past in wiping up the mess left behind by credulous paranoiacs. In the case of this film about the bombing of Pan Am 103, which came down on the town of Lockerbie, matters were less straightforward. The programme briskly sorted out the facts behind some conspiracy theories — such as the nature of an early warning phoned in to the US embassy in Helsinki — while making it clear that there are still unsettling holes in the prosecution case. At least two of the interviewees struck me as bare-faced liars, while as many again had powerful motives for not telling the truth about an event inextricably entangled with the brutal realpolitik of the time.

A Times television reviewer wrote,

Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi is still in jail for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, although he has an appeal pending. The next time television makes a documentary about Lockerbie, it had better come up with a confession, which, as one of the victims’ fathers said, was about the only way this matter will be concluded. Getting Colonel Gaddafi’s son to chuckle that the Libyans were innocent did not cut it as a pay off. The Conspiracy Files: Lockerbie, though flashy, kept hurtling down blind alleys — much like the official investigation itself – and was unsatisfying.


“Iran Is Said to Use ‘Pressure’ on Iraqi Captives,” Sept. 1, 1988.

“Iraqis Reported to Mount Drive Against Kurds,” Sept. 1, 1988.

“What If the Vincennes Had Been ‘Star Wars’?,” Sept. 1, 1988.

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