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by RAY FLEMING
BRITAIN'S Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, must have lived a very sheltered life if, as he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Friday morning, “Obviously, the sight of a mass murderer getting a hero's welcome in Tripoli is deeply upsetting, deeply distressing.” He was talking, of course, about the welcome given to Ali al-Megrahi on his return to his home country after being released on compassionate grounds from imprisonment in Scotland as the “Lockerbie bomber”. Mr Miliband must know that there are serious doubts about al-Megrahi's conviction and that whether he was cold-shouldered or greeted by a rapturous crowd on his return home was entirely a matter for his fellow-countrymen. Perhaps the reception was unwise, ill-judged, insensitive, counter-productive in terms of Libya's reputation in the world but that must surely be a matter for Col Gaddafi to judge. I'm sure the families of those who lost their lives in the Pan Am flight's bomb explosion over Lockerbie were understandably outraged and upset by al-Megrahi's release and reception in Libya. But I wonder whether we ever realise how selective our public reaction to such events can be. In July 1988 the USS Vincennes shot down a civilian Iranian airliner over the Persian Gulf, killing all 290 passengers. Afterwards the ship's captain said the Airbus A300 had been mistaken for an attacking F14 Tomcat fighter. Was he court-martialled or dismissed from the service? No, in 1990 he was awarded the Legion of Merit for exceptional conduct. Was that right?