The XX Factor

The Most Ironic Photo in the World

I don’t know if any photo can be more ironic than this one, which spent part of Thursday as the top photo on Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, suffering from terminal cancer, was sent home to Libya to live out what’s left of his life. And to board the plane, he walked up a staircase bearing an ad that exhorted flyers to “Relax Before You Fly.”

Right. Thanks to people like al-Megrahi, none of us can really relax before we fly. Not just uptight, overworried infrequent flyers like myself (is this going to be one time in a million that something goes wrong?). Not only business travelers who have to deal with onerous security measures on a regular basis just to do their jobs. But also passengers who might be of Middle Eastern descent or look like it and who can be subjected to, at best, nervous glances from fellow passengers and, at worst, humiliating extra security screenings. (I’ve seen it happen.)

The Lockerbie bombing happened more than 20 years ago, but this transcript of a public radio story previewing the 2000 trial is a gut-wrenching reminder of the tragedy. It helps explain why President Obama called the release a mistake and why Ted Kennedy, suffering from his own terminal cancer, signed a letter along with other U.S. senators calling for Megrahi to be kept in Scotland.

And yet, news accounts tell of al-Megrahi getting a hero’s welcome in Libya. Relaxing? Hardly.