- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A group of U.S. service veterans injured in a Libyan-backed terror bombing in 1986 are protesting the decision to take the Arab nation off the list of sponsors of terrorism and to reopen diplomatic relations.

“Our national tradition has always been to leave no soldier behind. That tradition has been ignored by President Bush,” the veterans said.

On April 5, 1986, a bomb left in La Belle Discotheque, a bar popular with U.S. troops in Berlin, exploded, killing a Turkish woman and two U.S. servicemen and injuring more than 200, including dozens of local civilians. A German court ruled that the bombing was carried out by Palestinian and German extremists with the aid of Libyan intelligence officers.

The Libyan government never has publicly acknowledged a role in the attack, as it has done in regard to the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. The U.S. government publicly demanded that Libya settle compensation claims by the families of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing as a prerequisite to any thaw in relations, but it made no such demand in relation to the bar bombing.

“It saddens me that they are forgetting about the troops,” said retired U.S. Army Spc. John Jackson. “It sends a bad message to people in U.S. uniform now and to people who might be thinking about joining.”

Spc. Jackson said he was “shocked” to learn this week that the United States was rescinding Libya’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism; removing it from another list of nations not cooperating with U.S. anti-terrorist efforts; and planning to upgrade the U.S. liaison office in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, to an embassy.

“Col. [Moammar] Gadhafi … has a history of saying one thing and doing something else,” he said of the Libyan leader. “I don’t see how we can trust him.”

The State Department’s press office for Near Eastern affairs did not return calls and e-mails seeking a response.

Thomas Fay, an attorney for Spc. Jackson and 38 other survivors of the bar bombing, as well as the family of one of the servicemen killed, said the difference in treatment for the two groups of victims was, at least in part, because of who they were.

“The people we represent are U.S. armed forces, mostly noncommissioned personnel. The people on Pan Am 103 were businessmen … kids coming back from skiing vacations.

“To be blunt about it, the people [on Flight 103] were much better off than our guys, and the government stuck in there for them,” he said.

Mr. Fay said the German and Turkish governments had won compensation for their citizens who were victims of the bombing.

In 2001, Mr. Fay’s clients began a lawsuit against Libya. The case was stayed for about 18 months while the parties tried unsuccessfully to reach a settlement, he said, and the court was pondering a motion from the Libyans to dismiss the suit.

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