Abdelbasset al-Megrahi.  He was the Lockerbie bomber who was released from a Scottish prison because he had just a few weeks to live.  As it turns out, he lived for a year and may live for many more.

The public outrage has an uncomfortable edge to it.

Clinton yesterday implied strongly that Megrahi’s release, and his continued survival long beyond the three months predicted by Scottish ministers, meant justice for the families of the dead had been denied.

Let’s get this straight.  We agree on the following ranking of outcomes, from best to worst.

  1. Alive and in prison
  2. Alive 1 year after being released from prison.
  3. Dead 1 week after being released from prison.

But its easy to get confused because, conditional on learning that he was going to be alive 1 year later, we see that releasing him was a mistake.  Because we assumed that he was going to die in a week so that 1 and 2 were not feasible.  Now that we see that 1 was actually feasible we are outraged that he is alive.  When we feel outraged that he is alive we start to think that means that we wish he was dead.  But alive/dead is just the signal that we made a mistake. What we really wish is that we hadn’t made the mistake of setting him free.