Howard Dicus: As superpower relations got warmer, there was a cooling for world hotspots. Ceasefires, troop pullouts and other peace moves took place in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Nicaragua and Angola. Near year's end, PLO leader, Yasser Arafat renounced terrorism.
Yasser Arafat: “We totally and absolutely renounce all forms of terrorism.”
Howard Dicus: The US answered by opening direct talks with the PLO for the first time ever. A ceasefire interrupted the eight-year Iran-Iraq war. The US ship sent the guard tankers through the war zone, were able to head home. Before peace came, American guns were more than once turned on Iranian attackers and once in the middle of a naval engagement with Iran, the US shot down an Iranian airliner killing all 290 aboard. Admiral William Crowe, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff --
Admiral William Crowe: “I don't understand the responsibility of a country that while it is attacking other ships and making a war zone out of a certain area of the ocean and then goes ahead and flies a commercial airliner, over that part of the ocean at the time that attacks and hostilities are under way.”
Howard Dicus: Admiral Crowe called it an accident. The Iranian diplomat Amir Zamani called it murder.
Amir Zamani: “This is a clear indication of the war 23:23 and aggressive mentality prevalent in the top officials of the American policymakers.”
Howard Dicus: Iran said America would pay, but denied involvement when late in the year, a Pan Am Flight from Frankfurt and London apparently exploded over Scotland. All the board were killed as were many on the ground when wreckage rained on a Scottish town like liquid fire. To use the words of witness, Mike Carnahan.
Mike Carnahan: “The time that it went up, there was a terrible explosion and the whole sky lit up and it was virtually raining fire. It was just like liquid fire.”
Howard Dicus: Officials confirmed that terrorists threat just days before against Pan Am flights from Frankfurt. West Germany was itself the scene of another 88 air tragedy when three Italian stunt flyers collided at an air show. Virgil Christensen described it.
Virgil Christensen: “One flame plummeted into ten beside the runway and erupted into a ball of fire amidst screams of air show goer.”
Howard Dicus: A Delta jetliner crashed near Dallas Fort Worth Airport.
Unknown Speaker: “It happened during take-off that the tail section had hit the runway and when it hit the runway, it exploded.
Unknown Speaker: “The cockpit of the plane was almost gone and the wreckage from it -- we could climb that wreckage and there was a little hole up to the top. I personally think the good Lord left it there.”
Howard Dicus: An especially frightening incident took place in the skies over Hawaii when the top of an Aloha Airline 737 tore open. The pilot landed the plane that way. Craig Nichols saw it.
Craig Nichols: “ We were right up by the runway and my buddy who was flying with me said, “Are they flying this thing in for repairs or what?” And I said, what and I looked over and there was this 737 landing with the top of the fuselage and 25:04 and you see people with their hair blowing back.”
Howard Dicus: A flight attendant was pulled from the plane when the hole tore open. Amazingly, everyone else survived. An airliner explosion in 88 killed Pakistani President Zia-Ul-Haq. Benazir Bhutto was elected to succeed him becoming the first female leader of a Muslim nation. 1988 was the year of Zero Tolerance, a new policy of seizing boats found with the illegal drugs aboard, no matter how small the amount. Officials also seized jetliners after finding cocaine in the cargo hold, but the war on drugs was not won. Two Los Angeles street gangs grew into national drug networks. Well, known Washington figures were convicted of crimes in 88. They included former Reagan aides Michael Deaver, Lyn Nofziger, each found guilty of influence peddling. John Poindexter and his deputy were indicted in the Iran Contra-affair. Oliver North threatened to put VIP's on the stand if the case ever came to trial.
Oliver North: “The defense against these charges may require subpoenas for the testimony and records of the highest ranking officials of our government.”
Howard Dicus: A special prosecutor blasted Attorney General Ed Meese for using his influence to help a friend's pipeline project, but found insufficient evidence for indictment. 1988 also saw investors investigated.