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From the Shootdown of Iran Air Flight 655 to the Aerial Interdiction of President Evo Morales – 25 Years

image – crew of USS Vincennes monitoring radar – c. 1988

As Bolivian President Evo Morales sits marooned in a Vienna airport on the dawn of July 3rd, 2013, having possibly avoided aerial interception over the Atlantic Ocean by U.S. fighters or missiles, it might be fitting to think about the fate of Iran Ar Flight 655, 25 years ago today (emphases added):

Iran Air Flight 655 was an Iran Air flight from Bandar Abbas, Iran to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. On 3 July 1988, at the end of the Iran–Iraq War, the aircraft serving the flight, an Airbus A300B2-203, was shot down by U.S. missiles fired by the United States Navy guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes as it flew over the Strait of Hormuz.

The aircraft, which had been flying in Iranian airspace over Iran’s territorial waters in the Persian Gulf on its usual flight path, was destroyed. All 290 onboard, including 66 children and 16 crew, perished. Ranking seventh among the deadliest disasters in aviation history, the incident retains the highest death toll of any aviation incident in the Indian Ocean and the highest death toll of any incident involving an Airbus A300 anywhere in the world. The Vincennes had entered Iranian territorial waters after one of its helicopters drew warning fire from Iranian speedboats operating within Iranian territorial limits.

According to the United States Government, the crew incorrectly identified the Iranian Airbus A300 as an attacking F-14 Tomcat fighter (a plane made in the United States and operated at that time by only two forces worldwide, the United States Navy and the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force). The Iranian government maintains that Vincennes negligently shot down the civilian aircraft.

The event generated a great deal of controversy and criticism of the United States.

Twenty five years later, we have another event that is quickly generating criticism of the USA – the forcing down of the aircraft flying the president of Bolivia back to his home state, after attending a conference of natural gas exporters last week, in Moscow.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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