I do pride myself on having an extraordinary memory, especially when it comes to news events in the past. However I had completely forgotten about an incident that took place in 1988. On the 3 July that year, an American warship shot down an Iranian airliner Iran Air 655 killing 290 people including 66 children.

The explanation given was that the ship, the USS Vincennes mistook the airliner for a warplane and opened fire. A modern warship with sophisticated equipment was unable to tell the difference between a civilian aircraft and a warplane. The claim given by the captain William Rogers is that they thought the aircraft was a F-14 fighter, deemed it a threat and opened fire. The United States refused to apologise to Iran. Then US Vice President George Bush publicly said that we would never apologise for the United States.

Human deceny should have come into play,and an apology should have been offered. Captain Rogers should have been removed from his command for making such a catastrophic error or even court martialed.This criminal incompetence along with recklessness. In fact Rogers was awarded the Legion of Merit. How insensitive is that? I wonder what would have happened if the airliner was British or French?

The background to this is that in 1988, Iran was at war with Iraq. In those days, Saddam Hussein was the West's friend. He was seen as a bulwark against the Islamic Republic. He used chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers and received little comdemnation from the West. Saddam was provided with satellite intelligence by the US. Iran was, and still is regarded as an enemy. In that sort of atmosphere, you can almost see a warship would shoot first and and not ask too many questions later. Almost.

The problem is that it feeds into Iran's resentment of the United States. There is very little trust and a lot of hatred. The tragedy of Flight 655 is that an opportunity was missed to build goodwill. 290 souls were lost on that flight. That is 290 families affected by an act of reckless violence. Was their pain not of value?