It was a grim day for many Iranians today as the nation commemorated the 24th anniversary of the 1988 attack on Flight 655, an Iranian passenger airliner that was shot down over the Strait of Hormuz by the US Navy, killing all 290 civilians aboard.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry blasted the US for the killings, adding that to this day the US has refused to apologize for the attack. “This inhumane crime is clear proof of the innocence of the Iranian nation and clear evidence that the United States is not committed to any international legal and ethical principles and norms,” the statement added.
The US State Department has declined comment repeatedly, and in 2008 spokesman Sean McCormack said no new comments were forthcoming, saying that he was unfamiliar with the historical context of the attack.
The context was that the US shot down the civilian aircraft, and officials initially claimed they thought it was an F-14 Tomcat from neighboring Iraq attacking the ships. Though all the evidence suggested this was an unlikely error, then vice-president George H.W. Bush was quoted in Newsweek saying “I’ll never apologize for the United States of America. Ever. I don’t care what the facts are.” The International Court of Justice later faulted the US and reparations were paid, though an apology was still never made.
In 2000 the US claimed that the entire crew of the USS Vincennes, the ship which shot the plane down, was under a simultaneous psychological condition called “scenario fulfillment” and that they were carrying out a training scenario while ignoring the evidence of the situation. The warship’s commander, William C. Rogers III, was later given the Legion of Merit by Bush for his “service as a commanding officer.”