If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Not unexpected

So the UK Government did pressure the Scots to release Megrahi after all, according to the Sunday Times. Once Mandelson starts denying something, you know there's a story.

Some choice quotes:

Ivan Lewis, the Foreign Office minister responsible for Libya, is said to have written to the Scottish government, encouraging officials to send home Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi. The Sunday Times has discovered that less than three weeks before Megrahi was freed, Lewis wrote to MacAskill that there was no legal reason not to accede to Libya’s request to transfer Megrahi into its custody under the terms of a treaty agreed between Tony Blair and Colonel Gadaffi, the Libyan leader, in 2007. A UK government source who saw the letter said Lewis added: “I hope on this basis you will now feel able to consider the Libyan application in accordance with the provisions of the prisoner transfer agreement.” The Scottish government interpreted it as an attempt to influence MacAskill’s decision. A source close to MacAskill said: “That clearly means, ‘I hope on this basis you will feel able to approve the Libyan application’. That’s the only conclusion you can take from it.”

That's the only conclusion I would draw. And it's pretty obvious that, for all his canny manoeuvring on independence issues, Salmond wouldn't allow a big decision like this to be taken without the implicit approval of the UK government.

Yesterday Lord Mandelson, the business secretary, denied any deal between Brown and Gadaffi to free Megrahi. “It’s not only completely wrong to make such a suggestion, it’s also quite offensive,” he said.

Ah yes, 'offensive'. A word usually used in these situations by those embarrassed by the position they are required to adopt. So a complete and categorial denial by Mandelson, then. Someone's lying, and since Mandelson is involved, my money is on him.

The Foreign Office also denied a claim by Saif [Gadaffi's son] that Megrahi’s freedom was linked to a trade deal and a claim from his father that Brown had “encouraged” the release.

A denial by an unnamed source is as near to an admission as you could wish for.

Brown has so far been silent on Megrahi.

Well, of course. As usual, Brown is nowhere to be seen. "It wasnae me!" "Another boy did it and ran away!"

There's a lot more to this than meets the eye. For Britain to risk offending the US by the action of releasing Megrahi suggests that there are huge interests at stake. After all, we got ourselves into an unjust and illegal war in Iraq (probably the most catastrophic foreign policy mistake since the Suez Crisis) just so that Tony Blair could keep his 'special relationship' with Bush. There's something big (and probably very boring, trade relations or whatever) behind this. Making the decision appear to come from some Scottish politician that no-one outside Scotland has ever heard of has all the hallmarks of 'deniability', and gives the UK government some wiggle room, but I'm convinced there is a lot more to come out of this yet. But two things are clearly evident:

1. Brown, yet again, hiding in the woods when some leadership is required, and

2. The British public being lied to, yet again, by their employees.


  1. Political assassins and terrorists strike at the life blood of open, constitutional and democratic societies. Absent the death penalty, (which I agree should be abolished), these assholes should rot to death in prison whenever they can be caught and convicted. That's what Megrahi was doing when he was let out, "Scot-Free".

  2. I hold no brief for terrorists, as my recent post on the subject should make clear. What I don't like is being lied to by people. Especially people whose salary comes from the forcible appropriation of part of mine.

    I don't generally support the death penalty, but, for what it's worth, I think that terrorists probably deserve to die. Compassion has its limits.

  3. Al-Megrahi is a difficult problem. He was tried in camera, convicted on the evidence of a number of witnesses even that kangaroo court deemed unreliable and seems to have convinced a good number of the UK relatives of his innocence. Perhaps, on those grounds, it is not the worst option in the world to demonstrate compassion.

    Under other circumstances, like a cast-iron conviction instead of the slightly dirty feeling of a cover-up and a scapegoat, I'd be more than happy to see such people die in prison. Without being terribly concerned whether it was sooner rather than later.

    What is clear, though, is that regardless of the excuse of "compassion" - the real reason for his release is some kind of a deal set in motion a while ago. Coincidentally, of course, Libya is oil-rich and Gaddafi is the poster-boy for bringing rogue regimes back into step with the rest of the world. Upsetting a few grieving relatives is a pretty small price to pay for that.

    No doubt strings were pulled, almost certainly by Peter "he's lying, his lips are moving" Mandelson and Kenny "my career is over" MacAskell makes for a handy mouthpiece. Hard to see what the SNP get out of it, unless they feel a grandiose "difficult" gesture like this puts them in the frame as hard but fair men. There again, who knows what they were promised by Westminster - an easier road to independence?

    It's quite ironic that "gratitude" isn't a word that features highly in Gaddafi's vocabulary, since he couldn't have wished for more of a two-fingered gesture to all and sundry than the "hero's return" celebration. Perhaps a mad dog never really changes his spots, eh?

    Given, also, the level of American indignation, it is a double irony that the government probably could have just as easily have told the truth about releasing a Libyan prisoner of uncertain guilt as a deal-sweetener without causing any more outrage. Sadly, the habit of lying is a hard one to break, even when it is unnecessary.

    I'd probably go a step further and suggest our career politicians love it: wheeler-dealing, intrigue on the world stage, playing at being Machiavelli. And being paid by us to do so. They must be laughing all the way to the bank...

  4. I read the letter from the FBI guy to MacAskell with some amusement. He bangs on about the war on terror as if America were the only country fighting terrorism. Remind me, who were the biggest supporters of the IRA during the Troubles, when the IRA were bombing and killing men, women and children in NI and on the UK mainland? As yes, the Americans, through NORAID. The IRA are still conspicuously absent from the US list of proscribed organisations. Tells you all you need to know - terrorism is OK in some circumstances. As I said in a previous post here, I think that terrorism is never OK.

    As you say above, with a cast-iron conviction, I would have no problem with a quick bit of rope to prevent him living out his life in the relative luxury of a UK prison. But this conviction was anything but cast-iron, and probably this release is the best compromise. The guy is dying, after all.

  5. It was fantastic to see Gordon dragged forcibly out of hiding on the subject.

    I use the word "fantastic" in the old sense of "absurd" or "preposterous", of course, since our revered PM's account seemed to bear very little relation to anyone else's interpretation of events.

    We did learn that it was nothing whatsoever to do with him, and never had been. His disgust at Libyan celebrations was in no way tempered by taking offense at Gaddafi ignoring his request not to do any of that. Obviously, his publicised writing to Gaddafi weeks before al-Megrahi's actual release and specifically mentioning reining in the "welcome homes" couldn't have happened, because he really, really had nothing to do with any of it. And anyone who says different, for example...well, just about everybody...is wrong.

    I used to say of Blair that if he said the sky was blue it was worth a quick double-check before agreeing. With Gordon it's more that you'd want to check the sky was still there at all.

    The dear old Yankees are always good value on the subject of terrorism. As the country responsible for innumerable state-sponsored, erm, "freedom fighters", as well as the doctrine of international destabilisation to prevent undemocratic practices spreading (an oxymoron, surely), you'd think they might be a bit embarrassed about assuming any sort of moral high ground on the subject of mass murder. The hypocrisy is simply staggering - after all, lads, who was it helped the Taliban and Saddam Hussein into power in the first place? Funded the IRA? Trained the Nicaraguan contras? Support for Pol Pot ring a bell? What about the results of the partitioning of Vietnam? There is even a fairly good argument that, given the Japanses had already surrendered, dropping the atomic bomb on Nagasaki was nothing short of terrorism in itself. In fact, given the sheer volume on your hands, why don't you just accept that other people are entitled to make grubby political deals, too, and take your opinions elsewhere?

    (Some examples slightly off-topic on the subject of pure terrorism, I do accept, but I tend to lump war crimes and indiscriminate murder of civilians in the same general category. After all, one imagines the Vietnamese indigents didn't choose to be on the receiving end of Arclights, any more than the Iraqis wanted to experience shock-and-awe. None of them had any say in Uncle Sam's circus of death coming to town, any more than do the victims of official terrorist organisations).


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