Rod Liddle says the al-Megrahi affair has shown no one in a good light. American outrage is astonishingly hypocritical given their support of the IRA, and our own government is worryingly supplicant to Gaddafi’s truly evil regime
What exactly was the point of the letter from our Prime Minister to the Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi? Apparently — according to Downing Street — Gordon Brown requested that the Libyan leader not make too much of a fuss of the return to Libya of the convicted terrorist Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. Keep the whole business ‘low-key’, Brown reportedly pleaded — presumably in case people got upset. The implication would seem to be that Brown knew that this was a shameful piece of business and he would rather nobody made too much of it. Again, by implication, you suspect he wished that the liberation and repatriation of al-Megrahi had been undertaken in secret; a useful and pragmatic decision but not one we ought to boast about. If Brown had been approving of the decision to release the terrorist on compassionate grounds then you might imagine he would have urged Gaddafi to exult in our liberal magnanimity and respect for the rights of the individual, no matter how foul they might be. Tell your people, Muammar, this is how we do things over here — we let enemies of the state go free after a bit, if they’re ill, rather than executing them without the benefit of a fair trial, as you chaps are wont to do. But Brown wanted it all kept low-key, and you can understand why.
The problem with this story is that it is difficult for ordinary people with an averagely developed moral sense to discern upon whom we should turn our guns first. I’ve been mulling this over for a while and decided it should probably be that third party, the Americans, for that familiar stench of hypocrisy now emanating from Washington DC. One by one, American politicians have lined up to condemn Britain for having released the man convicted of having blown up Pan Am Flight 103 in the skies above the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988. Some two thirds of the passengers were American citizens. The director of the FBI, Robert Mueller, called the decision to release the cancer-bedevilled al-Megrahi a ‘mockery of justice’. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama stuck the boot in too, calling the release ‘totally inappropriate’. Well sure, perhaps. But at least al-Megrahi was convicted and served a portion of his sentence. In the single year before the Lockerbie bombing the IRA murdered 20 people, mainly civilians, and maimed thousands of others — 11 dead and many more injured in one single atrocity in Enniskillen in November 1987. That campaign of terror, waged against British citizens for more than 30 years, was bankrolled by donations from the USA — and in those 30 years not a single terrorist was extradited from the US to face charges here, despite our repeated requests. Both federal and local US courts refused extradition requests almost as policy, while the funding of the IRA continued without interruption and was still raking in the money even after 9/11, when the Americans suddenly decided that they ought to start proscribing certain terrorist groups. The IRA was not, for some time, one of the groups so proscribed.
The truth is, Britain has been more successful in appealing to Libya to extradite alleged terrorists than it has been in appealing to our ally, that country with which we enjoy a ‘special relationship’. Not a single extradition granted in 30 years: we should remember that when the likes of Mueller is shouting his fat mouth off about mockeries of justice. We remember faux-Oirish US politicians giving succour to the Provos; we remember the imperviousness of every US regime, Democrat and Republican, to our pleas for justice. So see how you like it now.
But then there’s Mandelson. In a weird sort of way there he always is, lurking in the shadows as some political crisis unfurls. There are lunatics, fecund on the internet, who believe that the world is governed by a secret cabal of alien lizard-type creatures; they rave about meetings of the Bilderberg Group and often mention Roswell. Most of the time one is able to assume that these people are truly foam-flecked and certifiable — except, that is, when Mandelson hoves into view. Because when you look at Mandelson you must either believe that a) there really is a shadowy cabal of alien lizard-type creatures which rules us all and he is one of them, or b) he fervently wishes that there were. It’s one or the other. Certainly, if not actually reptilian, he seems to be an amphibian, given the amount of time he spends aboard yachts sidling up to one or other powerful and affluent piece of human filth (if I can put it like that). And almost always in the company of a Rothschild. And almost always in Corfu. The Greeks should stop worrying about the libidinous, alcohol-fuelled antics of our youthful chavtrash on the Greek islands and start worrying about what the likes of Mandelson gets up to when he’s prancing around Corfu in his Boden-wear. I know what poses the greater danger to the world.
Last summer the honest, trustworthy and totally above-board Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska was the recipient of Mandelson’s feline felicitations aboard some yacht, or within some villa. There were murmurings that Mandelson seemed to be spending an awful lot of time in Deripaska’s company just as the European Commission, of which he was an employee, was discussing various touchy things to do with aluminium imports and so on — aluminium being something Mr Deripaska is very interested in. But that was just coincidence, apparently. Mandelson protested at the time that as a very important person it had to be expected that he would be meeting other very important people here and there and that one shouldn’t impugn his motives for so doing.
This time around, Mandelson has admitted to meeting Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, Muammar’s charming son, in a Corfu villa owned by the Rothschilds, a week or so before the possible release of Mr al-Megrahi suddenly surfaced in the press. Of those who would dare to suggest some sort of link between the meeting and the subsequent release of al-Megrahi, Mandelson adopted a countenance of faux outrage and said: ‘The idea that the British government would sit down and somehow barter over the freedom or life of these Libyan prisoners and make it all part of some business deal… it’s not only wrong, it’s completely impractical and actually quite offensive.’
So there you are. Of course there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest any form of tie-in between lucrative business deals struck with the Libyans and the release of Mr al-Megrahi — except for the words of Gaddafi’s son and heir himself. Saif has stated repeatedly that the plight of Mr al-Megrahi was always ‘on the table’ when bilateral trade deals were discussed with Britain. We also know that the Prime Minister bumped into Muammar Gaddafi in Italy at the beginning of July, when certain things were discussed. And back in 2007, Tony Blair travelled to Libya for a high-profile rapprochement with the Libyan leader which, usefully, coincided with some highly remunerative deals struck with British oil companies in Libya (worth £540 million, since you asked). We know, too, that Libya — the most oil-rich nation in Africa — has begun investing heavily in property in Britain, through its Libyan Investment Authority. It is not only foam-flecked conspiracy theorists who see a link between this sudden affection on the part of Libya for all things British and the release of al-Megrahi. Offensive to Mandelson it may well be that some sort of connection be implied between these two occurrences — but is it even conceivable that there be no link whatsoever?
And then there is Libya itself — a foul, authoritarian, despotic govern ment back in 1988 when it planned the murder of those 270 people aboard Pan Am Flight 103 and no less foul, authoritarian and despotic now. Even by the usual Arab standards, Libya is an affront to those who believe in untrammelled democracy — even if Gaddafi was able to gain the misplaced affection of some on the British left by appending the meaningless word ‘socialist’ to his police-state satrapy. No opposition parties allowed, no political choice for its subject people, the imprisonment and torture of those who disagree with Gaddafi’s regime, corrupt, no freedom of conscience, no freedom of speech and a brutal police force which operates with total impunity. Amnesty International reports, approvingly, that two private newspapers and a privately owned satellite channel have opened up recently in Tripoli, which might afford the benighted population a degree of diversification from the state-ordained line. The two newspapers and satellite channels are in fact owned by a friend of Lord Mandelson’s — a certain Mr Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi. Let’s hear it for diversity, then.
Gaddafi is a clean-shaven Saddam — no less despotic, with the same retinue of ghastly, ambitious sons, just with a lot fewer tanks. Which is the point, I suppose: for all one might loathe the notion that we cede anything to the Libyans in order to buy off their murderous support for terrorists and perhaps grab a bit of their oil money at the same time, it is, in pragmatic terms, a better way of dealing with an enemy than invading the country and leaving an almost endless trail of dead. Quite aside from the deceit perpetrated against the British people in the lead-up to the war, the invasion of Iraq was a foreign policy mistake on the part of the US and Britain of the most grave kind, even if the British voters seem to have forgiven the government for having taken part in it. It would have been better to engage in the sort of chicanery and bartering we have employed with Libya (which was always a far more likely repository of support for al-Qa’eda than Iraq) than to send in the tanks. Which is why it is the straightfaced, solemn denials that we are doing any such thing that most gall, that take us all for idiots.
One assumes that this was the unvoiced subtext of Gordon Brown’s note to Muammar Gaddafi: we know full well what we are doing, releasing this dying thug — and it is of course an affront to the relatives of those who died at the hands of your agents on Pan Am Flight 103. Morally, it stinks — much as did our decision not to annoy the Saudis over all those BAE allegations. But it is the least worst option — so do us a favour and don’t be too visibly triumphant about it, huh?