Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi will be dead very shortly. Nevertheless his recent release from a Scottish prison as a dying man continues to reverberate. Even today we hear that the firm marketing Harris Tweed in the USA has had to issue a denial that it was planning to remove the word ‘Scottish’ from its publicity in response to a campaign (abortive in any case) for a boycott of Scottish products in that country.
The Scottish Executive showed great courage and principle in undertaking the release, though its justice minister, Kenny MacAskill had to refrain from stating the actual truth, that the Lockerbie trial was a travesty and the verdict manifestly perverse. To satisfy American diplomatic requirements an innocent individual was effectively deprived of the last eight years of his life. The idea that the government in London had anything to do with it is laughable – anybody who imagines that the Nationalist government in Holyrood would jump to do the bidding of its enemies Downing Street must be a very believing kind of person.
The outlines are well known. The Americans’ first suspicions were directed (probably accurately) at a Palestinian terrorist group operating from Syria, but when Syrian compliance was sought over the first Gulf War in 1991, accusation was switched against Libya, then a pariah state as far as the Western powers were concerned, and it’s regime forced to accept responsibility as the price of being received into the ‘international community’ – ie states acceptable to the USA, what used to be known as the ‘free world’. In the course of the trial vital evidence was withheld on the usual specious pretext of ‘national security’ and the witness on whom the conviction depended was a notorious liar who had received large quantities of dollars from government US sources.
More Middle East
The other day a commentator on Radio 4, an Iranian oppositionist, was pointing out that despite the bitter and often lethal divisions in Iranian society, all too clearly displayed around the recent presidential election, all Iranians are united in determination to assert the country’s sovereignty in face of threats and blackmail, particularly in regard to the country’s nuclear programme (which, its government insists, does not include nuclear weapon ambitions). This latter point is brusquely dismissed by US spokespeople in a manner which would never be applied to any state (apart from George Bush II’s ‘axis of evil’) and is diplomatically insulting in the extreme. The Iranians might well ask the US government and public how they would feel if a foreign power tried to instruct them on what they might or might not do on their own territory. To be sure, the current Iranian regime is a seriously repressive one, but a lot less so than the Saudi, and its presidential election undoubtedly fraudulent – but no more than the one that NATO has just promoted in Afghanistan at enormous cost in blood and treasure.
Meantime ethnic cleansing continues on the West Bank, the Saudi tyranny proceeds unabated, energetically spreading its superstition wherever it can, and NATO gets bogged down in an unwinnable war in Afghanistan. A splendid triumph for Western values.