Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 7:55 AM
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was the only person convicted in 2001 for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland on December 21, 1988. Two hundred and seventy people (two-thirds of them Americans) were killed; Megrahi was sentenced to life in a Scottish prison.
But he was released in 2009, which incited me to write the following in a commentary challenging the compassionate grounds the Scottish government proffered to justify it:
Notwithstanding his alleged illness, Megrahi’s release is such an affront to common sense that the British could only have released him for the same reason the Americans invaded Iraq: oil…
(It only fueled speculation about a quid pro quo when Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi praised British PM Gordon Brown, himself a Scotsman, as a ‘courageous friend’ for facilitating this release.)
I am sensible enough to appreciate that incurring the moral wrath of the Americans for releasing him was a small price to pay for sweetheart oil deals with Libya…
I just wish British authorities did not insult our intelligence by citing compassion as their justification for releasing this mass murderer; especially since they have refused to show similar compassion for many other convicts who are (or were) relatively more worthy…
Also, don’t be surprised if Megrahi lives well beyond the three months he purportedly has to live….
(“Release of Lockerbie Bomber: Compassion v. Justice,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 24, 2009)
But the only thing noteworthy about his death is the irony of having the red-carpet treatment he received as a returning national hero soon pulled from under him as Libya became engulfed in a de facto civil war. For this ended not only in the mob-style execution of his protector and benefactor Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, but also with him losing the spare-no-expense medical care (complete with life-sustaining medications) Gaddafi provided.
The irony of course is that had he remained in that Scottish prison he would have had guaranteed and uninterrupted access to excellent medical care; he would have been spared the pain and indignities he suffered in the last years of his life; and he would probably still be alive.
All the same, speculation is rife – even among renowned foreign policy experts here in Washington – about whether Megrahi took damning international secrets to his grave or whether he instructed family members to reveal them upon his death. The insinuation is that more than a few British politicians are now sitting on pins and needles (i.e., praying for the former).
Washington is harrumphing with shock and outrage this week over reports that BP, the pariah oil giant, prevailed upon the British government to release Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi in exchange for a $900 million oil deal with Libya…
Finally, the UK government has taken pains to explain that the decision to release Megrahi was made by Scottish authorities. But whatever the nature of devolution between England and Scotland, when it comes to international matters like this, it was and is always the case that foreign governments deal with England, not Scotland or Wales – no matter how much these two former kingdoms are implicated.
More to the point, my Scottish friend, a very accomplished barrister, has lamented the way Scotland duly complies with the UK government expropriating profits from oil drilling off its coast to stash in the London treasury. Therefore, it beggars belief to think that the UK government did not effectively instruct Scotland to release Megrahi for the benefit of the UK’s largest taxpayer, BP, and that Scotland duly complied.
This is why, when word got out that the Scots were thinking of releasing him on compassionate grounds, the U.S. appealed – not to the Scots in Scotland but to that Scot in England who represents the UK government, Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
(“BP Involved in Release of Lockerbie Bomber?!” The iPINIONS Journal, July 16, 2010)
The cover up in this case was unearthed by studying ‘hundreds of confidential papers by the Cabinet office,’ which revealed that a number of Labour ministers acted not just as advisers to, but as facilitators between Scottish and Libyan officials to seal this deal.
I trust this latest report will finally remove the scales from the eyes of my British critics. But they don’t have to take my word for it; because here, in part, is the aggrieved indignation the first minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, vented at English politicians for using Scottish authorities to execute their foreign policy sleight of hand:
‘My point is the extraordinary position of the Labour party in Scotland attacking the SNP government for doing according to judicial principles what the Labour government in London were wanting to do, if not saying it openly, for economic and political reasons.
‘It seems to me the biggest example of organised political hypocrisy that I’ve ever seen in my time in politics.’
(“British Exposed as Imperial Hypocrites on Lockerbie Bomber,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 8, 2011)
What these quotes reveal, however, is that if Megrahi possessed any secret worth revealing it must have more to do with how Gaddafi recruited and rewarded him for the Lockerbie bombing than with how the British bartered with Gaddafi for his release. After all, the man was in prison in Scotland when British politicians were conspiring with BP to offer him as a national trophy to Gaddafi in exchange for access to Libyan oil.
Instead, the real reason they might be sitting on pins and needles is that Gaddafi’s once presumptive heir, the now-imprisoned Saif, might sing like a canary about just how willing British politicians (including former PM Tony Blair) were to betray the loved ones of those who died in the Lockerbie bombing to consummate these venal oil deals.