I can’t help but admire the Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, in facing down the ferocious rhetoric and phone calls from American officials including Hillary Clinton. In today releasing Megrahi, the Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombings, MacAskill risked the ire of the American Government and many in his own country.
I think we know what would have happened had this particular power not been conveniently devolved to Scotland by Westminster. The spineless creep Jack Straw will have hastened to assure Washington that it would get what it wanted, if indeed they did oppose Megrahi’s release. I wonder whether State department officials compete to come up with the most degrading and ridiculous requests and demands, to see if the New Labour Atlanticists have a limit or capacity for independent thought.
Apparently not, and I’m hoping that they are cooking up some plan to have David Miliband ride backwards on a donkey, naked, into the UN General Assembly, or perhaps ask Gordon Brown to hold his breath for 10 minutes, or more cruelly for him and the rest of us, smile for one minute.
So MacAskill was brave, but was his decision correct? I think so, but not for the curious reasons he gave at the press conference earlier today. The decision to release Megrahi was correct solely because there is too much doubt about his guilt, because he was never given a fair trial where all evidence was presented, as the excellent work by the late Paul Foot showed.
While the American relatives of the Lockerbie victims seem content that Megrahi was the perpetrator and that he should therefore end his days in a Scottish prison, many of the British relatives are less convinced. Both sets of relatives are clear that we haven’t learned the full truth of what happened, and that the US and UK governments will not let us find out. The demand for a full, unrestricted inquiry is completely right of course, though the suffocating secrecy surrounding the murky actions of the British and American States means we will probably never get one until capitalism is overthrown. Luckily that should be happening in 2010, so I hear.
So what of MacAskill’s decision today? The right one for the wrong reasons. MacAskill reasoned that Megrahi had received punishment from a ‘higher power’ in the form of his terminal cancer for his alleged crimes, and that it was the compassionate and merciful thing to send him home to die. Wrong and wrong.
The first assertion is downright insulting, suggesting that cancer is somehow a punishment for wrongdoing, and invoking a God giving people cancer as divine justice. This isn’t far removed from the kind of assertion that cost Glenn Hoddle the England job, namely that disabled people must have done something wrong in a previous life. Illness and infirmity is a sign of immorality or criminality in this world view, a very offensive and dangerous one. It also assumes Megrahi actually committed the bombings, a highly dubious conclusion.
The second assertion I have found troubling also. If Megrahi had committed this atrocity, the idea that he should be allowed to go home to die does seem to clash with the fact that hundreds of innocent people were killed without warning and without a chance to say goodbye to loved ones. If Megrahi had committed this crime, we shouldn’t feel compassion, he really should have ended his days in Greenock Prison.
In a way, those of us commenting on this affair are playing hide and seek in the dark. We can only really guess at the intrigues and manoeuvres behind the scenes. Megrahi was clearly required to drop his second appeal in order to be released, and this was to stop any revelations coming out in that appeal. The American Government probably support the release behind closed doors for this reason, the British government likewise. As to who committed this terrorist act, they have got away with it for a variety of reasons we are not party to. This is unacceptable.
One of the demands of the Left with regard to private companies is ‘Open the books’, and the opening of the State books would make very interesting reading. State secrecy allows security and intelligence services to commit horrific and immoral actions under the cloak of darkness. Our demand should always be for full-disclosure, and to encourage the development anjd defence of media such as WikiLeaks and IndyMedia so we can check, in a limited way, what the Masters of the Universe are up to. One day what we find out might bring one of these Masters to justice for their crimes, in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Palestine. Or maybe Lockerbie.