Saturday, 30 January 2010

Some reflections following Tony Blair's appearance at the Iraq Inquiry

[The following reflections come from Dr Jim Swire, who has kindly permitted me to publish them here.]

In seeking to defend his decisions over Iraq, Mr Blair emphasised to Chilcot how the atrocity of 9/11 instantaneously changed the 'tolerance of risk' for the government and people of the USA, even venturing to suggest that sooner or later the same approach might be used upon Iran.

9/11 was of course the 11th of September 2001. In England it was a beautiful autumn day with the sun streaming down on the open French-windows of a house in Worcestershire. In the grounds of that house stood a 'satellite van' with its dish aligned on a satellite positioned over Madagascar, designed to transport the local scene to the studios of Sky TV for transmission instantly to a world audience.

Sky TV was there to discuss the significance of a new and startling development following the verdict reached in Zeist, Holland, against the Libyan intelligence agent al-Megrahi. That verdict had claimed that in a bizarre and complex conspiracy, Megrahi, from Malta, had used a sophisticated Swiss timer, well capable of being set to explode over mid Atlantic, to thread his bomb's route through three airports and two changes of aircraft, to litter the peaceful fields of Lockerbie with the debris of 259 human beings and a gigantic aircraft, and to murder 11 of Lockerbie's people, all just 38 minutes after it had left the Heathrow tarmac.

Sky TV were there, more than 12 years later, because they had only just heard that, unknown to the Zeist court, that there had been a break-in at Heathrow in the early morning of the disaster, giving access through the perimeter to the baggage assembly shed where the PanAm baggage container, shown at Zeist to have contained the bomb, was loaded that evening.

They were also there asking the question why this information had lain hidden for more than 12 years till after the verdict was reached at Zeist.

Our families had climbed aboard a flight at Heathrow which our Fatal Accident Inquiry, although also ignorant of the break-in, had found to be under the host state protection of the UK while being loaded from empty there. It was a valid question to ask of our government. Particularly when one realises that the same Zeist court had heard full details of a type of bomb built in Syria, which was available in 1988 and stable indefinitely at ground level, yet designed always to explode approximately 37 minutes after take off.

The Lockerbie plane managed just 38 minutes of flight.

Hollow indeed now rang the trumpeting of Paul Channon, Thatcher's Transport secretary, to the House of Commons on 22 December 1988 that we should be proud that at least Heathrow's security was known to be amongst the best in the world.

Throughout the day of 21st December 1988 Heathrow authorities knew that there had been a break-in, yet they did not know who had broken in, nor what the motive might have been. At a time of known increased terrorist threat they continued the lucrative flow of outgoing flights until the bomb exploded on PanAm 103 that evening.

When criticising an accepted theory, it is useful to produce a simpler and more credible alternative.

So what if the Heathrow break-in was indeed the route for getting a bomb onto the Lockerbie aircraft? For a start the Iran/Syria grouping with their pressing revenge motive and their unique possession of this technology would be centre stage, Malta Frankfurt and Megrahi would be irrelevant.

Such a theory is unexplored: why is that?

Why did the news of the break-in lie hidden for 12 years?

Who was complicit in concealing it?

What was their motive for doing so?

We know that the Metropolitan police (and therefore presumably the Thatcher government) knew of it, why did they keep quiet?.

Why were the Metropolitan police excluded from the [Lockerbie] investigation, turned over by Thatcher to a Scottish force?

Does this throw any light on why Thatcher and every Prime Minister since, including Blair and Brown, has for 21 years refused us the inquiry to which we have an inalienable right?

Did the Crown Office know about the break-in? They have claimed that they didn't.

Did the investigating Scottish police know about it? They haven't said. Of course a Heathrow break-in was a simple but potent threat to their complex Malta hypothesis.

As the sun still shone through those French windows, the Sky TV reporters heard through their phones that a second plane had struck. Now there was no doubt: this was a huge planned terrorist outrage on America's trophy city New York. For a US public which had never had to bear the outrage of enemy bombing of its home territory, as Blair said to Chilcot, the 'tolerance of risk' in America had changed for ever.

Like the morning dew, the Sky reporters and their technology melted away to cover this new atrocity. The coincidence of 9/11's timing had disabled the power of a free media to question the received wisdom.

But the questions remain and shall be professionally addressed.

Unlike Blair, many affected by the Lockerbie atrocity have avoided the idea of retaliation by force against the responsible country, pressing for the use of justice. They see that the atrocity was an act of revenge, and that to seek revenge for it in turn is to abandon the intellectual high ground, and to sink to the philosophy favoured by some terrorists. So long as Blair and all who have shared his office and establishment continue to rely blindly upon a solution to the worst terrorist atrocity ever to occur in their country, which seems fatally flawed, they put at risk more civilised routes through international justice. Their way stands to bring a blight upon all our futures.

In the end history, not Chilcot, will judge them.


  1. I thought initially the investigation was centred on the Syrian/Iranian connection. If that's the case then it doesn't make sense why they didn't investigate the break in at Heathrow right from the beginning as they would have had no need to implicate Malta. Surely if this was the case, it wouldn't have mattered where the bomb was planted other than causing deep embarrassment to the airport authority.

    Maybe the intention was to divert the investigation to Libya after a while but why?

    I think the whole thing was a joint exercise between the intelligence services of US/UK and Iran using the services of a terrorist group to appease Iran's fury at the shooting down of their civilan plane. Soon after the shooting down, US/UK attacked Saddam and if this war had been engineered by UK/US as I think it was it would have been planned way in advance. Hence, the US/UK would have needed Iran with them and working together with Iran to blow up a plane would surely have satiated Iran's appetite for revenge.

    To me all the reactions of politicians, investigators etc fit this scenario. The extraorodinary omission of Thatcher to mention Lockerbie and her fear of it, the statement by an American politician that the US knew what had happened and that no one would ever know, the failure of the government to secretly feed the media with anti-Iranian propaganda using the Lockerbie bombing. There are many, many other indicators including the UK's desperation to avoid Megrahi's appeal and the lengths they went to avoid it. I don't think we, the public, have been informed of all the details/machinations? of Megrahi's release.

  2. I think the whole thing was a joint exercise between the intelligence services of US/UK and Iran using the services of a terrorist group to appease Iran's fury at the shooting down of their civilian plane.

    Presumably, the terrorist group Ruth is referring to is apartheid South Africa.

  3. Not a presumption I would share from reading Ruth's comments which refers to Lockerbie as "a joint excercise between the US and British intelligence services and Iran using the services of a terrorist group." I'm not sure they needed the "terrorist group" save to convince "Iran" that they had carried out a revenge attack.

    The "elimination" of Heathrow had a lot to do with the Scottish Police retaining control of the investigation and the information relating to the PFLP-GC "Autumn Leaves" group led to the conviction that if the bomb was built in Neuss it must have arrived at Heathrow directly from frankfurt. Astonishingly the Police had made real progress in solving the case and simply threw it away by dismissing the notion that one of Khreesat's devices could have been introduced at Heathrow.

    On a different level to the Police investigation there were the interests of the "intelligence" services who had wider considerations and a different agenda from "the truth". (See my article Lockerbie - Criminal Justice or War By Other Means.") Intelligence is not Criminal Investigation - it is often the art of politically motivated deceit which is heart of "Lockerbie".

    I do not think it is credible to claim the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was forseen or planned for in 1988. It wasn't foreseen until it happened.

    I suggest Iran/Syria were exonerated of the Lockerbie bombing because there was no practical alternative to doing so short of war and the bombing was exploited for existing objectives vis a vis Libya. The creation of a false solution (any false solution) was the objective. Otherwise I thought Ruth had a good handle on the situation!

    But did the intelligence services exploit an unforseen terrorist atrocity or was the disaster expected and planned for?

    I personally find it inconceivable that the CIA's then Director the squeaky clean William Webster would have had any truck with such a scheme. However the foiling of "Autumn Leaves" and the measured response to the "Vincennes Incident" in the scale and timing of the Lockerbie bombing suited the partisan electoral interests of George H.W. Bush. I understand that when President Mr Bush routinely by-passed Mr Webster acting as his own CIA Director.

    It was a former CIA officer and business associate of Jeb Bush, Richard Lawless who supposedly held a number of meetings with Iranian officials in the months before "Autumn Leaves." Another CIA officer Thomas Twetton, head of Covert Operations for the Near East, took credit for the disruption of the Libyan based Abu Nidal group, and was promoted to Deputy Director Operations. His son-in-law was numbered as a Lockerbie victim making his daughter a very wealthy widow.

    As I have previously pointed out Libya's material support for the IRA gave the British Security Services a motive to implicate Libya. Indeed Stella Rimington publicly boasted that it was MI5 who "identified the two Libyan culprits."

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  5. But did the intelligence services exploit an unforeseen terrorist atrocity or was the disaster expected and planned for?

    Unless I am mistaken, baz does indeed believe that the disaster was expected and planned for.

    If that is the case, could he please explain why:

    1. Of all the many US carriers, Pan Am was chosen?

    2. Of all the different PA flights, Pan Am 103 was chosen?

    3. Of all the dates in the 10-week Reagan/Bush interregnum, 21 December 1988 was chosen?

    There is of course an all-embracing theory that can explain why specifically Pan Am Flight 103 on 21 December 1988 was sacrificed in revenge for the July 1988 shooting down of the Iranian airbus by the US Navy.

    Maybe former President Bush Snr's Democratic challenger in the 1988 presidential election, Michael Dukakis, could hazard a guess at the explanation.