Thursday, 15 July 2010

BP, the Lockerbie bomber and a cynical stunt

[This is the headline over a long article by Tim Edwards on The First Post website. The final section reads:]

... the Senators have succeeded in linking the two most poisonous blights on US-UK relations of the past year, and guaranteed maximum publicity for their campaign. Clinton says she will "look into" the request.

BP and its CEO Tony Hayward, for their part, could be forgiven for being a little bemused that Senators have grabbed yet another stick to beat them now that they are so close to capping the oil spill.

BP openly admits it told the British government in 2007 that delays in releasing al-Megrahi were an obstacle to an oil deal. Any investigation into the affair will only reveal what is already known: that Hayward's predecessor John Browne wasn't the only oil exec to negotiate with Libya (Rex Tillerson, the current CEO of ExxonMobil, met Gaddafi in 2005), and that Shell and ExxonMobil beat BP to Libyan oil licenses anyway.

Al-Megrahi would have been released with or without BP's lobbying. Although trade deals were an important factor, far more pressing for the UK government was the fact that al-Megrahi was preparing an appeal against his conviction that may well have resulted in an embarrassing acquittal.

In truth the focus on BP's relationship with Libya is a cynical publicity stunt by four US Senators who, quite understandably, are attempting to win what they see as justice for their constituents.

[Today's edition of The Scotsman contains a letter from Bob Taylor that reads:]

What exactly do the four United States senators hope to achieve by pressing for an investigation into the Lockerbie bomber's release (...)?

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill's statement in support of his decision to let Abdelbaset al-Megrahi go on compassionate grounds has already been analysed in depth.

The rigour of the medical advice, the controversial visit by the minister to Greenock prison and the flying of the Saltire at Tripoli airport have all been rehashed ad infinitum.

What seems to have been ignored was a significant part of Mr McAskill's statement last summer. He made the point that he had come under no pressure from any quarter to make a decision either way.

But he also stressed another matter: that the Scottish Government had no powers to examine the wider aspects of the case but would co-operate if a major inquiry was established at either UK or international level.

It is for this that the four senators should be campaigning. There is an understandable angst across the Atlantic about Megrahi's longevity.

This is not the main issue. It is that there are now a number of diplomatic, economic and legal barriers to the quest for truth on the whole affair. The bodies that can overcome these barriers are the British, Libyan and US governments.

How long Megrahi lives seems a small point compared with what might emerge if they were all truthful about what really went on.

[The readers' comments that follow the letter are also worth reading.]

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