Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Rottweiler Alex is right to stand up to American bullies

[This is the headline over an article in today's edition of The Press and Journal by columnist Nicola Barry. It reads in part:]

You have to hand it to Alex Salmond. Yes, OK, at times the first minister can be loud, irritating, bumptious even, but, when the knives are out and the going gets tough, he is never afraid to stick his head above the parapet.

Scotland’s first minister has delivered a right royal raspberry to the US over the al Megrahi and BP affair. Not before time. Instead of skulking around, furiously passing the buck like many of his colleagues, Mr Salmond has said “no” to America.

No, we will not obey. No, the justice secretary will not go to America for a grilling in front of a Senate committee. Neither will Alex Salmond. There will be no grilled Salmond on the menu.

Now, had it been Tony Blair, our former prime minister, things would have been different. Mr Blair would have been at Heathrow Airport, in an instant, tail wagging furiously, on his way to Washington. Not for nothing was old Tone known as Bush’s poodle.

Alex Salmond is no one’s poodle. Rottweiler, maybe, but never a poodle. (...)

When a small country such as Scotland, with a remit as big as the al Megrahi decision, made a compassionate choice, America chose to vilify us.

In all the criticisms of the Scottish Government over the Megrahi decision, none of the American politicians has so much as mentioned the possibility of a miscarriage of justice. Why not? Because the truth does not interest them.

The wonderful Mr Salmond said there was no way the Senate foreign relations committee would be allowed to hold hearings or interview ministers in either London or Edinburgh, as it was unconstitutional and unprecedented.

He also said that the Scottish and UK governments had already answered the committee's questions by letter and supplied all the relevant documents related to al Megrahi's release on compassionate grounds. (...)

I doubt we will ever know the ins and outs of Tony Blair’s deal with Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi in the desert, back in 2004, but the fallout from that meeting lingers on into this present crisis.

Scotland, a small country, has been singled out by the US so that certain politicians over there can flex their muscles at our expense. This has gone on for some time now.

Kenny MacAskill showed a great deal of integrity by refusing to buckle under intense international pressure. He made a difficult, controversial decision off his own bat. And, by the way, the fact that an unruly bunch of Saltire-waving Libyans greeted al Megrahi on his return home has nothing to do with the Scottish Government. Also, it has to be said that the justice secretary proved Scotland was very capable of independence, because we made our own decision in the devolved area of criminal justice, and stuck to our guns.

Therefore, I respect Alex Salmond, our occasionally pugnacious first minister, for getting on his high horse and telling the US Senate that he will not be dispatching members of his government to Washington to be grilled by senators who, let’s be honest, sense there is blood in the water.

[In The Herald a letter from Jo Greenhorn headed "Leaders should be vociferous in condemning American interference in our sovereign affairs" reads as follows:]

For how much longer will the parliaments at Westminster and Holyrood tolerate interference in British and Scottish affairs by the United States?

When will we hear public condemnation of recent US behaviour from every single party leader at Westminster, including the Prime Minister, and from all opposition leaders at Holyrood? It really is time the gloves came off.

The US has now crossed many lines in what we know is nothing more than a blatant attempt by four insignificant politicians there to use the recent oil spill, and the involvement of BP in that matter, to rustle up some votes ahead of their elections later this year.

They are now breaching not only diplomatic protocol but sailing dangerously close to disregarding the right of every sovereign country, under UN regulations, to manage its own business. What next? Will they invade?

The Herald is to be congratulated for supporting the approach taken by Alex Salmond in dealing with the increasingly bizarre behaviour of the US in a recent powerful editorial on the subject.

It is a pity Iain Gray, Annabel Goldie and Tavish Scott would not do the same, regardless of their feelings about the release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi last year. This is no time for party politics, and their silence is something all Scots should view with alarm. Ultimately, they should condemn outright what the US is doing by openly interfering in British and Scottish business. They should also be supporting calls from The Herald and elsewhere for a full investigation into Lockerbie.

If the Americans want an inquiry, let’s give them one, but let’s make it worthwhile. Let’s investigate Lockerbie from start to finish, including the public doubts expressed by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission regarding Megrahi’s original trial and conviction. Megrahi’s appeal may be gone but the findings of the SCCRC are still on record and they will not go away.


  1. The P&J piece is very fair to Salmond and balanced too. I would have liked to see also an accompanying Editorial slamming opposition leaders at Holyrood for sitting back and enjoying the whole spectacle simply because the SNP are in the firing line.

    The Herald have come out and even the Scotsman. Neither of them are known for their support of the Nationalists. We can only hope they keep doing it. Ordinary folk need to bombard party leaders and challenge them constantly on the whole idea that anyone has the right to announce they will summon our politicians to the US or worse, bring themselves over here and conduct their investigation here where they have no jurisdiction whatsoever!

  2. It is extraordinary how little the representatives of a nation with a Federal constitution can understand of other countries, which have other sorts of devolved arrangements.

    The US political class expects every other country to have a unified administrative system, preferably a so-called elected leader on terms favourable to the US polity. If he isn't, then the electoral process is deemed to have failed and may well be corrected by the US government using immense force, always the surest way of producing a democracy.

    So, the US does not understand that Mr Megrahi was released on compassionate grounds by the Scottish government following an assessment by Scottish prison service doctors, not Libyan paid ones, that the UK level prisoner transfer agreement between this country and Libya were not used. Senator Lautenberg was like Mr Duggan associated with HW Bush's Presidential Commission on Terrorism, and no he doesn't have any connection with Lockerbie. As senior democrat for NJ, he shows no more than the limited ability of a man of his class and position about te rest of the world, and we must ask him to shut up and do what he does best - glad handing and raising funds for his next inevitable campaign. But politician, or knowledgeable about Pan Am 103 he ain't.

  3. Actually Charles I would disagree. The US has many States all of whom have separate arrangements when it comes to delivering "justice". These States often have different laws. (Some have capital punishment, some do not.) So they are very well placed to get their heads around two systems operating here and I'm certain they fully understand how this has worked in the UK.

    They have fallen over themselves to keep Blair out of it their "inquiries" for example when, if they were looking for real answers, he would have been top of their list over exactly what "deal" he made "in the desert" with the good Colonel over Megrahi. For there is simply no doubt that Megrahi's fate was tied up in those talks. Indeed, he was what they were about with oil being the trade-off. BP lobbied Blair's government, not the Scottish Government. The Americans know this but are ignoring it. But then they also ignore the doubts over Megrahi's conviction because if they remotely go near that issue its them who would be getting brought in to answer questions.

  4. Have to say I loved the "There will be no grilled Salmond." part! Inspired.

  5. Senator Robert Menendez really has a terrible cheek. A quick googling reveals some of his more endearing qualities, including a concern for justice that seems to be lacking over Lockerbie.

    For example in 1987 when he was Mayor of New Jersey Robert Menendez contributed an unspecified amount to help finance the legal costs of an appeal by his fellow Cuban-American Eduardo Arocena against his conviction for terrorism. Mr Arocena was serving consecutive sentences of life imprisonment and thirty-five years' imprisonment, after being found guilty on twenty-five counts, including first degree murder of a diplomat, two conspiracies to murder diplomats, malicious damage by explosives to property used in commerce, with personal injury resulting, six counts of possession of unregistered bombs, two counts of conspiracy and perjury.

    Mr Arocena was the kingpin in a secret terrorist organization comprised of exiles and
    emigres dedicated to overthrowing the Castro regime. This group, called "Omega 7," sought to carry out their mission through bombings and murders, crimes that they financed by assisting drug traffickers and through extortion.

    On being challenged about supporting such a person Mayor Menendez was quoted as saying "there are times when what one looks at as a law at a given time has to be broken." He later described this as a "a great mischaracterization of my position" but went on to say "I view my actions simply supportive of the Cuban community's goal for freedom and democracy. I reiterate my position in favor of freedom and Democracy not only in Cuba, but in Poland, in Grenada, for a united Ireland; and for all other people fighting for political and religious freedom throughout the
    World." And this at the height of the activities of Provisional IRA and a couple of weeks before the Remembrance Day bombing!

    Mr Arocena’s appeal was not successful. The Appeal Court stated “Overall, the Government's case against Eduardo Arocena was overwhelming and impressive. Arocena's interviews with FBI agents and his lengthy taped conversations with Agent Wack, combined with the copious physical evidence against him and the testimony of eighty-five witnesses, piece together the details of a terrorist campaign shocking in its ferocity and persistence.”

    Given his support for Mr Arocena one is left wondering if Senator Menendez harbours any doubts at all about the safety of Mr Megrahi’s conviction.

  6. Oh wow! I'd like to have seen Gavin Esler confront him with that!

    Do these journos do no research, or what?

  7. Oh jeez please don't bring Ireland into this!

  8. And incidentally is possible to regret all that was done to the island of Ireland without being a supporter of the Provisional IRA. You really should bear that in mind before including such a view in a list of "Reasons to condemn a person" on a site such as this.

  9. ? I don't see anything to take issue with in what Ewan has written. He just quoted what the man said, and remarked that he said it shortly before the Remembrance Day bombing, which is worth mentioning as it included support for a united Ireland.

    Even if you take the Ireland bit out, the man clearly has no problem supporting terrorists when he approves of their goals.

    And to be honest, when Americans start calling Britain soft on terror, I don't think it's all that irrelevant to point out that Americans were funding the IRA terrorist campaign, and appeals for this to be stopped were rejected.

    There was one poster recently who was suggesting that "the recent upsurge in terrorist attacks on the UK" was because we were soft on terrorism. It was pointed out to him that in recent years the threat of terrorism had decreased markedly, certainly in England and Northern Ireland. And that US citizens had been funding the terror campain against the UK in the late 20th century.

    Sometimes it's good to remind Americans of that.

  10. The reason the UK became a target was because Blair took us into Iraq.

    I also think this senator's support of a United Ireland doesn't necessarily mean he supported the provisional IRA. I know of many people who wanted to see an Ulster that treated all of its citizens equally.........that doesn't mean they support the Provisional IRA either. They just wanted access for all to jobs, houses and votes! It was why the Civil Rights Movement was born because some of a particular religion could not get access to any of those things. But that's ok. Let's label them all Provos and terrorists and avoid the fact that in the UK a form of apartheid existed for years in Ulster and was permitted and those caught up in it were expected to just live with it.

  11. Hmmm, maybe it doesn't mean that, but in context that was how I took it, and it seems very likely.

    Heck, in principle I support a united Ireland too, as in, they should never have divided it in the first place. But it's such a complex and loaded subject I really wouldn't touch it with a barge pole.

    Yes, Blair took Britain into Iraq and made us a target. But so far, the result has been less terror than we had in the late 20th century from the IRA, so it's hardly correct to speak of any recent increase in terrorist attacks in Britain.

  12. No Rolfe, you took it as you took it and that doesn't make it "very likely". This man did not declare his support for the Provisional IRA.

    Ewan mentioned this man's support for a United Ireland and added a great deal on to it. That he had no right to do. Especially when he adds, "And this before the Remembrance Day bombing." What is he suggesting? That the man could see into the future? His support for a United Ireland does not mean he supported the Provisional IRA and that is a fact. Oh yes and its a complex and loaded subject all right which is why it is most unwise for people like Ewan to throw comments like that into the mix here. It is not helpful.

    This is NOT about the IRA. The terrorist incidents we had here post-Iraq involved London and Glasgow. They were all about the fact that the UK was backing the US in the illegal invasion of Iraq, a route many Britons thought the UK would never take for the simple reason that it was illegal, it breached UN rules and many others. Blair abandoned all of that to follow Bush. He had gone to the Middle East post the Twin Towers atrocity and said he intended to demand equal rights for the Arab Nations at the UN. He then chose to follow Bush into Iraq.

    People here took the hit in the London bombings. They were a direct result of Blair's madness in setting us alongside the hated US.

  13. Anyway, getting back to the subject, great article from the Press and Journal as I said earlier. Thank you for bringing it to our attention Prof B!

  14. And also back to the subject, great letter from you too! You do pen a classy missive.

  15. Thank you Rolfe.

    You know we were talking about Salmond's tone in that letter the other day? I just want him to take it up another notch or two.

    Like you I'm wondering why they have tolerated this stuff this long and like you I'm also of the view that there is something we don't know about the release. Having said this I can't think there would be anything major there that they should be afraid of. I hate the connection between the visit to Greenock and the dropping of the appeal. I hated the whole tribute to the judiciary bit and the repeated references to a just trial and verdict.

    Even so I still believe the Scottish Government has nothing to lose by just going for it and challenging the others at Holyrood but also the coalition government to back a full investigation, not into the release, but into Lockerbie, full stop. It is the only thing that will settle the many doubts surrounding this case.

    There was a piece by Kenneth Roy in this week's Scottish Review. It invites a few Americans over here to ask them some questions. One of the questions posed is why that flight was packed full and then suddenly cancelations started coming in. He questioned why that could happen on a flight on that date where cancelations just wouldn't happen with so many Americans desperate to get home to the States for Christmas yet suddenly not long before the fly-date all these seats became available?

  16. I am sorry that I seem to have upset Jo G, whose views I generally agree with and whose writings I respect, but I make no apology for reporting accurately what Senator Menendez said and placing it in its historical context. As a reasonably well-informed (I hope) resident of the west of Scotland I am well aware that one can support Irish unity without supporting PIRA. The fact remains that Senator Menendez was expressing a view extremely hostile to the official position of the government of what was supposed to be a friendly state, and partner in the so-called special relationship.

    It’s also revealing that the remarks included Poland, where the United States was then supporting solidarity and Grenada, a member of the British Commonwealth, that was invaded by the United States in October 1983 without reference to the UK government, which condemned it, and also condemned by UN General Assembly resolution no 38/7, deeply deploring “the armed intervention in Grenada, which constitutes a flagrant violation of international law and of the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of that State.”

    I posted this material (my first posting to this site, although I have been visiting for years) as I felt it was useful background about Senator Menendez and his attitude towards political systems, however legitimate, that he disapproves of. It underlines the point Jo G was making about the spinelessness David Cameron and the opposition bunch at Holyrood.

    By the way, Rolfe, your recent comprehensive post was the most accurate, eloquent and persuasive I have read on the whole subject of Lockerbie. It should be recommended reading for anyone new to the subject.

  17. Ewan, my position on Northern Ireland is that there were many terrorist groups operating there. I rarely see more than one mentioned when terrorism in that part of the world is mentioned. I find that most odd.

    And in the West of Scotland especially there was a great deal of support, sadly, for the terrorists operating on both sides in Ulster. Money came from everywhere to fund both Republican and Loyalist terrorist organisations as did guns. Indeed at the height of the troubles there were "cells" operating here in Scotland associated with both sides.

    Secondly the history of that unfortunate part of the UK really can't be dragged into a site like this. As Rolfe rightly says it is complex indeed and is a huge subject.

    I would repeat however that support for a united Ireland, or even for equal rights in Ulster, does not mean support for terrorism. I believe it is profoundly wrong to make that connection when, at the heart of that view, there is often simply the wish to see that elusive thing justice alive and healthy there.

  18. Ewan.......and also, welcome. : )

  19. Jo, I can see that the Irish question is a bit of a hot-button issue for you. It was only a very minor part of Ewan's point, and his point would stand up just as well if it were omitted.

    For my part, I'd be glad to set aside the question of Ireland, and concentrate on Lockerbie.

  20. There was a piece by Kenneth Roy in this week's Scottish Review. It invites a few Americans over here to ask them some questions. One of the questions posed is why that flight was packed full and then suddenly cancelations started coming in. He questioned why that could happen on a flight on that date where cancelations just wouldn't happen with so many Americans desperate to get home to the States for Christmas yet suddenly not long before the fly-date all these seats became available?

    Jo, it appears that has been investigated, was investigated early on, and simply isn't true.

    The Presidential Commission that Patrick mentioned earlier (that Lautenberg was a member of) looked into that, and the report includes an analysis of booking patterns for PA103 on 21st December 1988 compared to other comparable flights. It's all presented as a scientific paper, and finds no suggestion of abnormal booking or cancellation patterns. I read it just the other day.

    If this is in any way fabricated of cherry-picked, I have seen no rebuttal of it, and lacking that I have to believe it is accurate. The claims of cancellations and so on simply continue to be repeated regardless.

    This is an example of the approach I was criticising earlier. The implication of that allegation is extremely serious. It suggests that many people high up the food chain in the USA knew that flight was to be bombed, and did nothing about it apart from avoid it themselves. This is an extraordinary allegation, and one which seems to have no concrete evidence to support it. Basing one's case for Megrahi being wrongly convicted on an already discredited conspiracy theory does not in my opinion advance that case one iota.

    The evidence against the US authorities as regards framing Megrahi is clear-cut and unarguable. It is contained in the CIA cables admitted in court that Giaka was bribed/blackmailed in July 1991 to provide fabricated testimony to incriminate him. And further supported by the gross distorsions of Tony Gauci's evidence that were presented to the court, plus the evidence that Gauci himself was also paid handsomely for his services.

    A bit less about cancelled flights and agreed "sacrificial" aeroplanes and even fabricated physical evidence, and a bit more about the Giaka business, would advance this case a lot better in my opinion.

  21. Rolfe, it isn't a hot button issue at all. I am simply injecting balance into the discussion and making it quite clear that supporting a united Ireland or equality in Ulster is not also supporting terrorism. I'm also pointing out that there were, and still are, terrorist groups in NI of both the Republican and Loyalist types. I despised all of them equally.

  22. Rolfe, I'll pass your scolding on to Kenneth Roy : )

    I'll say no more. I feel unworthy.