Thursday, 5 August 2010

Why the US Senate should question Tony Blair

[This is the headline over an article by Mark Seddon, the former United Nations Correspondent and New York Bureau Chief for Al-Jazeera English TV, on the Left Futures website. It reads in part:]

Silence speaks volume. In the unmitigated disaster that is the Gulf of Mexico, two silent partners watch as BP endures a hurricane of criticism, Transocean and Haliburton, who it has been alleged are at least as complicit over the oil spill as the company that has been re-born in sections of the US media as “British Petroleum”. (...)

Just because big business and Government frequently fuse and lobby in such a way all of the time, and just because ‘Big Oil’ has such political and economic power, does not mean that Senator Menendez is wrong to try and pursue answers. Far from it. And just because the British lawmakers he wants to invite in front of his Committee have not taken up his offer, doesn’t mean that his Committee should allow itself to get side-lined. In truth it is difficult to see US lawmakers agree to fly to London to be quizzed by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, just as it is for British and Scottish lawmakers to break all conventions and appear in front of a foreign legislature. Neither the United States nor the United Kingdom are supplicants.

However, there is nothing stopping Senator Menendez and others coming to London and Edinburgh to find out for themselves what really want on behind the scenes in the run up to the signing of al-Megrahi’s release, they might discover that the whole affair is a good deal murkier than even they imagine.

I interviewed al-Megrahi in Tripoli at a time when the Libyans were refusing to extradite him, and while Libya’s pedigree in backing terrorist outrages was not in doubt. I remember then thinking that something did not quite seem right, and wondering if al-Megrahi – the only man to be convicted for the downing of the Pan Am flight – was being set-up as some kind of scapegoat. A body of evidence amassed in the years since, not least by the now sadly deceased investigative journalist, Paul Foot, does indeed reach the conclusion that al-Megrahi was the scapegoat. The Senator and his team only need visit the offices of Private Eye magazine in Soho, London, and they can see the evidence for themselves. It is also worthy of note that many of the British families who lost family in the Lockerbie bombing also happen to agree that al-Megrahi could be innocent.

That then is one angle. But here is another. In recent days we have seen and heard much from the Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond, easily the most erudite and informed politician in these islands, a visible reminder of the calibre of politician we have lost. Senator Menendez certainly needs to meet Salmond and Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, where he will discover I suspect that the Scottish authorities played the release of al-Megrahi by the book. I may of course be wrong, but somehow I do not see that Salmond in particular would have been swayed by lobbying by BP, still less by the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair. In fact Salmond is adamant that, when it came to the Scottish Parliament, there was no lobbying by BP at all.

And so to the other silent voice, the loudest silence of all, from the man who was the architect of the rapprochement with Libya, the former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Blair’s ties to BP were so close that the company was at one time nicknamed as ‘Blair Petroleum’. A revolving door existed between Number 10 Downing Street and BP’s head office, and while there is a good argument to suggest that Blair was right to want to lift relations with Libya out of deep freeze, it is probably time to ask exactly why.

Was it because Britain, a perennial target for Libyan inspired terrorist attacks, or Libyan financed terrorist attacks, genuinely wanted to turn over a new leaf with the unpredictable Libyan strongman, Colonel Gadaffi , or was the prospect of black gold too tempting a prospect? Or was it, more likely, a combination of the two?

Big companies such as BP have incredible clout, yet it takes Governments to legislate and Governments to agree prisoner transfer agreements. It takes Governments to revive trade and diplomatic ties. It therefore follows that Governments can if they wish resist the pressure and refuse to legislate or revive diplomatic ties. But when it came to Libya, still ruled by a despot who had never even apologised for the State sponsored financing of terrorism and whose agents shot Police Constable Yvonne Fletcher in cold blood outside the Libyan Embassy in London, Tony Blair’s Government wanted to re-open economic ties.

If Senator Menendez wants to get to the bottom of this whole sorry affair he could do no better than inviting Tony Blair to testify on Capitol Hill. After all, Blair has close links with both BP and the Libyan authorities, and is no longer a Parliamentarian but a private citizen. Why should he refuse to go?


  1. A well written article and he makes some interesting points - Blair's conspicuous silence and Salmond's high level of competence. I do wonder if these Senators pay any regard to comment that is not local - especially comment written by a left-winger who worked for Al Jazeera. Maybe the best that can be hoped for is Seddon's points are picked up by a New Jersey or New York journalist and replayed to Menendez et al. It was apparent yesterday from Obama's comment, they want a line drawn under the oil spill and HE fixed it. It is just possible that continuing to try to link an oil spill, that went away, and BP as an unethical company, will become to be regarded as counter productive. The need for the Senate hearing may evaporate at this point.

  2. If Menendez & Co were serious, they would also call in Gaddafi's son who said that Megrahi was "at the table" in every trade negotiation, and more recently revealed that Tony Blair is now a special family friend, an advisor to daddy and a consultant to the family's captive cash cow LIF (aka Libyan Investment Firm.) Blair denied the consulting bit, then slithered up out of the Libyan sand a day or so later, and right after that the British press was reporting that daddy was to pay a couple Bills for compensating theeeeee--give me a second to scroll down the blackmail list...--there, IRA victims. Incidentally, IRA comes right before IRAQ on the list, but daddy had compensated the Western political victims for that one.

    You folks are free to think there is no connection between the IRA and Lockerbie, which is true in one historical sense, but in the history of (Western) blackmailing of rich and megalomaniacal (Eastern) dictators, the IRA, Lockerbie, Yvonne Fletcher, ex-Libyan Jews, Charles Taylor's little dirty stones, those are all cards that fit perfectly in one deck. And the French, with their legendary appetite, have shown the whole world that it pays to go back to the same trough over and over.

    Sometimes I think Western democracies have a lot in common with gambling casinos. Lots of dangling mirrors faithfully reporting what they see, and lots of smoke blown by former and active elected officials to keep the mirrors fluttering. All the players believe wholeheartedly they are moving freely, and they are, just like molecules madly oblivious to the bias of the drifting cloud that they constitute. But if you zoom out a bit, to a coarser scale of space and time, you realize it is just a tempest in a cup, and the only true winner is the casino owner.

    With a rich dictator who has a long rap sheet and a proven readiness to trade in the whole loot for dictatorial longevity, what better odds can the Western house ask for? Answer: It would be nice if he could be made younger! The next best thing would be grooming his potential heirs. Gaddafi's son was awarded a PhD degree by the London School of Economics, after he had awarded them a few million to fund a center for good governance or some such bullshit, and also after he had paid the (US based) Monitor Group to do all the research submitted in his thesis. The Monitor Group is fortunate, like BP, to have big "former" spooks among its leaders, MI6, CIA, etc... Look them up, and look up the leaked proposals from them, including one for personal tutoring of another Gaddafi heir apparent with the title of national security advisor. They promised to teach him how to read the newspapers--absolutely no joke! And look up the hard work of former Speaker-designate of the House on behalf of Gaddafi & Sons. That would be republican Bob Livingston, who resigned his post to teach Clinton the right and honorable pose to take when caught with his pants down. Check the travels of Mr. Tom Ridge, the first ever US Sec. of Homeland Security, and you will find him in Tripoli cutting the ribbon for an exhibition on "security," in his private capacity--of course--as the head of Ridge Global. Isn't it nice how state-sponsored terrorism is called "security" when conducted on a domestic stage?

    Yes, Menendez could really jazz up his circus if he called in Blair and Gaddafi Jr, both of whom are designated PITWOTs, "Partners in the War on Terror". The show would get better ratings. But in reality, no one should take the US senate seriously when it pretends to be concerned about shady deals. I call on all reasonable Americans to "Refudiate the Menendez Moquiry" before they OD on "freedom whiskey."

  3. I do not know who Suliman is referring to when he writes "you folks are free to think there is no connection between the IRA and Lockerbie".

    I think Libyan material support for the IRA and the blaming of Libya for the Lockerbie bombing are intimately linked. It was a specific demand of the West subsequent to the imposition of UN sanctions that Libya renounce support for the IRA and provie the British with information concerning that relaton as a precondition of dropping sanctions.

    He also refers to Saif al-Islam's claims, repeated in the US, that Mr Megrahi's fate wa always "on the table" in negotiations. He has an interest in portraying Mr Al-Megrahi's release as a result of Libyan diplomacy and pressure as part of his campaign to succeed his father.

    Mr Seddon's praises Paul Foot. While "Flight from Justice" was an excellent pamphlet and concentrated on the trial a lot of dross was published in Private Eye (with the exception of 2-3 articles) and continues to be published. Essentially Private Eye pushed the "drug conspiracy theory" and continue to plug a version of it.

  4. Gaddafi Jnr has said that in all trade meetings with the UK Megrahi was "on the table" meaning his release by whatever means. I believe that. The PTA set up had Megrahi at the centre of it too and was what the deal in the desert was all about.

  5. No, no, no... it was "Libyan prisoners," not Mr.Megrahi ... ;)

    Very interesting comment, Suliman.