[This is the headline over an article by Alasdair Palmer (based on an article published on 16 April in The Telegraph) published today in the Irish Independent newspaper. It reads as follows:]
'If he had become a professor or a social planner, he would have done very well." Christopher Vanderpool was speaking of Moussa Koussa, whom he taught when the Libyan was a sociology student at Michigan State University in the 1970s.
Instead of becoming a professor, he decided to work for Muammar Gaddafi. He ran Libya's intelligence service for 15 years. He wasn't in charge in 1988, when its agents planted the bomb that killed 271 people at Lockerbie, but he may well have had a hand in organising that dreadful outrage.
It is obviously impossible to head Gaddafi's utterly ruthless intelligence service without having some dreadful crimes on your hands.
Koussa fled to Britain a couple of weeks ago, having decided that Gaddafi had no future. His defection placed the British government in a dilemma. As a faithful servant of Gaddafi, he ought to be held accountable. On the other hand, he played a key role in getting Gaddafi to scrap his nuclear weapons programme -- and now, crucially, he might help to dislodge his former master.
The government, therefore, decided to see what it could get out of him, and to leave him to come and go as he pleased. He has gone, flying off to Qatar -- and he may not return. Many of those who lost relatives in the Lockerbie explosion are, understandably, extremely angry. They say they have been betrayed.
But there is a justification, although not one that will have any force for the relatives. It is that Koussa's ability to help dislodge Gaddafi means the need to ensure he is punished has to give way to the greater good of toppling Libya's tyrant.
The same logic explains why the countries currently bombing Libya are trying to find a way to let Gaddafi leave the country quietly. Gaddafi has committed a lot more crimes than Koussa, and if anyone deserves condign punishment, it is he.
But if trial followed by imprisonment is his only alternative, Gaddafi will carry out his threat to "fight to the last drop of blood" -- and that can only mean catastrophe for Libya. Which is why we will let him get away with everything if only he abandons Libya now. Because the alternative isn't justice -- it's just more bloodshed.