Friday, 21 October 2011

'That's for Lockerbie': Press cheers Kadhafi demise

[This is the headline over a report on the UK press's treatment of the death of Gaddafi published by the Agence France Presse news agency. It reads in part:]

The death of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi is a triumph which serves as a warning to other Middle East dictators, but concerns linger over the embattled nation's future, media said Friday.

Newspapers also lauded Britain's role in bringing about the long-serving ruler's downfall, but public opinion appeared to be more muted.

"That's for Lockerbie", populist tabloid The Sun ran as its headline, above a picture of Kadhafi's dead body, in reference to the 1988 bombing of a US passenger jet over a Scottish town which killed 270 people.

The Times' editorial praised the "bravery of the Libyan people" and the "equally honourable" actions of Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, for the "swift and timely aid offered in their struggle."

The Rupert Murdoch-owned title also recognised the "bravery, restraint and determination" of Britain's armed forces, who helped avert a massacre "on the scale of Srebrenica" in the once-besieged town of Benghazi.

However, only 42 percent of Guardian readers who took part in an online poll said they were proud of Britain's involvement in Kadhafi's fall from grace.

Uncertainties remain over the circumstances of Kadhafi's demise, but The Times reasoned his death was the preferable outcome as a trial "would probably have revealed little that the world did not already know".

Fellow broadsheet The Daily Telegraph suggested the death had helped redraw the political map of the restive region.

Kadhafi's ousting, along with those of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, had "undeniably transformed the politics of the Arab world, and we will need to adjust accordingly," its editorial said.

"For those despots still clinging to power in the region, notably Bashar al-Assad in Syria, the bloodied corpse of Kadhafi should serve as a chilling incentive to political reform," it added.

The left-leaning Guardian agreed that "there could have been no more prophetic sight for the tyrants who remain" than that of Kadhafi's body being carried away on a truck.

"This may well be the fate that awaits Assad or Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh, and they must now know it," the paper's editorial continued.

Looking to the future, the paper urged Libya's new leaders "to remake a future which guarantees both human rights at home and independence from foreign interference.

"This is a tall order in a country with no democratic tradition and lots of oil," it cautioned. "The next chapter in the history of Libya has now begun."

The Times advised Britain to "offer the hand of friendship to the National Transitional Council (NTC)", the republic's provisional government.

It also called for perseverance in the face of the "squalls of conflicting ambitions, exaggerated popular expectations and Islamist manoeuvrings" which now appear inevitable.

[A summary of international media reaction can be found on the website of The Tripoli Post.

One of the reports in today's edition of The Herald contains the following:]

David Cameron described it as a “momentous day” in which all of the dictator’s victims should be remembered, including those killed in the Lockerbie bombing, PC Yvonne Fletcher, gunned down outside the Libyan embassy in London, and all those killed by the IRA using Libyan Semtex explosives.

For its part Libya’s interim government, the National Transitional Council (NTC), claimed Gaddafi’s death had “drawn a curtain” over his crimes.

But it faced immediate pressure from victims to disclose all the evidence it has on his involvement in atrocities, including the Lockerbie bombing.

Despite a claim earlier this year from the head of the NTC he had proof of Gaddafi’s guilt over Lockerbie, that information has never been disclosed to families, said Dr Jim Swire, who lost his daughter Flora in the bombing.

An MP also claimed last night the death of the Libyan leader paved the way for the settlement of legal claims by IRA victims.

[A report in The Scotsman contains the following:]

Family members of those who died in the 1988 bombing, described the former dictator’s death as a “missed opportunity” to hold him to account.

Reverend John Mosey, who lost his 19-year-old daughter Helga in the attack, said: “I would much rather that Gaddafi had remained alive so that he could be tried, because I am a great believer in the law. Had he remained alive, we might also have been able to get some answers to the many questions that still remain over Lockerbie.” 

Rev Mosey believes Abdelbaset al-Megrahi – the man convicted over the Lockerbie bombing – is innocent of the crime, and Gaddafi could have shed light on who was responsible.

Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was killed in the bombing, is similarly minded.

He said: “I would have loved to have seen Gaddafi appear in front of the International Criminal Court both to answer charges against his gross treatment of his own people and of citizens murdered abroad by his thugs.

“But I would also have loved to have heard about what Gaddafi knew about the Lockerbie atrocity.”


  1. "Rev Mosey believes Abdelbaset al-Megrahi – the man convicted over the Lockerbie bombing – is innocent of the crime, and Gaddafi could have shed light on who was responsible."

    I suppose the theory that Gadaffi knew anything about Lockerbie is as well founded as the theory of Megrahi's involvement.

  2. Gadaffi's death: A rather convenient murder under cover of mob rampage. His son - Mutassim - conveniently murdered, too.

    No auspicious start to a free and democratic Libya. Might Mr Megrahi be similarly dispatched next?

    And the western press crows with freedom loving delight - appalling stuff.


  4. The report I've linked above more or less accepts he was indeed executed and announces a UN inquiry. It also claims Russia is unhappy about NATO exceeding its mandate.

    Its a bit late for "the UN" to be concerned. That Libya's original request, for UN observers to go to Libya as soon as this all started, was ignored is shocking. That the West accepted "the rebels" immediately without even knowing who they were or what they stood for was deeply worrying.

    Cameron's response to the brutal execution, because that is what we saw in that footage, was to call it "a momentous day". Hague's response was similar: he was trying and failing to keep the smirk off his face.

    This whole affair is utterly disgusting.