Monday, 8 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher and Lockerbie

[On the occasion of the death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, here are excerpts from two posts from this blog’s archives:]

1.  23 March 2011

[A letter from Dr Jim Swire in yesterday's edition of The Herald reads as follows:]

In 1986, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher colluded with US President Ronald Reagan in facilitating the bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi – revenge for an alleged Libyan terrorist bomb in Germany.

Inspection of the Gaddafi family residence of the time, preserved as a ruin ever since, and seen on our screens again these days, makes it obvious that the US bomb which partially destroyed the residence had been intended to assassinate Muammar Gaddafi (“New Gaddafi blitz”, The Herald, March 21).

Instead the blast and shrapnel killed Gaddafi’s adopted daughter Hannah, aged 18 months, asleep in her bedroom. Some 30 Libyan civilians died too that night. Their relatives still grieve as we do.

In 1993, nearly two years after the publication of indictments of two Libyan citizens for their alleged part in causing the Lockerbie disaster, Lady Thatcher wrote, in praise of this action, in The Downing Street Years.

She wrote: “First it [the bombing raid] turned out to be a more decisive blow against Libyan-sponsored terrorism than I could ever have imagined … the much-vaunted Libyan counter attack did not and could not take place. Gaddafi had not been destroyed but he had been humbled. There was a marked decline in Libyan-sponsored terrorism in succeeding years.”

Two years later the Lockerbie tragedy occurred.

In 1991, when the indictments were issued, I first visited Gaddafi to beg him to allow his citizens to appear before a Scottish court. I also asked him to put up a picture of Flora on the wall of Hannah’s bedroom, beside one of Hannah. Beneath we put a message in Arabic and English. It was still there in 2010 when I was last in Tripoli.

It reads: “ The consequence of the use of violence is the death of innocent people.”

Even forbidden as we private citizens still are, to see the secret documents from those days, the sentiments of Flora’s message remain secure. I hope the plaque will not be destroyed in a second attempt at assassination. Libyans should decide their own future, as we ours.

2.  17 August 2011

The man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing is not guilty, veteran politician Tam Dalyell has claimed.

Speaking three days before the second anniversary of Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill's decision to release Abdelbaset al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds, Mr Dalyell also repeated his claim that former prime minister Margaret Thatcher personally dismissed calls for a public inquiry into the bombing. (...)

However, calls persist for a public inquiry, with Holyrood's Justice Committee preparing to consider a petition on the matter by the Justice For Megrahi group, led my Jim Swire whose daughter Flora died in the bombing.

However, Mr Dalyell claimed that Mrs Thatcher personally rejected earlier calls for an inquiry.

He said: "I asked her why, across 800 pages of her autobiography, that she didn't mention Lockerbie once.

"And she said: 'I didn't know about it...I don't know exactly what happened, and I don't write about things that I don't know about'."

He added: "It was clear by that time that she had been told by the Americans that they did not want a public inquiry.

"And you will remember that Jim Swire and John Mosey, the relatives, had gone to Cecil Parkinson, the Transport Secretary, who agreed that there should be a public inquiry.

"However, he came back rather sheepishly and said: 'I'm afraid my colleagues don't agree'.

"But there was only one colleague, and she didn't agree." 

[A further interesting insight about Margaret Thatcher and Lockerbie from Tam Dalyell can be read here.]


  1. You don’t know if you don’t ask and you don’t ask if you don’t want to know.

    And you don’t want to know, because once known you would be duty bound to reveal information you don’t want to reveal?

    But how do you know you want to avoid this information unless you have been told what it is?

    Or are we to believe Thatcher agreed to the American request not to hold a public enquiry without asking why.

    But would she fail to ask, which would be a scandal in itself!

    Or is it more likely she knew the truth, but because the truth could not be told and because she refused to lie in her memoirs, she omitted Lockerbie to avoid derailing the phoney ‘live’ investigation that replaced the public enquiry she refused to hold?

  2. I hear there is an autobiography of Thatcher coming out immediately after her funeral. I wonder if THAT will mention Lockerbie?

  3. It isn't going to be an autobiography but Charles Moore's authorised biography.

    Amongst the hyperbole Professor Boyle's book "Destroying Libya and World Order" made some interesting points about Mrs Thatcher's (reluctant?) support for the US attacks on Tripoli and Benghazi.

    Besides thanks for US support in the Falklands War (the American Government was pretty supportive of the Argentine Military Junta and employed Argentine expertise in their own dirty wars) Mrs Thatcher wanted an extradition treaty with the US who at the time provided a safe haven for IRA terrorists.