[On the occasion of Tam Dalyell‘s 82nd birthday, I was trawling through posts on this blog that mentioned him and came upon one from 17 August 2009 headed The truth about Lockerbie? That’s the last thing the Americans want the world to know. Here are some excerpts:]
Why have US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her officials responded to the return of Megrahi with such a volcanic reaction? The answer is straightforward. The last thing that Washington wants is the truth to emerge about the role of the US in the crime of Lockerbie. (...)
Not only did Washington not want the awful truth to emerge, but Mrs Thatcher, a few - very few - in the stratosphere of Whitehall and certain officials of the Crown Office in Edinburgh, who owe their subsequent careers to the Lockerbie investigation, were compliant.
It all started in July 1988 with the shooting down by the warship USS Vincennes of an Iranian airliner carrying 290 pilgrims to Mecca - without an apology.
The Iranian minister of the interior at the time was Ali Akbar Mohtashemi, who made a public statement that blood would rain down in the form of ten western airliners being blown out of the sky.
Mohtashemi was in a position carry out such a threat - he had been the Iranian ambassador in Damascus from 1982 to 1984 and had developed close relations with the terrorist gangs of Beirut and the Bekaa Valley - and in particular terrorist leader Abu Nidal and Ahmed Jibril, the head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command.
Washington was appalled. I believe so appalled and fearful that it entered into a Faustian agreement that, tit-for-tat, one airliner should be sacrificed. This may seem a dreadful thing for me to say. But consider the facts. A notice went up in the US Embassy in Moscow advising diplomats not to travel with Pan Am back to America for Christmas. (...)
Places became available. Who took them at the last minute? The students. Jim Swire's daughter, John Mosey's daughter, Martin Cadman's son, Pamela Dix’s brother, other British relatives, many of whom you have seen on television in recent days, and, crucially, 32 students of the University of Syracuse, New York.
If it had become known - it was the interregnum between Ronald Reagan demitting office and George Bush Snr entering the White House - that, in the light of the warning, Washington had pulled VIPs but had allowed [Bernt] Carlsson, the UN negotiator for [Namibia] whom it didn't like, and the youngsters to travel to their deaths, there would have been an outcry of US public opinion.
No wonder the government of the United States and key officials do not want the world to know what they have done.
If you think that this is fanciful, consider more facts. When the relatives went to see the then UK Transport Secretary, Cecil Parkinson, he told them he did agree that there should be a public inquiry.
Going out of the door as they were leaving, as an afterthought he said: 'Just one thing. I must clear permission for a public inquiry with colleagues'.
Dr Swire, John Mosey and Pamela Dix, the secretary of the Lockerbie relatives, imagined that it was a mere formality. A fortnight later, sheepishly, Parkinson informed them that colleagues had not agreed.
At that time there was only one colleague who could possibly have told Parkinson that he was forbidden to do something in his own department. That was the Prime Minister. Only she could have told Parkinson to withdraw his offer, certainly, in my opinion, knowing the man, given in good faith.
[Tam then tells the story of a conversation he had with Margaret Thatcher at a dinner in 2001 hosted by the Colombian ambassador:]
Raising the soup spoon, I ventured: 'Margaret, tell me one thing - why in 800 pages...'
'Have you read my autobiography?' she interrupted, purring with pleasure.
‘Yes, I have read it very carefully. Why in 800 pages did you not mention Lockerbie once?' Mrs Thatcher replied: 'Because I didn't know what happened and I don't write about things that I don't know about.'
My jaw dropped. 'You don't know. But, quite properly as Prime Minister, you went to Lockerbie and looked into First Officer Captain Wagner's eyes.'
She replied: 'Yes, but I don't know about it and I don't write in my autobiography things I don't know about.'
My conclusion is that she had been told by Washington on no account to delve into the circumstances of what really happened that awful night. Whitehall complied. I acquit the Scottish judges Lord Sutherland, Lord Coulsfield and Lord MacLean at Megrahi's trial of being subject to pressure, though I am mystified as to how they could have arrived at a verdict other than 'Not Guilty' -or at least 'Not Proven'.
As soon as I left the Colombian ambassador's residence, I reflected on the enormity of what Mrs Thatcher had said. Her relations with Washington were paramount. She implied that she had abandoned her natural and healthy curiosity about public affairs to blind obedience to what the US administration wished. Going along with the Americans was one of her tenets of faith.
On my last visit to Megrahi, in Greenock Prison in November last year, he said to me: 'Of course I am desperate to go back to Tripoli. I want to see my five children growing up. But I want to go back as an innocent man.'
I quite understand the human reasons why, given his likely life expectancy, he is prepared, albeit desperately reluctantly, to abandon the appeal procedure.