[I am grateful to a reader of this blog for drawing my attention to an item headed Bravo Blair! published on 31 August in Peter Hitchens’s Blog on the Mail Online website. It reads in part:]
Bravo Anthony Blair. Yes, I’ll repeat that : Bravo Blair! In all fairness, I have to give the ghastly creature the credit for trying to stop David Cameron’s overthrown of Colonel Gaddafi, which has led directly to the great migration disaster and to other horrors yet unknown. I see from The Times this morning that various blowhard Tory MPs want to condemn and investigate Mr Blair for this action. On the contrary, we should all wish that he had succeeded.
This emerges in extracts from Anthony Seldon’s new book about David Cameron (...)
[T]he key extract (it’s mostly told in the present tense, like a historian discussing the distant past on the TV or the radio) is:
‘Tony Blair telephones Number 10 to say he’s been contacted by a key individual close to Gaddafi, and that the Libyan leader wants to cut a deal with the British. Blair is a respected voice in the building and his suggestion is examined seriously. ‘
But Mr Cameron decided that on this occasion his political hero and example, referred to by George Osborne as ‘the Master’ is not to be heeded:
‘Cameron had been repulsed by Blair’s decision to rehabilitate Gaddafi, and as opposition leader had argued strongly in 2009 against the Scottish government’s return of the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi to Libya on the grounds of illness.
‘Policewoman Yvonne Fletcher was killed by a Libyan outside their embassy in London in 1984, when Cameron was still at Eton. Four years later came the Lockerbie bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 killing 270 people. When the bomb was proven to be planted by a Libyan, Cameron became still more angry.
‘Gordon Brown claimed the Scottish government took the decision on al-Megrahi. Cameron did not believe him, and once inside Number 10, ordered a review into the episode. It concluded that the previous government ‘did all it could to facilitate’ the release of al-Megrahi’.
Cameron decides not to follow up Blair’s approach regarding a deal with Gaddafi: he wants to avoid doing anything which might be seen to give the Libyan leader succour. Richards’ complaints do not let up: he feels Cameron and the NSC are interfering with the military operation even down to the most tactical level.’ (...)
Readers of this blog [RB: and of my blog] will know that I do not believe that Libya was responsible for the Lockerbie outrage. There is no convincing objective evidence that this was so,
Whereas it was (rather more convincingly) believed by intelligence experts at the time of the atrocity that the crime originated in Syria as part of an Iranian-inspired revenge (as the Ayatollahs saw it) for the shooting down of a civilian Iranair Airbus by the American missile cruiser USS Vincennes (an incident with startling parallels to the equally unintentional and equally horrible shooting down by Russian-backed rebels of a Malaysian airliner).
The blaming of Libya for Lockerbie was a consequence of the first Gulf War, in which Syria was (comically as it now seems ) viewed as an ally by the ‘West’.
Later, in this strange game of ‘good guy ‘and ‘bad guy’ in the Middle East, Libya’s supposed abandonment in December 2003 of (probably non-existent) weapons of mass destruction was cited by American neo-conservatives as a success for their Iraq policy. Gaddafi had also condemned the September 11 atrocity, and suppressed Saudi-type Islamism at home. After this, Gaddafi also made his peace with the EU, accepting a huge payment for halting migration across the Mediterranean. In the light of this fact it’s amazing that Britain and (more especially) France were so keen to overthrow him a few years later. Did it not even occur to them that the current crisis might follow?
Mr Blair went twice (once in 2003 and once in 2007) to meet the Colonel in the Libyan desert. In May 2007 he declared:’The relationship between Britain and Libya has been completely transformed in these last few years. We now have very strong cooperation on counter terrorism and defence.’
To this day I’m still not sure how we moved in months from this position of cynical but self-interested collaboration with an unpleasant but co-operative and stable regime, into support for rebels we barely knew, who were then unable to control this crucial country.
However strong Mr Cameron’s Famous Five type enthusiasm for doing good, his government continued the Blair policy when it came to office. As I wrote on September 10th 2011, almost exactly four years ago:
‘Somehow we’re being sold the idea that the Blair-Brown regime sucked up to Colonel Gaddafi, but our current Government kept their distance.
‘This is false. Archives reveal that the ‘Minister for Africa’, Henry Bellingham slurped up to the Colonel (referring to him as ‘Brother Leader’) at an EU-Africa Summit in Tripoli on November 30, 2010. A few weeks before, another Minister, Alastair Burt, told the Libyan British Business Council that Libya had ‘turned a corner’ which ‘has paved the way for us to begin working together again’.
Maybe Mr Cameron didn’t know or understand what his own appointed ministers were doing, almost exactly six months before we overthrew Gaddafi. In which case, he should have checked. The Seldon book suggests that Mr Cameron fell victim to what was little more than an emotional spasm, not the sort of thing we expect Prime Ministers to suffer from.
It was the single gravest mistake of his time in office and will haunt Europe for decades to come. I sometimes wonder how profound the effect of all this mass migration is going to be on those parts of this country which have, hitherto, remained more or less undisturbed by the vast changes which are overtaking Europe. On this occasion, we would all be much better off if they had listened to Mr Blair. I did not think I would ever find myself saying that.