Wednesday, 1 March 2017

How you build a lie

What follows is excerpted from an item originally posted on this blog on this date in 2011:

Lockerbie, Guilt & Gaddafi

[This is the heading over a post published yesterday on Ian Bell's blog. It reads in part:]

Mustafa Abdel-Jalil is quick on his feet, if nothing else. From senior functionary in a despised and brutish regime to freedom-loving “head of the provisional government” in under a fortnight is smart work indeed.

It is reassuring, too, that Gaddafi’s former justice minister has been “chosen”, in the Scotsman’s words, “to head new regime”. Alternatively – the Sky News version – Abdel-Jalil has been “elected... president of Libya’s newly-formed National Council”.

As it turns out, the born-again democrat appears to have done all the electing and choosing himself, backed by the overwhelming support of persons named Abdel-Jalil. (...)

He calculates, no doubt, that his access to the world’s media will bolster his status in a post-Gaddafi Libya. Name recognition, they call it. But to pull off that trick, Abdel-Jalil must first tell the western press what the western press wants to hear, and bet – a safe enough bet – that reporters will not think beyond the headlines. Over the weekend, he made excellent use of his brief spell as Mr President.

So here’s Murdoch’s Sunday Times, a paper to which the phrase “once great” attaches itself like a faded obituary. “Gaddafi ordered the Lockerbie bombing” was done and dusted by the weekend. A new line was required. Any ideas?

The Lockerbie bomber blackmailed Colonel Gaddafi into securing his re­lease from a Scottish prison by threatening to expose the dictator’s role in Britain’s worst terrorist atrocity, a former senior Libyan official [guess who] has claimed.

Now, let’s keep this simple. Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was handed over to Scot­tish police on April 5, 1999, and released on compassionate grounds on August 20, 2009. Clearly, this was the most patient blackmailer the world has seen. If we believe a word, the man nursed his threat to exact “revenge” for over a decade, until terminal cancer intervened. As you do.

According to Abdel-Jalil and the Sunday Times, nevertheless, “Megrahi’s ploy led to a £50,000-a-month slush fund being set up to spend on legal fees and lobbying to bring him back to Tripoli”. Since the entire Libyan exchequer was Gaddafi’s per­sonal slush fund, the sum seems niggardly. If vastly more was not spent on the case, I’d be astonished. And why wouldn’t it be spent? Wasn't Megrahi threatening to “spill the beans”?

But here Abdel-Jalil pulls out another of his plums. Again, he provides noth­ing resembling the whiff of proof. Al-Megrahi “was not the man who carried out the planning and execution of the bombing, but he was ‘nevertheless involved in facili­tating things for those who did’”.

So where does that leave us? Megrahi – what with “planning and execution” omitted – didn’t do it. Another sensation. Or is that revelation perhaps designed to solve several tiny issues raised by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) and others over a miscarriage of justice and sundry associated issues?

Never fear: Gaddafi certainly did do it. That’s “on the record”, placed there by the erstwhile “head of the provisional government”, no less. So what then of “plan­ning and execution”; what of “those who did”? Yet again, Abdel-Jalil doesn’t say. Why not?

Smoke and mirrors is a cliché, God knows. You only wish they would polish the mirrors occasionally, and puff up some properly thick smoke. But why bother? It works. First: make sure that “everyone knows” Gaddafi did it. Secondly, as though inferentially, throw in a few details based on a “fact” established by hearsay and mere assertion. This is how you build a lie.

What happened – what is established by the evidence as having happened – matters less than perception and belief. Gaddafi, with his multifarious actual crimes, is now the handiest scapegoat imaginable. Perhaps he should complain to Tony Blair.

Or perhaps he should get himself to the Hague, and to a proper court. It would do the dictator no good, but it might do wonders, even now, for the reputation of Scottish justice. I put the chances of that at zero.

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