Friday, 25 August 2017

No-one really wants the Lockerbie files reopened

[What follows is the text of an article by Alex Massie that was published in the Coffee House column in The Spectator on this date in 2009:]

There’s no need for me to take pro-American lessons from anyone but that doesn’t mean I necessarily or secretly want to be American. That can’t be said of everyone on the British right. Take Douglas Carswell for instance. The MP for Harwich and Clacton is deeply upset by the Scottish government’s decision to free Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds. That’s his right.
What’s odder is that he seems to be more upset by the fact that the Americans are upset than by anything else. In one post he suggested that the US ban those responsble for freeing Megrahi from entering the United States. In another, he asks "Is Britain a Reliable Ally?" and suggests that, actually, she’s not and that what’s needed is a set of policies that will tie the United Kingdom still more closely to the United States. Carswell, in fact, seems to agree with some of the more extreme elements on the American right that Britain is done for and no longer worth considering a useful, let alone a reliable, ally.
I imagine Carswell thinks that his favoured policies would be good for Britain and only incidentally good for the United States. But he gives the impression, perhaps unintentionally, that it’s the other way round. That is, Britain should follow policies that demonstrate it is a reliable ally of the US. If that also benefits Britain then that’s all to the good but it’s not necessary.
Perhaps this is an unfair interpretation of his position. Nonetheless, there are some British rightists who really do view everything through a filter marked What will the Americans think?
Not much, in this instance. Sure, there’s been some official outrage (though, as I’ve said before, no-one really wants the Lockerbie files reopened and that includes the Americans) and there’s been some disappointment, nay anger, expressed. But Lockerbie has not, to put it mildly, been the talk of the American blogosphere. Nor has "old media" been much exercised by it. for instance, the word Lockerbie has not appeared on the New York Times’ editorial or opinion pages since Megrahi was released.
[RB: Here is what I wrote on an earlier occasion about the real US Government attitude towards Megrahi’s repatriation:]
The implications [of repatriating Megrahi by means of prisoner transfer] had, of course, already been seen on this blog: Britain accused of breaking promise to US over Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi and Foreign Office told Scotland it made no promises to US over how long Megrahi would stay in prison.

The reason why the "promise" was not taken seriously by the UK Foreign Office was that the only country that might have an interest in complaining if it was broken was the United States of America. And both the United Kingdom government and the Libyan government knew (because -- as Libyan officials informed me -- they had checked) that Washington was relaxed about Abdelbaset Megrahi's repatriation, though it would have to huff and puff for US public consumption when it happened.

When Kenny MacAskill rejected the application for prisoner transfer his principal reason for doing so was the undertaking contained in the “initiative” that led to the Zeist trial that, if convicted, the suspects would serve their sentence in the UK. Of course, if it had been accepted by the Libyan Government that transfer of Megrahi to a prison in Libya was simply not possible under the terms of the “initiative” (and I did my very best to convince them) no prisoner transfer application would have been made and, in consequence, abandonment of Megrahi’s appeal would not have been necessary when, later, his application for compassionate release was lodged. The prisoner transfer application may have been -- indeed, was -- doomed from the outset, but it served the interests of the United Kingdom and the United States very well by ensuring the abandonment of Megrahi’s appeal.

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