[What follows is excerpted from an article by Kenny MacAskill in today's edition of The Scotsman:]
Robin Cook became Foreign Secretary in 1997 amid much fanfare about an ethical foreign policy. That lasted a matter of weeks before arms sales to Indonesia intervened and a muting of the sound was required.
To be fair, Cook was a good man who tried to do the right thing and showed his mettle and his principles by resigning from office over the Iraq War. However, it also showed how difficult it can be to abide by ethical values when the needs of a state intrude. (...)
However, New Labour gave up any pretence of an ethical foreign policy after Tony Blair rode shotgun for George W Bush on the invasion of Iraq. It was without any ethical basis and predicated on a lie. Having supped with the devil, Blair seemed to lose any moral scruples on foreign policy, as shown by the shameless behaviour over Libya.
When news of a UK and Libya ‘Prisoner Transfer Agreement’ first broke, Jack Straw sallied north to appease the new SNP administration’s concerns about its effect on Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. The UK Justice Secretary seemingly genuinely willing to remove Scotland’s only Libyan prisoner from the document until overruled by the Treasury and Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which made clear the demands of Libya and the needs of the British state. [RB: See Jack Straw and the UK-Libya prisoner transfer agreement.]
Straw was no innocent on Libyan affairs as shown by the parliamentary apology tendered last week over the case of Abdel Belhaj, a Libyan dissident rendered into the Gadhafi regime’s hands by the US with the complicity of the UK. (...)
Belhaj and his pregnant wife weren’t the only prisoners rendered to Gadhafi’s Libya by the CIA and UK’s security services. There were others and they were returned to a despot that the UK was imposing international sanctions on and rightly condemned. To be fair to Cook, his initial involvement with Libya was simply to seek the release of the Lockerbie suspects for the trial that took place at Camp Zeist. His successors though discarded all pretence at justice and policy was dictated by the shameless pursuit of UK economic interests, irrespective of the welfare of innocents.
When Blair made his deal in the desert and embraced Gadhafi, other connected events quickly followed. First was the signing of a huge oil deal and second the commencement of the prisoner renditions. For the deal was a two-way street with benefits for the Libyan regime as much as the UK. It wasn’t just a lessening of sanctions but also involved the supply of arms and even the training of Gadhafi’s elite troops by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
That was exposed in an Amnesty International report shortly after I made the decision to release Megrahi on compassionate grounds – and not because of the Prisoner Transfer Agreement. Individuals are entitled to their view on that, but the criticism of it by Labour was brazen given the actions they were involved in. America was equally Brazen with Clinton and Obama pursuing commercial deals with Libya, as well as courting him as an ally against Islamism. They embraced the Gadhafi family before Megrahi was even released but were equally craven in their denunciations.
The great irony is that when the West realised that Gadhafi was neither going to change nor be reliable they turned on him once more.