Saturday, 22 August 2009

Compassion or Dispassion?

The sight of a Scottish flag being waved outside the plane carrying the convicted Lockerbie bomber home to Libya amid ecstatic welcomes only worthy of a national hero must gag in the throat of every member of a family who were directly affected by the actions of the man, let alone the rest of us who still remember exactly where we were the terrible night it happened.

President Obama found it 'Highly objectionable', Alistair Darling found it 'Distasteful' and Prime Minister Brown had even pre-begged Libyan Leader Colonel Gadaffi to act with restraint on the bomber's return but it did not stop his son personally leading the celebrations and hugging the mass murderer or the Colonel himself later greeting him as a long lost relative.

In some respects, you reap what you sow. After the events of 9/11, for no obvious reason, the US' perennial nemesis, Libya, was invited back into the mainstream despite it being a clear hotbed of terrorism and anti-Western activity with the Colonel himself right at the centre. But as with all things in Politics, everything is negotiable and there was lots to be gained by healing the weeping sores caused by Gadaffi in the US. So they stopped bombing him and started loving him. Repeated visits and ceremonious meetings have occurred since and there was even a Royal visit scheduled this year - a momentous year being the 40th since Gadaffi ceased power.

There are fundamental issues at stake here. On the one hand we have the Political grandstanding as Menzies Campbell took the opportunity to criticise an inexperienced SNP Government who he clearly feels are not fit to rule a nation yet. It brings into stark question whether Britain should have so avidly pursued devolution and allowed Scotland to govern itself. It brings into fuzzy focus the reasons as to why George W Bush and Tony Blair decided to allow Gadaffi back into the global race and take a seat like a true statesman at places like the UN.

On the other hand we have the issue about a compassionate legal system that allows sick prisoners to go home to die amongst friends and family or get a hero's welcome for having blown 270 people out of the air above Lockerbie. In a week which saw Ronnie Biggs go home to make a remarkable recovery, we now see another piece of compassion be thrown right back into our compassionate faces and watch in shock as a mass murderer became a national hero.

There is the final aspect and perhaps the Libyan view. This man was a scapegoat and had the blame for the horrific events pinned on him in the absence of no one else obvious to blame. That is something that may well have run through the Scottish Justice Minister's mind when making this incredible decision.

In terms of homecomings, it was a very different hero's welcome afforded to the 4 fallen heroes returning from Afghanistan who got the now customary slow procession through the streets of Wootton Bassett. But somewhere in all the froth of politics and self-interest there is a connection.

Wars and terrorism start with politics and they are a direct consequence of bad politics.

In this instance, there was always going to be some ulterior motive as to why a convicted mass murderer would be allowed to go home to die. Now we see it - trade. Gadaffi's son is now reported to have said that the Lockerbie bomber's release was always on the negotiating table when it came to trade and back in 2007, Tony Blair wafted through a huge deal on behalf of BP, the sort of favours that get you seats on boards of investment banks. As late as a few weeks ago, Lord Mandelson met Gadaffi's son on the fancy yacht in Corfu and by some odd coincidence within a short space of time we see the bomber released.

Miliband has rather defensively said that it would be a 'slur' to say the Government was involved in the release of the bomber so that Scotland can be isolated as the floating 'turd in the swimming pool' here. But we would all be very naive to think that a man who put a bomb on a plane and blew 270 people out of the sky gets released just because he is dying.

You can bet your shirt that there are some politicians, back room mandarins and investment bankers who might just have been a little embarrassed about all this and the their involvement. Compassion was the last thing on their minds - they will rather dispassionately get on with the business of making money to morrow when the furore dies down and gain as a result.

For there is one thing you can be sure about, the Lockerbie bomber was a pawn in a much bigger game where the stakes are very high.

You want to know the biggest reason why I say that - go read Gordon Brown's letter to Col Gadaffi. That was the clearest sign that this was a pre-planned exercise and that he also knew that Libya would make great mileage out of it.

As usual, we will never get to the bottom of this matter. Politicians will point fingers but there are no better people at covering their tracks. For certain, the one body of people who were never consulted on this whole 'compassionate affair' were the relatives and loved ones of the victims of Lockerbie. They were the last people on the minds of the people who were complicit in this decision.

As they did that fateful night, I am sure our hearts go out to them and we all bow our heads in shame that they should relive the terrible pain because someone, somewhere wanted more trade with Libya - and once again, bad politics.
For shame on us all.

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