Sunday, August 16, 2009

Party to a Vast Swindle

Conor Foley posted the following comment on Nick's Observer piece today I saw Lockerbie's victims. Tell their families the truth:

A good article. It is strange that having seen something like this, been moved by it and wanting to know the truth about what really happened, you could never apply the same standards of basic reporting and critical inquiry to so many other issues that you have written about like Darfur, Iraq and Afghanistan.

I think that if you had ever got anywhere near showing the basic human empathy on these issues as you manage here, you would have become a much better journalist and maybe even a reasonable human being.


Thanks to insomniac commenter Al who copied and pasted it into the comments on my last post. The Guardian's moderator removed it.

I think Nick's piece comes down to "the US and UK governments fingered Libya for Lockerbie; they should have been looking at Iran as well." But while I'm clear that there was a great deal of obfuscation from the government, I don't see his reasons for suspecting Iran, other than they are the Eastasia du jour so to speak. And he manages to patronise Dr Jim Swire for believing "that the Libyans are innocent and that the British state is party to a vast swindle." The theory I can't buy is that it took two oil-rich countries to put one bomb on a plane.

Also worth reading: Pankaj Mishra on the 'Eurabia-mongers' which covers many old favourites of this blog.

At a private conference in Sweden a couple of years ago, I saw some of Anglo-America's leading academics, journalists and columnists denounce Ian Buruma, Timothy Garton Ash and other liberal critics of Hirsi Ali with even more bitter passion than they spent on what Caldwell calls "the penury, servitude, violence, and mediocrity of Muslim societies worldwide,"

...

Caldwell stops short of speculating what Europe would or should do to atone for its folly of nurturing a perfidious minority. The Canadian journalist Mark Steyn, whom Martin Amis has hailed as a "great sayer of the unsayable", does not hesitate to spell it out in his bestselling America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It.


Good stuff. Via Sam Leith.

37 Comments:

Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

nick's toeing the private eye party line on lockerbie isn't he? Also of note in the obs-a long and pretty good piece by andrew anthony on... The background to the baby p case! I know nick and he don't cite each other as much as, say, nick and martin bright, but still... In general clothes for chaps seems to have lost his decent fervour generally which can't be a bad thing.

8/16/2009 09:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Iran? I always thought the finger of suspicion was pointed at Syria, but Libya was always the more politically convenient target at the time.

[redpesto]

8/16/2009 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

The Lockerbie issue is going to be a humdinger for those inclined to Aaro Watching, combining as it does rank hypocrisy, conspiracism and lots of people pretending not to know things which they do in fact know.

(Warning - much of what follows relies on entirely unsupported anecdote)

It's started already at HP, where SNP-hating twunt Tom Gallacher has a post up attacking the SNP administration for ideologically-motivated appeasement in the Megrahi case. This is pretty much based on a) previous work he's done trying to prove that the SNP loves Islamism because, er, they gave a cheque to Osama Saeed and b) pretending not to know things he does in fact know.

For instance, it's public knowledge that the only reason Megrahi may wind up dying in Libya rather than Greenock Prison is that the UK government included a clause on prisoner transfers in its recent treaty with Libya. If you don't think that clause exists solely because of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, I have a nice bridge I can sell you.

Further, I can tell you that the Scottish Government regard the Megrahi release controversy as a giant shit sandwich that the UK government has handed them, and that this is one of the few devolved decisions they wouldn't mind someone else taking.

There is simply no way that TG doesn't know that the UK government has essentially given up Megrahi in exchange for a lot of concessions from Libya, yet here he is, bashing the SNP for a situation created in London. Any guesses why?

It's going to be an entertaining week watching which way pundits fall on this. There are so many hate figures involved and the central responsibility of the UK government in making Megrahi's repatriation possible is so blindingly obvious. Will the Decents put the ends of justice before their mad desire to blame All The Problems on their ideological foes? My money's on the latter, if anyone's running a book.

That's before somebody like Marko steps in and blames the whole thing on an Iranian conspiracy against Israel, or something.

(BTW, on the guilt or innocence of Megrahi - I obviously can't give details, but I've had a lot of professional involvement with many of the key figures involved in the investigation and the Camp Zeist trial and they are unanimously convinced Megrahi is the culprit. There is no doubt in their minds at all.

I'm aware that well-meaning people taking officials' pronouncements on trust is more or less how we wound up with the Iraq catastrophe, but there it is).

8/16/2009 02:10:00 PM  
OpenID splinteredsunrise said...

Well said, FR. My guess is that the Decent party line will be the Gallacher one of the SNP being in bed with teh Mooslims. The UK government's responsibility, or indeed Gaddafi's brutal repression of Islamists, will simply be ignored.

However, we may have some entertaining variation from Marko, who will probably blame it on a vast conspiracy masterminded by Vladimir Putin, Neil Clark, the SWP and the Patriarch of Constantinople.

8/16/2009 02:37:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Regardless of his guilt or otherwise it's absolutely unclear to me how it can be a good thing to make a man die in prison or indeed how it can be repugnant to allow him to do otherwise. Humanitarianism is supposed to be what we're concerned about, is it not?

8/16/2009 04:36:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

It was a particularly horrendous crime, Justin, with a massive death toll. IIRC, there was forensic evidence to suggest that many of the passengers were concious until they hit the ground. I can understand exactly why the American families are outraged by the news Megrahi may be released.

If Megrahi had any part in that - and he has been convicted for it - then any compassion shown here is for his wife and kids, and not for him.

8/16/2009 05:01:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I don't see how that justifies making a man spend his last few days in prison when we don't need to. He's not getting away with anything: he's about to die. It can't possibly be some sort of outrage to show that much humanitarianism.

8/16/2009 05:21:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

I didn't say it justified it, I meant that it goes a long way towards explaining many people's attitudes to the issue.

Me, I can see both sides. I agree that keeping him incarcerated until he's dead will do nobody any good. On the other hand, people who don't want to die in prison should probably think long and hard before they commit serious crimes.

However this shakes out is probably going to be fine by me - I'm just glad Tony Blair didn't drop this particular turd of a decision on my desk.

8/16/2009 07:56:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

What I men about "justify" is not that one's obliged to take one side or the other but that the simple act of releasing a dying man should not itself be presented by the Scottish Government's critics as some sort of outrageous act - as you put it, "ideologically-motivated appeasement". Even if one disagrees (as people may do for all sorts of good reasons) it ought at least to be considered as a humanitarian act with which one disagrees. It strikes me as another of those occasions where the desire of some people to get up on their hind legs and denounce is more important to them than thinking about the actual human element.

I suppose the comparison is with Rudolf Hess. (Provided one thinks Megrabi guility, which I am not at all sure that he is - but let's assume so for the while.) I don't actually know whether or not I think Hess should have been released - I think there was justified fear of far-right demonstrations - but it does seem clear to me that towards the end there was a strong case for simply considering he was a dying old man and that his continued incarceration was an abuse of the prison system. And even if people disagreed, they should have had the grace to accept that they were disagreeing with the desire to allow the humanitarian impulse to be the most important principle (which it isn't necessarily) and not with political support for Nazism.

8/16/2009 08:16:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

It strikes me as another of those occasions where the desire of some people to get up on their hind legs and denounce is more important to them than thinking about the actual human element.

Well, of course it is, given the subject material and the characters opining on it. Wait until we get a decision for the real fireworks - if they let him go I, for one, am looking forward to hearing what the increasingly insane Chris Hitchens has to say about it.

Forgive me if I fly off on a wild tangent here, but his last piece bashing Bill Clinton for securing the release of those girls from North Korea was a beauty. Basically, he felt Clinton had handed Kim Jong Il a propaganda victory. It didn't occur to Hitchens to wonder what role his own furious denunciation was playing in that PR exercise coup, nor whether it might've been worthwhile to take a hit to get the girls released. Nothing gets between Hitch and Clinton when the red mist descends.

If Megrahi gets released, expect much more of the same from right across the political spectrum.

8/17/2009 05:12:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

The thing that bugs me about the Megrahi case is that the compassionate grounds for release are so frighteningly obviously bogus and so clearly connected to him dropping his appeal (at which hearing, whether he's guilty or not, all sorts of embarrassing stuff might have come up about British intelligence).

8/17/2009 07:02:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Nick's Standpoint blog post on the same subject. I was wrong, he doesn't toe the Private Eye line at all.

Pretty much the opposite of 'a good article'. tedious, pointless shout-at-the-radio style BBC-bashing, will you condemn a thons, HP Sauce-derived hating on the SNP, support for Labour's pretty dodgy manouvreing to 'sort this out' without an examination of the small print of the recent treaty with Libya (as outlined above), emotive crap about 'one year for every 30 people killed (how exactly would keeping him to die in prison change that?)...

I don't know where to start really. Clearly this is the stuff the subs left out (ie everything) - Nick's research actually seems to have been reading his past output on the subject, listening to a single BBC news repoty a couple of days after the decision, then a cursory skim of an HP Sauce article.

At least it shows he's being well-edited.

8/17/2009 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

I've had a lot of professional involvement with many of the key figures involved in the investigation and the Camp Zeist trial and they are unanimously convinced Megrahi is the culprit.

Well yeah, but I suspect that is quite common in miscarriages of justice.

Regardless of the man's guilt, or innocence, it was pretty obvious at the time that he he had been framed. More than one member of the Scottish legal establishment has effectively said this, and most of the Scottish families also seem to believe this.

And while I don't necessarily believe that Syria was responsible, the timing of the switch in focus from Syrian involvement to Libyan was very convenient politically for American foreign policy.

As for his release. Well I think Bruschetta Boy is probably right.

8/17/2009 01:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Richard J said...

Well yeah, but I suspect that is quite common in miscarriages of justice.

A former colleague once overheard a policeman involved in the case on the train talking loudly about Colin Stagg shortly after his acquittal in precisely this manner.

8/17/2009 02:43:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

I suspect that is quite common in miscarriages of justice.

Well, precisely. That's why this comes with the ?Anecdotal! caveat and the comparison to pre-Iraq invasion reporting. Slap whatever value you like on it.

8/17/2009 03:15:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

Ronnie Biggs' son made the point that it was only to save the government the embarrassment of having his father die in prison that they released him, not compassion at all.

NC's Observer article is full of unsupported innuendo.

8/17/2009 03:45:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

the compassionate grounds for release are so frighteningly obviously bogus and so clearly connected to him dropping his appeal

The second of these is true but what causes you to say the first? I wouldn't even have said "frigheteningly obvious" where Pinochet was concerned*. (This would be so even if I was taking the approach of the football fan who avoids booing a writhing member of the opposition just in case he does turn out to be injured. And I'm not.)



[* though I would have said "obvious" - and probably did, thinking about it Ernest Saunders would have got a adjective, to be fair.]

8/17/2009 04:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OT. Professor Normblog of that Ilk is mutterng about people who used Bush-Hitler analogies.

http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2009/08/loose-talk.html

However he doesn't mention Saddam-Hitler analogies which, if my memory serves me well, were more common that Bush-Hiler ones.

Guano

8/17/2009 04:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

I see, so right-wing nutjobs comparing Obama to Hitler are the fault of the left for comparing Bush to Hitler. And presumably before Bush Jr there was no hyperbolic vitriol directed towards the President at all?

8/17/2009 06:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Re Norm, I see the old one-two is still doing the job for him:

Those liberals and leftists who either indulged in the Bush-Hitler talk or, refraining from it for their own part, took an indulgent view towards it amongst others

Approval = guilt, complicity = approval, failure to denounce = complicity.

8/17/2009 06:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

And, further, not only is it the fault of those leftists who compared Bush to Hitler, but it is also the fault of those who were insufficiently vocal in condemning other leftists who compared Bush to Hitler!

You can always tell what posts like this are leading up to. Yes, Geras has an opinion on the Obama-Hitler analogies, but his heart isn't really in it. It's clearly throat-clearing preparation for what he really wants to say, which is that teh liberals are the root of all problems with American political debate.

8/17/2009 06:48:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Obama Is Literally Hitler!. Re Prof Norm: oh good grief. It's very believable that there really are serious (though I've no idea how competent) plots of violence against the President, but good old Norm finds some blog post to tut about. No mention of Orly Taitz's accusations of 'Brownshirts' (see video on earlier post). And why were liberals accused of talking down the Holocaust when fascists (and what else can we call people clearly upset by the President's blackness?) aren't?

Anyway, I don't think this merits a post, but I'd like to point readers (yet again) to Alex Massie:

Only a noble few are tough enough to look reality in the eye and see what needed to be done! Everyone else is too feeble but at least these poor, ignored Cassandras will take their satisfaction from seeing their apocalyptic predictions proved correct. In other words, the "worse" it gets the better it is for them. No good news, nor any sense of perspective can be allowed to intrude upon their masturbatory fantasies of a europe toiling under sharia law. ...
Sometimes one gets the impression that the Dhimmi-watchers would actually welcome a religious confrontation and continent-wide conflagration.


You don't think he's got one of his co-bloggers in mind?

8/17/2009 07:55:00 PM  
Anonymous darkhorse said...

"A former colleague once overheard a policeman involved in the case on the train talking loudly about Colin Stagg shortly after his acquittal in precisely this manner."

And I have had a brummie policeman look me defiantly in the eye and declare that, despite all the scandal about the West Mids Serious Crime squad, the Birmingham Six were guilty as sin.

8/17/2009 08:30:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

"Some of the the Birmingham Six were guilty" was quite a common thing to hear not long after they were released.

Re: the likelihood of Megrahi not being gravely ill - I would put it to the panel that while it is feasible to disagree with the Americans, and while it is even feasible to tell the Americans to piss off, it is not necessarily feasible to take the piss out of the Americans. In other words if Megrahi were to go home in a medical plane and then couple of weeks later be found playing football on the beach with the kids, this would not rebound well on whoever thought it would be a good idea.

8/18/2009 06:12:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

I just meant that it's very obvious that there's no genuine compassion or concern for Megrahi's welfare or wishes and that he's frighteningly obviously being used as a pawn in something I don't understand.

8/18/2009 07:05:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

It's very believable that there really are serious (though I've no idea how competent) plots of violence against the President, but good old Norm finds some blog post to tut about.

not just that, but...

Those liberals and leftists who either indulged in the Bush-Hitler talk or, refraining from it for their own part, took an indulgent view towards it amongst others, might now care to reconsider its legacy for democratic political debate in the US.

so apparently the only way to not 'take an indulgent view' about them is to... occasionally post on one's own blog about them in unconvincing fashion. This is soemthing i find incredibly annoying about Decents in general - they seem to think that if you claim to have posted on a blog about soemthing, you've done your political and civic duty and are free from criticism. I mean, i don't think bush-hitler comparisons make sense, but i didn't complain either out loud at the time because i didn't really care all that much, or in cyberspace because i didn't have a blog (and still don't). that makes me an appeaser in his eyes.

does Geras even believe this crap? I mean you can google 'clinton hitler' and find tons of stuff. and ditto if you google nixon hitler, etc etc. Has he forgotten his Orwell, where 'fascist' ends up meaning nothing because it is so frequently delpoyed?

8/18/2009 08:17:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

I just meant that it's very obvious that there's no genuine compassion or concern for Megrahi's welfare or wishes and that he's frighteningly obviously being used as a pawn in something I don't understand.

Ah, OK, stick-end error on my part. As you were.

8/18/2009 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

Those liberals and leftists who either indulged in the Bush-Hitler talk or, refraining from it for their own part, took an indulgent view towards it

Just because you don't react to every idiot mouthing off, does not make you indulgent. Geras is tiresome

8/18/2009 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

On the Lockerbie thing. This article from the LRB did a pretty good job of summarising the issues:
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v29/n12/mile01_.html

Its very hard not to conclude that Iran funded and the PFLP-GP carried out the action, nor that the US knows this but chose to frame Libya when Syria was needed for the coalition against Iraq.

8/18/2009 11:01:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

he's frighteningly obviously being used as a pawn in something I don't understand.

A not guilty verdict could potentially create a huge shit storm for everyone concerned, particularly if evidence of suppression of alternative evidence was revealed in the trial. It probably wouldn't, but I doubt anyone in the UK (or US) wants to take that risk.

8/18/2009 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

and of course, a guilty verdict wouldn't be any less embarrassing, as it would dig up a whole load of material about our new mates the Libyans which a lot of people would like to leave undisturbed.

8/18/2009 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger Andrew Bartlett said...

"Some of the the Birmingham Six were guilty" was quite a common thing to hear not long after they were released."

The answer to these kind of statements, made after miscarriages of justice have been exposed, answer always has to be, "Perhaps, but a great number of people in and around the police certainly DID take part in a criminal conspiracy. Even when we're not dealing with a straightforward 'fit up', we've often got the conscious suppression of evidence." You don't need to add; "Which people ought to be far more frightened of than terrorists", or, "Given the serious anti-democratic threat that police criminality poses, and the usual impunity with which criminals in the police can act, those convicted should suffer the harshest punishments that society allows", as those are value statments while the first is a simple fact.

8/18/2009 03:06:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Actually the answer tended to be "oh, do fuck off" albeit expressed through the medium of thought rather than speech.

8/18/2009 03:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Marc Mulholland said...

Incidentally, the B'ham Six is an important counter-example to a straightforward Aaro style application of 'Occam's razor'. Lord Denning, after all, refused their leave to appeal in 1980 precisely because he felt that to accept the conspiracy theory of their being framed violated 'common sense' preconceptions on how much official corruption might be expected to subsist and to be concealed:

"If they won, it would mean that the police were guilty of perjury; that they were guilty of violence and threats; that the confessions were involuntary and improperly admitted in evidence; and that the convictions were erroneous. ... an appalling vista".

8/18/2009 03:49:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

The whole Birmingham Six/Guildford Four/West Midlands Serious Crime Squad apparatus also needs to be regularly brought up every time the police complain about the amount of paperwork that they have to do for a simple arrest. There's a reason why all that admin and overhead was brought in ...

8/18/2009 04:14:00 PM  
Blogger Dr_Paul said...

I saw that Saturday's Guardian has a piece by Geoffrey Robinson totally accepting Megrahi's guilt and saying that Gaddaffi probably ordered the downing of the aeroplane. Absolutely no doubts about the verdict.

What can one make of that? Any ideas?

8/23/2009 10:16:00 AM  
OpenID splinteredsunrise said...

When it comes to nasty foreign governments, Geoffrey is what we might call a hanging judge. See also his absolute lack of doubt that Milosevic was guilty of everything he'd been accused of, regardless of the evidence or lack thereof. Or his demands for people like Mengistu to face their rightful punishment in the Hague.

Which does not of course mean that Slobo or Mengistu weren't seriously bad characters. But proving a case in a court of law should be a more rigorous affair than finding someone guilty in a Guardian op-ed.

8/23/2009 12:47:00 PM  

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