Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Lockerbie bomber decision leaves SNP facing censure from furious opposition.

Kevin McKenna stands up for Kenny MacAskill at a time when it appears that everyone is going for his neck:

MacAskill could have washed his hands of this issue and simply had a terminally ill man spend the few remaining days of his life in a Greenock prison cell. Few, beyond the masters of the British petroleum industry, would have demurred. Certainly not Downing Street, whose haunted incumbent would have been praying for such a verdict, and certainly not America whose default position on justice is: "When in doubt, hang them from the neck… especially if they are poor, black and uneducated." In the Arab world, there would have been desultory protests but nothing more. Baghdad, Helmand, Kabul and the West Bank are of far more pressing concern than the final resting place of a man they all wished to forget.

But this unprepossessing minister of justice sought to ignore all the serried interests of the global supermen. Instead, he found refuge in the fundamental principles of a judicial system that has served Scotland soundly for more than 400 years. For 16 years now, our statutes have given us leave to release from prison anyone who is deemed by competent medical authority to have three months or less to live. It was a concession rooted in compassion, pity and forgiveness. Few in the United Kingdom have ever taken issue with it. It is a good and just law. MacAskill simply applied it. In this case, he used it merely to allow a murderer go home to die. Before Megrahi, 23 other prisoners had been shown a similar mercy in Scotland.

Watching the scenes in Scotland yesterday, as Labour and the Tories sought to censure the SNP, one could not avoid the fact that the easiest route by far for MacAskill to take would have been to leave Abdelbaset al-Megrahi to rot in jail.

But MacAskill sought to do what was decent and what was right. And for that, they wanted to drag him over hot coals.
The Scottish Labour leader, Iain Gray, led the attacks by accusing MacAskill of a "deeply flawed" decision that had "damaged Scotland's reputation from start to finish".

Annabel Goldie, the Scottish Tory leader, said the "disturbing" decision to release Megrahi
"was not done in the name of Scotland, or in the name of this parliament, or in my name." Keeping Megrahi in a secure house or hospice in Scotland would have served justice better "than a convicted terrorist being feted as a hero in Libya to a backdrop of waving saltires".

Freeing Megrahi would now be the "defining image" of the Scottish National party's four years in government, said Tavish Scott, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader. "What the first minister and his government have done is to split Scotland, split our country within itself and
split our nation from many international friends."
In other words, "you have annoyed Obama."

Perhaps, due to the toadying of Blair towards Bush, the UK has become so terrified of ever attracting American disapprobation that this reaction has become almost instinctual.

Have we forgotten Thatcher's reaction to Reagan's invasion of Grenada? She wrote:
This action will be seen as intervention by a Western country in the internal affairs of a small independent nation, however unattractive its regime. I ask you to consider this in the context of our wider East-West relations and of the fact that we will be having in the next few days to present to our Parliament and people the siting of Cruise missiles in this country... I cannot conceal that I am deeply disturbed by your latest communication.
Their relationship not only survived, it prospered.

And, perhaps Americans are so used to everyone accepting their rules, especially regarding how terrorists should be treated, that it is unsurprising that their immediate stance is to call for a boycott of Scotland.

Those who call for such actions appear to forget that there are many Scots fighting side by side with Americans in Afghanistan and Iraq. And that many Scots have laid down their lives in both of those country's.

Friends should be allowed to have disagreements without resorting to baseless threats. And Scotland should be allowed to decide how it treats it's prisoners without any lectures or threats from the nation which gave us Abu Ghraib.

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2 comments:

Cecilieaux said...

Having lived in London, where the only smiling faces where Scottish, I fully understand your despair concerning the toadying up to the USA. On the other hand, from the American side of the pond, it baffles the mind what Scottish government officials thought they would achieve.

Putting a dying man in a hospice, or quietly allowing his family to visit him in jail, even at taxpayer expense, would have been humane enough. Sending him to a hero's welcome in Libya was a gaffe of tremendous proportions.

There must be something between solitary confinement and pinning a medal, no?

Kel said...

Cecilieaux,

Long time no speak. I agree that the welcome he was given in Tripoli was disgraceful and from what I can tell assurances were given that this would not take place.

The reason he was sent home was so that he could spend his remaining time with his family.

And, it's sort of a side issue to the subject of compassionate release, but many Scottish families who lost relatives at Lockerbie have never been convinced that this guy was anything other than a stooge.