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Showing posts with label Libya. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Libya. Show all posts

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The poppy and pro-war propaganda

I have written on the poppy and the war before, and most of what I say below I have said before. But it needs to be said again.

PetieEddie

 
These are my uncles – Peter and Edward McCluskey.

They volunteered as teenagers for service in the Great War – they didn’t have to fight, they weren’t conscripted, there was no military tradition in their family, they were both born in Glasgow, and both of their parents – my grandparents – were Southern Irish, and had no love for England or the UK. They fought for Scotland, the country of their birth.

Both died before their time, indirectly as a result of their injuries in that appalling war - Eddie at the age of 28 and Peter well after World War Two. I never knew my Uncle Eddie, but my Uncle Petie was a familiar figure during my childhood. He rarely spoke of his experiences, but was horrified when WW2 broke out and he saw his younger cousins Gerard and Peter, whom he had taken into his home after they lost their father, conscripted into the Highland Light Infantry and the RAF respectively. He spent the war crouched at the radio, following every report, devastated at the casualties and praying for peace.

Peter McCluskey was moved to tears each Armistice Day, and maintained the two minutes silence, but he would not have been seen dead wearing a poppy – he felt that this potent symbol of life, rising from the blasted earth of the battlefields, amid the corpses of his comrades, had been debased by its association with Earl Haig and that it had been hijacked by militaristic politicians.

Hence my identical feelings about the poppy, reinforced by experiences in industry and commerce, where people who never had a thought for others, or the dead, or any injustice, who never contributed a penny to funds for wounded and disabled ex-servicemen, suddenly acquired a poppy in November, and accosted me, asking “Why aren’t you wearing your poppy, Peter?” They wore their poppy like they acquired their golf handicap – it was the career-wise move.

They got a dusty answer, plus, on more than one occasion the challenge from me to write a cheque there and then for an ex-serviceman's charity and I would match it. I never had an acceptance …

OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO OUR SOLDIERS

If we send young men and women, in the flower of the youth, to place themselves in harm’s way, risking death or serious injury in the service of the nation, we owe them a duty of support.

We have a bounden duty to properly equip them, to properly pay them, to support their families, and in the event of serious injury to offer speedy, effective medical care and long term support for both physical and psychological injuries.

We have a duty to rehabilitate them, return them to appropriate duties in their chosen profession if possible, and to offer comprehensive help to find employment outside of the armed forces if this is not possible. In the event of their death, we owe them and their families full and tangible recognition of the supreme sacrifice they have made, including adequate financial and support provisions for their dependants.

But above all, we owe them the right not be placed in harm’s way by politicians in conflicts that are irrelevant to the security and defence of the nation, especially where such conflicts are based on a fraudulent premise and are illegal under international law. One egregious example was the Iraq War.

THE CONFLICTS

Where our armed forces are deployed and engaged in a conflict that seemed justifiable at the outset, we have a duty to constantly review the rationale for such an engagement, to constantly question its continuing validity, and to speedily bring it to an end and withdraw from it when it ceases to be either winnable, or relevant, or both.  Such a conflict is the ‘war’ in Afghanistan, now of nine years duration – greater than the total length of WW1 and WW2 combined – and forecast to continue, in the words of our new Prime Minister, at least for another five years.

THE POPPY

The poppy is sold in a good cause – to raise funds for soldiers harmed by war - but it must not be hijacked by politicians and the British establishment for other reasons. There are deeply worrying indicators that this is exactly what is happening, especially in the behaviour of the Tory Party in the Commons, and over the FIFA poppy issue, including today at PMQs.

Politicians and military commanders are aware that the casualties and images from the weekly repatriation ceremonies influence public opinion.

Major-General Gordon Messenger, a military spokesman on Afghanistan, talked last year about “balancing opinion”.

"If I had a plea, I think it would be to better understand the reasons why they're there and the progress that's being made and to not simply view Afghanistan through the lens of the casualties," he told Sky News.

"I think it is incumbent on me and on everyone who has an understanding of the Afghan campaign to do all we can to better inform the public as to those reasons."

In other words, the Government, the MOD and some sectors of the military are worried that the public might be questioning the weekly escalating blood sacrifice that is being made by the flower of our young people in the name of a flawed, confused and increasingly irrelevant strategy in pursuit of confused and conflicting aims. Armed Forces Day has already been hijacked and converted to a PR propaganda exercise for a failing political and military strategy and the poppy has been heading the same way for some time now.

All the emblems, symbols and techniques that support the old lie will be deployed to this end – parades of military equipment and military might, the Union Jack, old men in berets and medals, flag-waving children, and a solid presence of members of the Royal Family, together with the insidious sub-text, that anyone who does not support the Afghanistan War is somehow unpatriotic and failing to support our servicemen.

This serves as a smokescreen to obscure to real failings of a failed state – the UK – to address the very real and fundamental needs of those on the frontline, and continuing to defend the massive drain on resources represented by Trident and weapons of mass destruction that are entirely irrelevant to the modern world and the defence challenges it presents.

It serves as a PR exercise to attempt to validate the UK’s increasingly false claim to be a major player in the geopolitical great game, when in fact it is merely a convenient puppet for US foreign policy, draining its resources in an increasingly nonsensical claim to be a great power on the world stage.

Meanwhile, the confused aims and contradictory strategy of the Afghanistan coalition will continue: generals will come and go, and little men like politician Liam Fox will strut and posture - and vanish - while young men die. Behind the scenes, cuts to budgets have been made that endanger our armed forces effectiveness, bribes will be paid to corrupt Afghani politicians, and secret talks will take place with the Taliban warlords, while innocent men, women and children will be killed by ‘friendly fire’.

I fear that Armed Forces Day, with all its parades and exaltation of military might, all its band and martial music, all its speeches about heroes and sacrifice, all its flag waving and cheering, was simply a colourful cabaret to conceal the ugly realpolitik that represents the real threat to our brave servicemen and women. I fear that the deaths and the maimings will continue - and will escalate - until the citizens of these isles see clearly the blood sacrifice of their children that is being made in their names, and in the name of Britishness.

Extract from Sept. 2011 blog

WHY DEFENCE AND FOREIGN POLICY MATTERS TO UNIONIST POLITICIANS

A sharp distinction must be made between why defence and foreign policy matter to Scottish unionist voters and why they matter to unionist politicians, including the Scottish variety.

Scottish unionist voters either have a vaguely romantic notion of Britain’s imperial glories, or they are afraid that Scotland could not defend its security against threat and its international interests independently of the UK. They are rarely, in my experience, clear about what such threats could be, and what Scotland’s international interests are. All they have to do to achieve clarity is to look at any small European or Scandinavian nations, something they rarely do, except to patronise or deride, e.g. the tired old ‘Arc of Prosperity’ jibes. From my perspective, Scottish unionist voters are the victims of 300 years of unionist propaganda and imperial myth, exactly the kind of paranoid, jingoistic narrow nationalism that they falsely accuse the SNP of displaying.

Unionist politicians believe that defence and foreign policy - especially the nuclear deterrence policy, nuclear weapons and nuclear bases - matter fundamentally, because they are the passport to global politics, international roles, power, prestige – and money, money, money

Tony Blair, a lawyer and subsequently an MP for an obscure North East of England constituency, Sedgefield, now has an estimated annual income of in excess of £15m, and a personal fortune variously estimated at £40/60m. Such wealth was not created by democratically representing the electors of Sedgefield or the interests of the electors of the UK as Prime Minister, it was built on the back of an international career involving death, destruction and war.

Peter Mandelson, an architect of New Labour, had to borrow money from a businessman to buy his first London house. He is now a Lord, an immensely rich man, and is in the process of purchasing an £8m house. Such a fortune did not come from his earnings as a Member of Parliament, nor from his modestly lucrative salary an perks as a European commissioner, not from his liberal daily expense allowance as a Lord – it came from international consultancies and directorships that relate directly or indirectly to defence and foreign policy.

THE MOD

Under Labour, the Ministry of Defence, the legendarily incompetent - but unfailingly lucrative - body that fails to adequately equip our young men and women in the armed forces, spent an average of £5.6m on entertaining each year under Labour and probably far in excess of that under the current regime. We don’t have to be told who they were entertaining, boozing and eating lavishly with while Scottish soldiers died – while Fusilier Gordon Gentle died because his vehicle was not fitted with an electronic bomb detector.

No defence minister has retired poor: no senior MOD official retires into poverty or even a modest pension. They slide effortlessly through a revolving door into lucrative directorships and consultancies with the merchants of death, or with brutal foreign dictatorships of the kind now being overthrown by the people of the Middle East in the Arab Spring.

Scottish MPs on the high road to Westminster head for the lucrative, blood-soaked pastures of defence like heat-seeking missiles – they know where the money and the power lie.

After all, the bloody trail has been blazed for them by their predecessors. Only a state with its operating principle as eternal war, fed by inducing eternal paranoia in the electorate, can satisfy the insatiable greed of the powerful, the privileged, the amoral bankers and the military/industrial complex that ultimately controls this sham democracy, bleeding the people dry in every sense of the word.

The unionist politicians are M.A.D. men in the acronymic sense – they are committing the reluctant component nations of their dying empire to mutually assured destruction.




R.I.P. Uncle Petie and Uncle Eddie

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Megrahi Release decision and questions of guilt or innocence

The comments that followed my blog yesterday on Megrahi attempted to focus on his guilt or innocence. As always when the Megrahi Release is discussed, those who are passionately committed to either supporting or challenging the Megrahi verdict and hold strong views on his guilt or innocence want to have their say. Nothing of what I have said about Megrahi's release focuses on this aspect, other than incidentally.

I therefore must make it clear that if you have something to say on his guilt or innocence, you must do it elsewhere – however important the issue of his guilt, it is off topic and irrelevant to the release decision.

I have therefore re-stated my position on Megrahi below, as already expressed to a regular, welcome and respected contributor to my blog.

MY POSITION ON MEGRAHI

I don't want to discuss Megrahi's guilt or innocence because I have nothing useful to contribute to the torrent of 'facts', opinions and conspiracy theories that abound. I want to believe that justice was done, and if it wasn't, or there are other guilty men, I want to see them brought to justice. I support Dr. Jim Swire in his clear-eyed search for that truth, but I can add nothing useful to his detailed arguments or research.

But whatever Megrahi's guilt or innocence, I hold no brief for the man - he was a member of the intelligence services of a brutal murderous regime for decades, a regime that, given his position, he must have known the exact nature of, yet remained with and profited from.

No one can be a member of the intelligence services of such a regime and not commit appalling acts that offend against humanity.

In spite of all that, I supported the decision to release him on compassionate grounds. In conflating the argument over his guilt or innocence with that decision, we blur the essence of the debate on the release decision, when it fact it is starkly simple - he was released under Scots law on compassionate grounds in the firm belief that he was guilty.

It is that single act of humanity and compassion, expressed through Scots law by a Scottish Justice Minister that above all else distinguished us, our civilisation and our values from the regimes that we abhor. It is a source of sadness and regret to me that Scottish politicians representing the unionist parties in the Scottish Parliament were, and still are, unable to make that vital distinction, any more than their masters in the UK parties at Westminster are, and the Scottish Press and media.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Megrahi, The Scotsman and the Unionists.

The Scotsman is in no doubt what the big story is today – Megrahi’s death bed ‘confession’. It puts confession in quotes, but it’s a nod and a wink – we know what they really believe. The justification for this is in the sub header – Lockerbie bomber: ‘My name was exaggerated’. The Unionist logic on Megrahi – and the Scotsman is a unionist paper, whatever its pretensions to objectivity and its token inclusion of nationalist commentators – goes something like this -

The SNP Government, in their first term, made a damaging political error in releasing Megrahi, an error that had to be ruthlessly exploited by Scottish and Unionist UK politicians. The fundamental political error lay in releasing him on compassionate grounds, even if he was dying, since Unionist realpolitik would never have let compassion - or indeed the facts of Scottish Law on compassionate release - get in the way of political expediency.

But just in case the Scottish public - who have an unhappy tendency to be more humane and compassionate than the Labour and Tory hegemonies that have hitherto ruled them - shared the humanity of Kenny MacAskill and the SNP Government, the question had to be raised if Megrahi was really dying or not, and here they had the advantage that estimates of life expectancy in terminal illness often prove to be too short, and many terminally ill patients live for much longer than forecast. This bet was promptly hedged. If he died as forecast in three months, they could still argue bad judgement: if he lived longer, they could argue that it was a fix.

There were also a few other inconvenient factors for the Unionist parties to consider in the exploitation of a dying man for political purposes.

A significant number of Scots did not believe Megrahi was guilty, and some believed that he was involved but did not act alone. This was compounded by the fact that Doctor Jim Swire, who had lost his daughter in the Lockerbie atrocity - and was a prominent voice among the bereaved - did not believe that Megrahi was guilty.

Tony Blair had muddied the water by the abortive attempt to secure the deal in the desert with Gadaffi to release Megrahi for cynical political gain over oil, a deal that he had no power to make constitutionally, given the devolved settlement. This meant that a potential fault line lay between the Tories and LibDems on one side and UK Labour on the other. This was compounded by the fact that the American critics of the release believed that UK Labour had stitched up a deal with the SNP Government, a proposition that was utterly ludicrous to all who knew the total hostility of the Labour Party, at both UK and Scottish levels to the elected Government of the people of Scotland, and was more than a little inconvenient for Labour, less so for Cameron.

The most inconvenient factor of all was that Kenny MacAskill and the Scottish Government took the decision in the firm belief that Megrahi was guilty under the verdict reached at the trial. (This, for the record, is also my belief – I support the compassionate release decision although I believe Megrahi was guilty, although I do not believe that he acted alone.)

The pristine clarity of Kenny MacAskill’s decision rested on the fact that he believed Megrahi was guilty, had been properly found guilty as charged under Scots Law, but nevertheless was eligible for compassionate release. The Scottish Justice Minster, in the full knowledge that he would unleash a volley of critical fire, nonetheless did what was right, rather than what was expedient. No Scottish unionist politician  had either the political or moral courage to take such a decision, and Scottish Labour were clearly kept out of the Machiavellian Blair/UK Labour loop and their machinations.

As the Gadaffi regime began its bloody collapse and Libya moved towards freedom from a brutal dictatorship, the unionist camp lived in hope of new disclosures that would confirm Megrahi’s guilt and somehow implicate the Scottish Government, still consumed by their faulty analysis of the dynamics of the situation.

They seized upon every panic-stricken defector who was prepared to say whatever was necessary to the US and UK governments to gain asylum and immunity from prosecution.

What emerged was in fact embarrassing revelations of just how close Blair, the Labour Government and now the Coalition had been to Gadaffi till the eleventh hour, when Cameron grasped his Maggie moment and found his war by joining France in supporting the rebels.

And so to yesterday at Megrahi’s sick bed and today at The Scotsman and elsewhere

What conclusions may we draw from Megrahi’s statement, and what does it signal for the future? The possibilities are easy to set out -

Megrahi is either feigning illness – the unstated sub-text of much unionist media comment – or he is dying. If the first is true, why would a man feted by the regime as a hero not be with Gadaffi in his final bunker in Sirte, instead a lying in a bed without any protection other than unarmed immediate family? To secure asylum to the West or the US by trading information? Such an explanation has zero credibility. He is pretty clearly seriously ill, has been abandoned by the regime, and does not have the drugs or medical care to alleviate his pain or prolong his life.

What would a guilty man do in such circumstances? He would admit his guilt, as other senior figures have done, and try to trade information for immunity.

What would an innocent man do in such circumstances? He would try and clear his name.

Since I believe Megrahi is guilty at least of complicity in the Lockerbie bombing, my conclusion is that he is terminally ill, has been abandoned by the regime, expects to die, expects nothing of the West, but wants to make the exact nature of his role in the atrocity clear before he dies.

Can we conclude anything from his statement, accurately reported in The Scotsman’s sub-header – “My name was exaggerated”. If this strange formulation is accurate, nothing can be concluded from it – it could mean anything. But The Scotsman, the unionist media and the bandwagon jumpers such as Johann Lamont have rapidly translated Megrahi’s gnomic statement into – “My role was exaggerated”.

Megrahi could have meant that – he equally could have meant that his name and identity, as an acknowledged senior member of the Libyan security apparatus, were seized upon by the media, even though he had no direct involvement in the plot.

But none of the this changes the analysis vis a vis Kenny MacAskill’s release decision. The situation is now as it has always been, crystal clear.

1. If conclusive evidence is found of Megrahi’s guilt, even if it confirmed him as the sole architect of the Lockerbie bombing atrocity, that would simply confirm the belief in which the Scottish Justice Minister made his decision, namely that Megrahi was guilty as charged.

2. If conclusive evidence is found that Megrahi was completely innocent of the charge, or complicit and not the prime mover, or that he was guilty but did not act alone, then the world must recognise that a compassionate decision, made in the belief that he was guilty, in fact had averted a grave miscarriage of justice.

3. If conclusive evidence was found that, in the face of all rationality and all that we know, that the Labour Government and the British intelligence services somehow conspired with Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill to find a spurious rational for releasing Megrahi, then the American Republican Right would be ecstatic, Labour's already deeply damaged reputation would be dealt a terminal blow, and the UK would be seriously damaged because of the continuity of exactly the same people in the shadowy world of intelligence across both the Brown and Cameron/Clegg regimes, a conspiracy to defeat the legitimate wishes of the American people and the families of the American victims to see justice done to the murder of their loved ones.

But we have conclusive evidence – evidence of  Blair’s Deal (a non-deal) in the Desert, of the Brown Government’s complicity and of the Cameron/Clegg Coalition’s close, intimate relations with a brutal, probably insane dictator up to the eleventh hour, while human rights were being brutally violated with the UK’s full knowledge in Gadaffi’s torture chambers and dungeons, all in the name of realpolitik and oil.

The Megrahi Affair teaches us a lot about the Scottish Government and its Justice Minister - who acted unselfishly and upheld the highest principle of law, justice and human compassion - and successive UK Governments and the three Unionist parties that comprised them at various times – who acted in the most despicable traditions of  a brutal, expedient and values-free colonial imperialism.

Saor Alba!





Friday, 9 September 2011

PMQs: Oh Gypsy Amalia – did you foresee your own celebrity?

I found the first PMQs of the new session yesterday good value for taxes, if not for my BBC licence fee (I don’t pay it anymore), with an informative and entertaining mix ranging form low comedy to high seriousness on matters of fundamental interest to the people of Scotland, and in the Megrahi case, far beyond Scotland.

But I clearly watched a different programme to Eddie Barnes of The Scotsman, who has a piece today entitled Luck be a lady for Dundee for gypsy king Alex. The piece is under the category New parliament Sketch. Sketch is a word journalists use to justify abandonment of objectivity and a descent into leaden humour and rampant bias, and Eddie Barnes doesn’t disappoint. (I hold the view that political editors and reporters should stick to objective reporting and telling the truth to power, leaving comment to journalists who specialise in that, and to editorials.

I won’t waste space quoting Eddie Barnes’s pejorative comments and biased analysis of the proceedings, because, thanks to alternative media, Scots can read, listen and view the real things without the distorting prism of The Scotsman. Here are a couple of clips – judge for yourselves. If you can be bothered, the Eddie Barnes piece is here .










Tuesday, 30 August 2011

A true statesman calmly offers a definitive statement on Megrahi

In the midst of the ghoulish. ill-informed clamour of Cameron, Clegg and Hague, not to mention sundry American senators, our First Minister makes what should be the definitive statement of the facts on Megrahi.

Dr. Jim Swire, who lost his daughter in the Lockerbie disaster, and who represents a significant number of the families of the victims, said that Kenny MacAskill’s decision to release a dying man on compassionate grounds was one of the few examples of true humanity in the whole sad Megrahi affair.

But the expedient political pygmies who have led Westminster governments since 1997 – Labour, Tories and LibDems -  will continue their campaign of misinformation and outright lies in pursuit of political advantage, and in terror at the prospect of the little nation to the north of them - one that demonstrates true, democratic human values - becoming independent.


Monday, 4 April 2011

Dirty Deals pending? - Moussa Koussa, Megrahi, Scotland and William Hague


Are there dirty Westminster deals pending over Moussa Koussa? Given the record of systematic lying by the former Labour Government, the evasiveness of the present one, and Blair's abortive Deal in the Desert over Megrahi, we may take leave to doubt the intentions of the British Government. A lot of people are interested in the truth - but there are some who are interested only in Moussa Koussa giving their preferred version of the truth, and they will do whatever they have to to get it.


There's a nasty Moussa Koussa aboot this Houssa ...

Hoots, mon!


Thursday, 3 March 2011

Afghanistan–the futile killing fields

The UK has the fourth largest defence budget in the world, even after the cuts.

WHY?

For this?
                
For Iraq?

To pretend that Britain is still a world power? 
                               
For the rump of an Empire?
 
For a bloodstained flag?



To allow an old Etonian rich boy and arms dealer - David Cameron - and a glib grammar school Yorkshireman - William Hague - who made his millions by giving talks to rich businessmen, to pretend that they are international statesmen, while demonstrating their ignorance, incompetence and impotence over the Libyan crisis?

Scotland! Free yourself of these people, and this poisoned union.

Saor Alba

Friday, 25 February 2011

Did Gadaffi order the Lockerbie Bombing?

Certain things cannot be re-stated too often -

1. Megrahi was found guilty by a Scottish Court.

2. Megrahi was released under Scottish Law on compassionate grounds only, in the belief that the verdict was sound and that he was guilty.

3. No commercial considerations influenced the Scottish Government: there were no negotiations over his release with the UK government: Scotland was not influenced by the UK Government of Tony Blair or  Gordon Brown.

These are the only crystal clear facts in the whole Megrahi/Libya affair. The behaviour of the last UK Labour government was deceitful and contemptible throughout its term in office, influenced by expediency and commercial considerations.

The hypocritical behaviour of the Scottish Labour group in the Scottish Parliament has  been beneath contempt, characterised by utter hypocrisy and political posturing.

The behaviour of the UK Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition government has been no less hypocritical and expedient. As cynical arms dealers to Middle Eastern dictatorships and suppliers of instrument of repression and death to be used against to their people by dictators, Cameron's government - driven into action by the Wikileaks revelations - has been motivated by a wish to secure short term political advantage against the Labour Opposition, and a parallel wish to smear the Scottish Nationalist government with lies about their role in the Megrahi Affair.

In this shameful politicking, they have been aided by the Cabinet Secretary to both the previous and the current UK  governments, Sir Gus O'Donnell.

The latest allegation by a Libyan politician,  that Gadaffi ordered the Lockerbie bombing, which to date is not supported by any facts, and may well be driven by a simple wish to gain favour in the US and UK when his political career is threatened, comes as no surprise to the Scottish Government, who believed that anyway throughout, based on the Scottish Court's guilty verdict.

However, it is not what those who believe Megrahi is innocent wanted to hear, and they are likely to retain their belief that he was either innocent, or did not act alone.

The majority of British newspapers seized on the so far unsupported allegation of Gadaffi's involvement with glee, and published it as a fact on their front pages, motivated by God  knows what agenda, since their thinking  has been marked by a lack of clarity and a total disregard for the facts so far.

One can only assume that the ConLib supporting press hope it will damage UK Labour, the Labour Press hope it will damage Scotland, and both of them think it will somehow protect the rotten, failing political entity known as the United Kingdom.

(Some prominent Scottish bloggers, who ought to know better, have also accepted the Libyan politician's unsupported allegation at face value.)

Whatever the outcome, the central clarity and human compassion of the Scottish Government's decision to release Megrahi on compassionate grounds, and on that alone, will remain unaffected - the only clear, principled decision in the whole sorry affair.


Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Black Tuesday

I awakened to the radio news of the Christchurch New Zealand earthquake - terrifying sound of the screams of those trapped, injured and dying in the ruined buildings. The television reports, awful as they were, seemed to have edited out such chilling sounds.

And then the calm voice of sanity among it all, Bob Parker, the mayor of Christchurch - a hugely impressive man. No platitudes - no notes - no false assurances - just a steady, calming voice, telling his people how things were, what was being done, the limitations of what could be done, and what they must do to survive this terrible tragedy. This is how politicians should be, how we want them to be, and how they almost never are. The man is measured in a moment, and the moment makes the man.

But this man, fully formed, chosen by his city, is there when they need him most, and they are fortunate to have him, on this showing.

Meanwhile, the UK Prime Minister, the bland, privileged rich boy who is busily destroying our public service infrastructure at home, tours the Middle East accompanied by his merchants of death, promoting the guns, gas grenades, electric cattle prods, etc. that constitute the brutal hardware of repression for dictators everywhere.

The Gadaffi regime collapses around the Colonel in bloodshed and death, with the rats jumping ship in all directions, and some brave pilots defecting rather than murder their own people. But, like Mubarak, he will have his billions salted away in the Swiss banks and elsewhere, and if he can find a safe haven - not easy - can console himself in some luxurious redoubt, surrounded by bodyguards.

Perhaps his old pal, the Peace Envoy, Tony Blair, will pay him a surreptitious visit, and tell him that in time, he can convert to Christianity, join the Blair Foundation and travel the world’s lecture circuits at $100,000 plus a gig, telling American fundamentalist Christians how he found God and redemption.

What a world! The sublime and the awful. Scotland doesn’t have to be a part of the dark side, if it can shake off the corrupt grasp of the United Kingdom. And neither does England, once it abandons its ludicrous nostalgia and imperial dreams, rediscovers itself as a proud independent nation, and embraces the Zeitgeist - freedom!

This is the big moment for the oppressed peoples of the world. Scotland’s little, but highly significant moment is on May 5th. Make the right choice, Scots - choose your ain folk - choose the Scottish National Party.

Monday, 14 February 2011

The Shereen Show - sports writers give their views on the Megrahi Release

cynicalHighlander, a correspondent (see comments on my last blog on Portillo) called my attention to a radio show that I had not come across before - Shereen on BBC Radio Scotland - and its treatment of the Megrahi release issue yesterday, Sunday  13th February.

(I don’t listen to radio politics as much as I should, and I remind myself that Scottish radio has almost certainly a much bigger influence on the political thinking of the Scottish voter than I give it credit for, especially because of a highly significant media audience, those who listen in the car, an audience of which I am no longer a part.)

My first reaction was delight that Shereen Nanjiani, a broadcaster who I always liked in her long career stint (from 1987) as news anchor on STV and the first Asian/Scottish presenter in Scotland, was back. I hadn’t realised that she had re-invented herself as a radio talk show host in 2006. (I met her fleetingly in 1990 in the foyer when I was running a negotiating skills course for STV in Glasgow in 1990, but she most certainly won’t remember me.)

Unfortunately, this show in Sunday 13th was a deeply disappointing introduction to Shereen for me.

Shereen is no media airhead female selected for eye-candy reasons: she graduated from Glasgow University with an MA in Philosophy, and her long news anchor experience has left her with a wide experience of the Scottish political scene and beyond.

Her guests on Sunday’s show included three people who had something to say about the Megrahi release affair, reactivated by the Wikileaks disclosures about the UK and Libya and David Cameron’s bandwagon-jumping to discredit the Labour Party nationally. They were a peculiar mix -

Sarah Oates is Professor of Political Communications at Glasgow University, a graduate of Yale and Emory (Atlanta) universities, specialising in the study of media and democracy - a highly relevant heavyweight by any standards, and well-equipped to offer a considered view on the complex web of geo-politics that the Megrahi Affair is embedded in. But she didn’t …

Bill Leckie is a Scottish sport journalist and broadcaster who writes for The Sun. As a non-sporting person, my only knowledge of him, apart from this programme, is that he seems to excite the ire of Celtic in the Wild West of Scotland over allegations of bigotry in the game and beyond, and a sturdy response that he made to Kelvin MacKenzie’s attack on Scotland from an English nationalist standpoint. This rather contrived little spat had the feel of a gimmick to sell newspapers to me, however, I rejoice in Kelvin MacKenzie, who is exactly the kind of strident English nationalist who brings Scottish independence that bit closer every time he opens his mouth. And I fully support his wish to see an independent England again without all this British rubbish.

Bill Leckie, in his juxtaposed reply to Kelvin, Sun staff argue for UK break-up expresses the following admirable sentiments -

So here's the bottom line. We either make a fresh start as a proper, united land or admit it's over, air-kiss and go our own separate ways. There's nothing to be gained in us continually moaning that England treats us like the poo on their shoe. There's no point in the English giving themselves coronaries because we get free eye tests and bus passes.  Now that Scotland has a nationalist government, it's time we let the voters decide our destiny once and for all.

One might hope from that quote that Bill Leckie might have something useful and objective to say about the Megrahi affair. One would have been wrong …

The third guest in the discussion was Tom English, an Irishman working in Scotland as a sports journalist for Scotland on Sunday, and Scottish Sports Feature writer of the Year. (Tom English is doubtless bored rigid by jokey reference to his surname, and might well adopt the tactic of Lee Bum Suk - the Foreign Minister of Korea until his death in the  Rangoon bombing in 1983, and a distinguished UN diplomat, who used to introduce himself at conference by saying “My name is Lee Bum Suk. Please laugh now, then we can move on to serious business.”)

Exactly what a sports journalist’s views were supposed to contribute to the Megrahi discussion I am not certain, but there he was anyway.

What did we actually get from this odd mix?

Shereen Nanjiani gave a brief introduction, then played Cameron’s comment on the UK Labour Government’s involvement “facilitation of an appeal by the Libyans to the Scottish Government”, itself a simplistic distortion of what actually happened without regard to the critical time frame. This was followed by an emotional quote from Stephanie Bernstein, an American relative of a Lockerbie victim, understandably hostile to the UK government’s position.

Shereen could  have quoted Dr. Jim Swire as a balancing view, but she didn’t. Instead, she followed with an Alex Salmond broadcast quote, in which the First Minister made the critical time distinction - that Megrahi was actually released a year later - a distinction that, however, doesn’t fit well with the shabby consensus between Cameron, the unionist press and the Labour Party, that the Scottish government was somehow complicit in the UK government’s double dealing and hypocrisy. Shereen could have had a representative of the Scottish government on her panel of guests - but she didn’t …

I suppose that up to that point, some kind of balance was maintained by Shereen and the programme’s production team. But then the discussion and the motley guests -

Prof. Sarah Oates, an American, jumped straight in with both feet.  “I mean, the more and more you hear about this story, the less and less likely it seems that this was a just a disinterested release due to humanitarian concerns.

The more and more I play that remark, Prof. Oates, the less and less likely it seems to me that this was a disinterested assessment of a complex political situation from an American academic, but more a superficial assessment - an opinion rather than a considered academic analysis, and one that has been formed without looking closely enough at the timescales, the documents, the complex nature of devolved government, the Scottish legal system and the fraught relationship between the Scottish Nationalist Government and the Unionist Labour Government of the UK at that time. But I could be wrong, Professor Oates …

Bill Leckie, sport journalist in the tabloid Sun newspaper, jewel of the News International, part of the Murdoch empire that includes the appalling Fox News in America, illegal buggers of everyone’s phone from Princes to commoners, currently the subject of multiple criminal investigations by the Metropolitan Police, has an opinion too, despite his apparent sympathies for Scottish nationalist aspirations in his Kelvin MacKenzie rebuttal.

A “bugbear”  of his, Bill Leckie confidently asserts, is that he never has believed that it was about compassionate release - “I have written from day one that I didn’t think it was anything to do with compassionate release - I’ve always thought it was business.”

This carefully formed opinion was obviously the product of deep journalistic research and reflection while on the terracing, fending off the outrageous attacks of Celtic supporters over chanting from the fans, and engaging in contrived spats with Kelvin MacKenzie.

Leckie then goes on to a quite contemptible attack on Kenny MacAskill’s integrity in his speech in August 2009 explaining and defending his decision to release Megrahi. Leckie then predictably repeats the distorted interpretation of the Justice Minister’s remark about a ‘higher power’ as suggesting that Megrahi would be judged by the Almighty, rather than what it patently was, a qualifying statement that his life span would be determined by a higher power, not by the medical forecast.

Tom English was then invited by Shereen to offer an opinion, from his deep sports expertise, on whether this was a compassionate release or not. Drawing on deep reserves of sporting journalistic experience and analysis, he reveals that he used to believe it, but no longer does, because “this week has absolutely changed my opinion.” He now believes that political expedience and not compassion drove the Scottish governments distinction.

He then goes on to accuse Alex Salmond of hypocrisy, quoting Sir Augustine Thomas "Gus" O'Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary for the lying, expedient Brown Labour government and now for the appalling ConLib coalition, that “the SNP were open to negotiations in the release of Megrahi.” He parrots the UK line that the Scottish Government was linking the issue of the Megrahi release to legislation on prisoner compensation on slopping out.

In so doing, Tom English unwittingly repeats and gives credence to a British Government lie - a blatant distortion and conflation of events, timescales and facts which a sports journalist, however distinguished in his field, has clearly not examined in any detail.

A Southern Irishman, even a sports journalist, should have a least some passing acquaintance with British government lies in the bloody history of his native land. The only excuse I can offer for Tom English is that, in his well-founded distaste for the UK and BP machinations over Libya and Megrahi, he has swallowed whole and entire the desperate attempts of a failing UK political culture to embroil the Scottish Government in their shameful realpolitik and deep hypocrisy.

In so doing, he and the other guests casually, and without a shred of evidence, or even apparently any real consideration of the evidence that exists, have impugned the integrity of two leading members of the Government of Scotland - the First Minister, Alex Salmond and the Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill.

Shereen Nanjiani and her producer have failed to provide a balanced debate on a critical issue to the future of Scotland - and the UK - when a Holyrood election is imminent.

In so doing, they have also done a disservice to the Lockerbie dead and to their living, grieving relatives, who want above all, closure and justice based on the rule of law and objective facts, not on the glib and superficial opinions of sports journalists.


Friday, 11 February 2011

Michael Portillo on Megrahi: "The little Scottish government would not have dared ...”

A totally patronising, inaccurate and superficial view of the Megrahi issue from Michael Portillo, failed Tory politician. "The little Scottish government would not have dared ... to take such a decision ... without being pushed by this Government."

An equally patronising view of devolved government by a Labour woman - whose name I can't be bothered to find out. Devolved administrations  " ... don't always understand how significant some of their decisions are."


There speak two archetypal representatives of a failed political culture and structure and  a discredited, dying United Kingdom. In their little Westminster village, and blinkered media bubble, they are completely unable to understand the feelings, aspirations and significance of other countries such as Scotland.

No wonder the Egyptian revolution caught such people in the UK Government and diplomatic services with their collective knickers down.

And Andrew Neil, a Scot, sat there and swallowed the insults, with only the most feeble of rebuttals. This is what  UK politicians and their media hacks think of Scotland, the Scots  and their elected government.

Reach for your forelock, smile ingratiatingly, Scots, or for God's sake stand up and do something about it on May 5th - and beyond.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Wikileaks, Megrahi release and the UK government.



Below is a copy of the letter of 5 November 2008 from Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland to the Libyan embassy. 

This letter was published eighteen months ago by the Scottish Government.

It relates to the Wikileaks news, all over today’s media, that Bill Rammell, a Foreign Office minister in the Labour Government of Gordon Brown was actively engaged in dialogue with Libya about the possible release of Megrahi, in spite of denial by the then British Labour Government.

AS1AS2

A spokesperson for the First Minister said:

“The importance of this letter is that it shows beyond doubt that, regardless of whatever the then Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell was communicating to the Libyan authorities, the First Minister made it absolutely clear that compassionate release could not be considered at that time because Megrahi did ‘not conform to the guidance on life expectancy for release on compassionate grounds’, and no application had been received

It was an entirely different matter by August 2009 when the Justice Secretary took the decision, by which time Megrahi’s condition had become ‘hormone resistant’, and the report of the Scottish Prison Service Director of Health and Care said that his clinical assessment was that a three-month prognosis was a reasonable estimate, drawing on the work of a range of specialists and other Scottish Health Service professionals involved in Megrahi’s care from when he was first diagnosed with cancer in September 2008.‪‪”

The reference in the Wikileak cables that the First Minister said he would take the decision is “entirely wrong, and fourth hand information” – as we said on 7 December.  This reference in the cable of 28 October is based on a conversation that the US Charge d’Affaires in London had with an FCO official who himself was reporting what he had heard about a discussion between the First Minister and Jack Straw

What the First Minister said is that he would reply to the letter on behalf of the Scottish Government – which he did, on 5 November, rejecting consideration of compassionate release at that time.

OTHER COMMENT FROM THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT

“This leaves the former UK Labour government with all the questions to answer about its conduct.
“This diplomatic correspondence, much of which has already been made public, totally vindicates the Scottish Government’s position. We were clearly the only ones playing with a straight bat and interested in applying the precepts of Scottish justice, which we continue to do and continue to uphold.  The cables confirm what we always said – that our only interest was taking a justice decision based on Scots Law without fear or favour, which was exactly what was done, and that our public position was identical to our private one.
The decisions to reject the PTA application and grant compassionate release were taken by the Justice Secretary, according to the precepts of Scots Law.
“The cables also show that the former UK Government were playing false on the issue, with a different public position from their private one – which must be deeply embarrassing for the Labour Party in Scotland – and that the US government was fully aware of the pressure being applied to the UK Government.”



MORIDURA POSTSCRIPT
Remember the hypocrisy of the US Senators and the superficial bandwagon jumping by Holyrood's resident Labour ****hole, Richard Baker? Of course, Bill Rammell never told Iain Gray and Richard Baker what their Westminster masters were up to, otherwise they would have said so in the Scottish Parliament. Wouldn't they?

Friday, 23 July 2010

Bob Crow, RMT, talks hard sense on Megrahi Release on Question Time

My respect for Bob Crow grows by the week, and I find I have much more in common with this man than most of the Scots who comprise the opposition in Holyrood. He is one of the very few Question Time panellists on whom I can rely to say the things I wish the panellists would say – even when I don’t agree with them – rather than the obfuscations, evasions and establishment cant that often characterises the usual contributions.

Among the select few who do say what has to be said, in addition to Bob Crow, I include George Galloway, Ken Clarke, Shami Chakrabarti and Salma Yaqoob, not to mention Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon.

Bob Crow is the kind of Englishman I would like to see in government once England rediscovers itself as a great nation after it abandons its faded dreams of Empire, i.e. after Scotland secures its independence, closely followed by Wales and Northern Ireland.

I was most struck by the point he made when asked if Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill would present themselves in response to the ‘invitation’, i.e. peremptory summons to appear before a Senate Committee and account for their decision to release Megrahi.

I quote Bob Crow -

But however, I want to say this --- the American Government has got some cheek to talk about some of the things that has happened over here, when it has got itself involved illegal wars all over the world, dropped chemical on people, tortured people and the scenario in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba – and five Cubans languish in jail in America at this moment in time who went to America to tell the American government – previous government, I would accept – about terrorist attacks that was taking place. So, there’s to be a fair playing field, let’s just not talk about Lockerbie, let’s talk about what America does throughout the world as well.”

The Hartlepool audience greeted this with enthusiastic and prolonged applause, and so did I from my sofa. This – the authentic voice of the people - used to be the voice of the people and the People’s Party before New Labour and the deadly trio of Blair, Brown and Mandelson got their hands around its throat.

But why lament? We have the authentic voice of the Scottish people in government in Holyrood at the moment, and I hope that the people recognise it and reinforce it by returning a Scottish Nationalist Government with an increased majority in May 2011.