Padraig Colman

Rambling ruminations of an Irishman in Sri Lanka

Category: Foreign Interventions

Review of Rory Spowers’s A Year in Green Tea and Tuk-Tuks

A version of this article appeared in Lakbima News on Sunday October 2 2011

This book was thrust upon me in Barefoot long ago. It describes the efforts of Rory Spowers (BBC journalist and “passionate environmentalist”) to transform a 60-acre Sri Lankan tea estate into an organic farm. I read it quickly and then put it aside. I have re-read the book to see whether I am more inclined now to agree with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recommendation: “Inspiring stuff.” Fearnley-Whittingstall sees “candour and wit, the agony and ecstasy of trying to live the green dream.”

Editors Without Whom

It seems to be customary for writers to give fulsome praise to their editors, even when the editors have done a shoddy job. Spowers thanks Gavin Lewis “for his skills at transforming an unwieldy manuscript into what you are now holding.” Never you mind what I am holding, this book needs better editing.

There are 300 pages to the book but the main body of it ends on page 192. There follow an epilogue, an afterword and essays entitled Transport, Habitat, Energy, Water, Economics, Biodiversity, Organisation, Food, Health, Oceans, Peace, Education. There is a glossary and an index. Then there is information about the websites of The Web of Hope, Project Flamingo and Samakanda – “an ecological learning centre”.

This is all worthy, if second-hand, stuff, but belongs in a different book. What is being marketed to the tourists in Barefoot is the personal experience not the smug preaching. The front cover says: “A Year in Green Tea and Tuk-Tuks -”my unlikely adventure creating an organic farm in Sri Lanka.” That is a very clunky title, editors! There is a blurb on the back cover from Tim Smit: “This is a book of great charm and warmth that captures perfectly the restless spirit of all of us.” Not all of us, Tim.

There are indigestible chunks of expository prose. Showing a remarkable capacity to remember verbatim lengthy conversations, Spowers attempts to put across technical information in the form of dialogue of the kind found in bad movies. “’That sounds like a good example of bio-mimicry’, I said. ‘Using nature as the inspiration for designing a model with systemic benefits.’ “ There follows a long response from his interlocutor, Ranil, which includes phrases such as “analog forestry”, “the inherent energy of the landscape”, “the fundamental problem with modern agriculture and monocultures”. Rory sagely responds, “‘All in the name of efficiency’. ‘That’s right,’ said Ranil, his eyebrows arching.”

Clichés

The editors have also allowed much dead language. Here are a few specimens. “The reality starts to strike home. Our conversation came full circle. Ongoing dilemma. Within a stone’s throw. It cuts no ice. Antibiotics were dished out like Smarties. The episode left me in tatters. A fount of knowledge and vibrant wisdom. The corporate world was no longer his bag. The ‘nanny state’ syndrome. The atmosphere was charged, almost visibly electric. Why reinvent the wheel? A veritable Who’s Who of the prime movers from a wide spectrum of disciplines. It was a no-brainer. I keep my eyes peeled. Fairly comprehensive. Almost virgin. (One is either a virgin or not. No room for ‘almost’. “I knew her before she was a virgin”). Equally blown away. My head was spinning. Boundless enthusiasm. Hope is a four-letter word.”

Shopping in the New Age Supermarket

Spowers writes: “It’s easy to dismiss such stories as flaky New Age claptrap.” Spowers is receptive to claptrap from all kinds of sources. At one point, he solemnly participates in some primitive bone-scattering ritual, the significance of which escapes me. He quotes a Cree Indian saying. He also quotes that old fraud Buckminster Fuller. Guru Ramesh Balsekar “showed his students how to undermine the conditioned processes of the mind.” Someone, whom Rory feared would be “another boring American”,  seemed to pass muster because he cared about crop circles, alien abductions and the Da Vinci Code. Spowers, like Queen Elizabeth II, and unlike any rational thinker, seems to approve of homeopathy. “There’s a very good doctor at the Lighthouse Hotel. She’s a homeopathic doctor from South Africa. All the medicines are made from plants.”

Hypocrisy and Greenwash

It is entertaining to watch Spowers hopping about trying to justify his own actions. He is very self-righteous about his motives. “As the media interest waned during the 90s and corporate ‘greenwash’ tactics were used to discredit the science behind climate change, my understanding and passion for the issues increased.”

“Although I accept that the current form of free market capitalism is a reality, it does not necessarily imply that I agree with it. If I feel driven to work towards environmental awareness and an ecological lifestyle, then that is the part that I am destined to play. Ultimately, I have no option.”

Rory allows us to share his moral dilemmas. He worried that a house’s size was”compromising to my ecological conscience, in terms of things like energy and water-use.” The water-use meant the swimming pool. He squares that with himself because a pool was “almost a prerequisite if we were to look for holiday rentals”. The pool “was for me a typical example of the compromises we are all forced to make.” He then tries to divert us by telling us what a bad thing AC is. Thanks, but we know that.

He worries constantly about the effect he is having on the environment but inevitably manages to convince himself that he is OK. “If I was really ‘walking the talk’, I would be taking the bus to Galle and never getting on a plane.” It hurts him to be considered “just another environmentalist in a four-wheel drive”. Why worry though? A “tuk-tuk” is roughly 200 times more polluting than his car.

How does a “tuk-tuk” compare to a plane? Mayer Hillman, a public-policy scholar, has shown that for each passenger on a round trip from the UK to Florida 1.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide is discharged.

Rory squirms a lot to justify his urge to travel. It seems that eco-warriors have to fly endlessly around the world attending conferences. He even has to go to London to shop, presumably because we don’t have shops in Sri Lanka., After deciding to settle in Sri Lanka he makes a trip back to London to purchase “essentials”. He complains about the London traffic and the size of his supermarket bill. “Very rapidly, I remembered why we had left”. He did not fly straight back though, but took another flight to San Francisco. It was worth the trip because a “visionary eco-economist” confirmed his views about Big Pharma and the oil industry: “This shit works. Their shit doesn’t.”

He fearlessly challenges the notion that “sustainable living was inevitably linked with deprivation and denial.” So, that means it’s OK for his children to watch 24-hour cartoons on TV and for him to fly all over the world and to smoke and use a four-wheel drive. He says that a friend thinks him hypocritical for smoking. He recognises that there are “difficult and complex questions” but he does not answer them. “We are locked into a system that prevents us making many of the changes we may aspire to.” “We see that change is always propelled by the individual, or that a small action can be an instrumental part of the significant changes that arise through complex processes.” He should read Allen Brandt’s brilliant book The Cigarette Century. Giving up smoking is a major, and not impossibly difficult, existential act of war against corporate thuggery and media manipulation.

Rory Spowers’s   book is published by Rupert Murdoch.

Spowers finds the government’s standard wage rate of Rs 238 per day “positively insulting and nobly pays 350. (The current minimum rate for an estate labourer is 450) “This has now proved destabilising and local tea estate owners are up in arms, complaining that they are losing their workers to our project. I am now in a difficult position and reluctant to bring the figures back in line”. He asks himself if he is in the business of neo-colonialist globalisation exploiting cheap labour in the name of eco-speak. “These are hard questions and they weigh heavily on me”. He salves his conscience by giving small loans to cultivate mushrooms and “encouraging” workers to make coconut wood products to sell to people passing through. He feels that this will “help to keep money circulating within the local economy rather than losing it to the global economy”.

 

This reminds me of a Peter Sellars monologue in which he plays a philanthropic aristocrat dispensing to the peasants improving tracts and potato peelings. Spowers is clearly engaged in making money out of Sri Lanka. What harm? “Set in sixty acres of tea estate and pristine rain-forest, a short drive from the coast, Samakanda is an ecological sanctuary and tropical forest garden bursting with fresh, organic produce. Come and stay in one of our three rainforest bungalows, watch the birds swooping through the trees at sunset, eat authentic Sri Lankan food and fall asleep listening to the jungle. Or come for the day, hike the rainforest trails, learn to cook local dishes with our organic produce and absorb the spectacular views from the comfort of a hammock”

 

Restless Spirit

As well as becoming more cranky in my old age, I am also becoming more dubious about the benefits of travel.

Tim Smit seems to think a restless spirit is a good thing. In the N’importe où hors du monde section of his Spleen of Paris, Baudelaire compared such restless travellers with a sick man in a hospital who wants to be near the window when he is by the heater and by the heater when he is by the window. Then he dies.

 

 

 

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Deadly Accountancy Part 1

Thirty Years’ War

Once upon a time,  there was a war that lasted thirty years. The causes of the conflict were complex, its conduct brutal, its outcome murky. Divisions continued long after the war’s end. A mass grave was found recently which was thought to date back to the thirty year conflict. There is no definitive account of how many were killed in those thirty years. Vast areas were denuded by the foraging armies. Famine and disease significantly decreased the population. So great was the devastation brought about by the war that estimates put the reduction of population from between 25% to 40%.

A distinguished historian still living today, Norman Davies, in his book Europe,[i] gives a figure of eight million. R.J. Rummel, who has invented his own discipline and called it democide studies,  avers that there were 11.5 million total deaths in the war.[ii]

Notice the wide margin there between 25% or 40%. After all this time no-one is really sure how many died. In 1648, the Thirty Years War ended. In her brilliant book[iii] on the subject, CV Wedgwood wrote of those times: “The outlook even of the educated was harsh. Underneath a veneer of courtesy, manners were primitive; drunkenness and cruelty were common in all classes, judges were more often severe than just, civil authority more often brutal than effective, and charity came limping far behind the needs of the people. Discomfort was too natural to provoke comment; winter’s cold and summer’s heat found European man lamentably unprepared, his houses too damp and draughty for the one, too airless for the other. Prince and beggar alike were inured to the stink of decaying offal in the streets, of foul drainage about the houses, to the sight of carrion birds picking over public refuse dumps or rotting bodies swinging on the gibbets. On the road from Dresden to Prague a traveller counted ‘above seven score gallowses and wheels, where thieves were hanged, some fresh and some half rotten, and the carcasses of murderers broken limb after limb on the wheels’”.

Wedgewood was writing in 1938 before the World War Two  conflagration:

“The old legend that the population dropped from sixteen to four million people, rests on imagination: both figures are incorrect. The German Empire, including Alsace but excluding the Netherlands and Bohemia, probably numbered about twenty-one millions in 1618, and rather less than thirteen and a half million in 1648. [A loss of 7½ million.] Certain authorities believe that the loss was less, but these are for the most part writers of a militaristic epoch, anxious to destroy the ugly scarecrow which throws  so long a shadow over the glorious past.”

Genocide in Ireland?

While the Thirty Years’ War was still in full swing, Cromwell was killing rather a lot of Irish people. [iv] The fifty years from 1641 to 1691 saw two catastrophic periods of civil war in Ireland  which killed hundreds of thousands of people and left others in permanent exile. The wars, which pitted Irish Catholics against British forces and Protestant settlers, ended in the almost complete dispossession of the Catholic landed elite. The Plantations had a profound impact on Ireland in several ways. The native ruling classes were destroyed and replaced by the Protestant Ascendancy.

Cromwell has his defenders among modern historians (Cromwell- An Honourable Enemy by Tom Reilly, Philip Graham McKeiver, A New History of Cromwell’s Irish Campaign;  Rewriting Cromwell: A Case of Deafening Silences, by historian and President of the Cromwell Association, Professor John Morrill).  God’s Executioner by Mícheál Ó Siochrú, is a forceful restatement of the case for the prosecution. The 1649-53 campaign remains notorious in Irish popular memory as it was responsible for a huge death toll among the Irish population (possibly 40%). The reason for this was the counter-guerrilla tactics used such as the wholesale burning of crops, forced population movement (ethnic cleansing) and killing of civilians. In addition, the whole post-war Cromwellian settlement of Ireland has been characterized as “genocidal”, in that it sought to remove Irish Catholics from the eastern part of the country.

The repercussions of the Tudor and Cromwellian settlements can be seen in Northern Ireland. In that thirty year war “only” 3,000 were killed, the same number that died on  one day,  September 11 2001, in New York. Each individual who died in the Northern Ireland Troubles had a mother who mourned. A book[v] was published in 1999 which told the story of those individuals. Over a seven-year period, the authors examined every death which was directly caused by the Troubles. They interviewed  witnesses, scoured published material, and drew  on a range of investigative sources. All the casualties are remembered—the RUC officer, the young soldier, the IRA volunteer, the loyalist paramilitary, the Catholic mother, the Protestant worker, and the new-born baby. Peter Taylor, himself an authority on the Troubles, describes the book as “ painful, illuminating, desperately moving and sad”.

Some have seen the 19th century famine as genocide. Broadcaster and historian Robert Kee suggested  that the Irish Famine of 1845 is “comparable” in its force on “popular national consciousness to that of the ‘final solution’ on the Jews,” and that it is not “infrequently” thought that the Famine was something very like, “a form of genocide engineered by the English against the Irish people.” AJP Taylor, the English historian, said that the Famine made Ireland a Belsen.[vi] Other historians ridiculed him.

Ireland’s population fell by as much as 25%.  One  million people died of starvation and typhus. A  million more emigrated. Millions emigrated over following decades. Some 2.6 million Irish entered overcrowded workhouses, where more than 200,000 people died.

The 1911 Census showed that the island of Ireland’s population had fallen to 4.4 million, about half of its peak population. The population of Ireland has never got back to pre-famine levels.

Liam Kennedy, emeritus professor of economic history at Queen’s University Belfast does not class the famine as genocide. [vii]

American Civil War

The American Civil War ended in 1865. The number of dead has never been definitively determined. J. David Hacker, [viii]a demographic historian, has recalculated the death toll of the conflict, and increased it by more than 20%.  He  estimates  the number of dead as up to 850,000 – which Hacker says  means the social impact is about 37,000 more widows, and 90,000 more orphans than previous  estimates.

20th Century World Wars

What about those more recent wars started in Europe? Estimates of casualty numbers for World War One  vary to a great extent; estimates of total deaths range from 9 million to over 15 million. Michael Clodfelter maintains that “The generally accepted figure of non-combatant deaths is 6.5 million”.[ix]

There is more certainty about the number who died in the firebombing of Dresden by the Allies. Most of the dead succumbed to suffocation; in only four places were recovered remains so badly burned that it proved impossible to ascertain the number of victims. Seeking to establish a definitive casualty figure—in part to address exploitation  of the bombing by far-right groups—an independent investigation conducted in 2010 on behalf of the Dresden city council stated that a maximum of 25,000 people were killed, of which 20,100 are known by name. According to an official German report Tagesbefehl (Order of the Day) no. 47 (“TB47”) issued on 22 March 1945, the number of dead recovered by that date was 20,204, including 6,865 who were cremated on the Altmarkt square, and the total number of deaths was expected to be about 25,000. Another report on 3 April put the number of corpses recovered at 22,096. Three municipal and 17 rural cemeteries outside Dresden recorded up to 30 April 1945 a total of at least 21,895 buried bodies of the Dresden raids, including those cremated on the Altmarkt.

World War Two  fatality statistics vary, with estimates of total dead ranging from 50 million to over 70 million. Some nations suffered disproportionally more casualties than others. This is especially true regarding civilian casualties. The debate among historians continues today, 68 years after the end of the war. Civilian casualties include deaths caused by bombing,  the Holocaust, war crimes, population transfers and deaths due to war-related famine and disease. Conflict epidemiology,  estimating the numbers of deaths during violent conflicts, is a controversial subject.

The USA is the only nation to unleash atomic bombs. It dropped them on civilian populations. The real death toll  will never be known. The destruction and overwhelming chaos made orderly counting impossible. The number of total casualties has been estimated at various times since the bombings with wide discrepancies. The Manhattan Engineer District’s best available figures for Hiroshima and Nagasaki together are 199,000.[x]

Vietnam

How many Vietnamese civilians were killed during the American war? The Twentieth Century Atlas gives a lengthy list of different views on this. [xi]The government of Vietnam has officially estimated the dead at three million, including two million civilians.

Investigative reporter Nick Turse recently published Kill Anything That Moves, a history of U.S. atrocities during the Vietnam War[xii] . His title comes from the orders issued by Captain Ernest Medina before an attack in March 1968 on a Vietnamese village known as My Lai.

“Are we supposed to kill women and children?” one of his men asked.

“Kill everything that moves,” the captain replied.

The US  Army made no attempt to keep a running tally but after the war the Pentagon guessed the total might be 195,000. A Senate committee in 1975 suggested 415,000. A study in 2008 by health professionals at Harvard and the University of Washington thought the number of Vietnamese dead, soldiers and civilians alike, was around 3.8 million.

Success in battle was measured by  a high body count, which helped officers get promoted and soldiers get leave. Turse recounts the spread of a body-count culture that accepted any body for the count—if it’s Vietnamese and it’s dead, the saying went, it’s a Vietcong. One six-month-long operation called Speedy Express resulted in tens of thousands of confirmed kills in the Mekong Delta, many in “battles” where the kill ratio climbed steadily—twenty-four to one in December 1968, sixty-eight to one in March 1969, 134 to one in April—sure sign the dead were mainly unarmed, which meant they were mainly civilian

Cambodia

Estimates of the total number of deaths resulting from Khmer Rouge policies range from 1.7 to 2.5 million out of a 1975 population of roughly 8 million.

Once again, different people give different figures. Craig Etcheson[xiii] of the Documentation Center of Cambodia who spent five years  researching 20,000 grave sites, suggests a “most likely” figure of 2.2 million. A UN investigation reported two to three million dead, while UNICEF estimated three  million had been killed. Demographic analysis by Patrick Heuveline[xiv] suggests that between 1.17 and 3.42 million Cambodians were killed, while Marek Sliwinski suggests that 1.8 million is a conservative figure. Even the Khmer Rouge acknowledged that 2 million had been killed—though they attributed those deaths to a subsequent Vietnamese invasion.

In his book Sideshow, William Shawcross maintains that Nixon and Kissinger’s secret  bombing of Cambodia not only spread the conflict, but led to the rise of the Khmer Rouge and the subsequent massacre of a third of Cambodia’s population.[xv]

Iraq

Possible estimates of  the number of people killed in the 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq vary widely,and are highly disputed. [xvi] As of December 2012, the Iraq Body Count has recorded 110,937-121,227 civilian deaths. The IBC has a media-centred approach to counting and documenting the deaths. Other sources have provided differing estimates of deaths, some much higher. The Lancet did a cluster survey in 2004[xvii] which was not popular in the USA as its results were published just before a presidential election. “Making conservative assumptions, we think that about 100,000 excess deaths, or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Violence accounted for most of the excess deaths and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most violent deaths. We have shown that collection of public-health information is possible even during periods of extreme violence. Our results need further verification and should lead to changes to reduce non-combatant deaths from air strikes.” Writing in the Lancet, in March 2013, Frederick Burkle and Richard Garfield said: “lost opportunities, plus the burgeoning insurgency and the scarcity of security services, directly contributed to the chaotic conditions that helped plunge Iraq into an acute-on-chronic public health emergency, which it still remains in today”. [xviii]

“A historical view of the war in Iraq is essential to the understanding of the internecine controversies that arose about the validity of mortality studies, and the political pressures that influenced their interpretation to the world”.

Afghanistan

“You know we don’t do body counts.” General Tommy Franks was quoted in The San Francisco Chronicle, 23 March 2002.[xix]

Simon Rogers in The Guardian tries to collate the information available.[xx] Rogers comments: “Obviously, collecting accurate statistics in one of the most dangerous countries in the world is difficult. But the paucity of reliable data on this means that one of the key measures of the war has been missing from almost all reporting”.

UNAMA (United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan) investigates reports of civilian casualties by conducting on-site investigations wherever possible and consulting a broad range of sources and types of information that are evaluated for their credibility and reliability.[xxi]UNAMA estimates that Over the past six years, 14, 728 Afghan civilians have lost their lives in the armed conflict.

Drones

Pakistan: Total US strikes: 368
Obama strikes: 316
Total reported killed: 2,545-3,533
Civilians reported killed: 411-884
Children reported killed: 168-197
Total reported injured: 1,176-1,472

 

Yemen: Confirmed US drone strikes: 43-53

Total reported killed: 228-328
Civilians reported killed: 12-45
Children reported killed: 2
Reported injured: 62-144

Possible extra US drone strikes: 77-95

Total reported killed: 277-443
Civilians reported killed: 23-49
Children reported killed: 9-10
Reported injured: 73-94

All other US covert operations: 12-76

Total reported killed: 148-366
Civilians reported killed: 60-87
Children reported killed: 25
Reported injured: 22-111

Somalia: US drone strikes: 3-9

Total reported killed: 7-27
Civilians reported killed: 0-15
Children reported killed: 0

All other US covert operations: 7-14

Total reported killed: 51-143
Civilians reported killed: 11-42
Children reported killed: 1-3
Reported injured: 15-20 [xxii]

 

Tamil Eelam War IV

I have been reading a discussion paper which deals with the matter of calculating how many civilians died at the end of Eelam War IV.

While reading the paper, a number of thoughts  came to my mind:

·         The war was undoubtedly brutal, but wars generally are;

·         The Sri Lankan government would be in a better PR position if it  could have its own figure with which to enter discussions. However, it is not so unreasonable to be lacking such a figure four years after the events when figures for older conflicts are still a matter of dispute;

·         The Sri Lankan government was rightly ridiculed for saying there were zero civilian casualties. This seems less ridiculous when the USA refuses point blank to give casualty figures;

·         The “international community”, led by USA and UK, are accusing Sri Lanka of war crimes, seemingly blasé about what they did themselves in Iraq and Afghanistan (and Vietnam, Cambodia, Ireland, Cyprus, Kenya etc.)

Coincidentally, while I was preparing my review of the discussion paper I got involved in a conversation with Dr Dayan Jayatilleke, former Sri Lankan ambassador to the UN in Geneva and subsequently to France, about the concept of “ethical violence”.



[i] ·  Europe: A History. Oxford: Oxford University Press 1996. ISBN 0-19-820171-0

[iii] The Thirty Years War (1938; new edition 1957) Now available in paperback from New York Review of Books Classics

[v] Lost Lives by David McKittrick, Seamus Kelters, Brian Feeley and Chris Thornton

[vi] Politics in Wartime and Other Essays by A.J.P. Taylor Athenaeum, 1965 207 pp., $5.00

[ix] ·  ^ Clodfelter, Michael (2002). Warfare and Armed Conflicts- A Statistical Reference to Casualty and Other Figures, 1500–2000 2nd Ed.. ISBN 978-0-7864-1204-4. Page 479

[xii] Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam by Nick Turse Metropolitan, 370 pp., $30.00

[xiv] Heuveline, Patrick (2001). “The Demographic Analysis of Mortality in Cambodia.” In Forced Migration and Mortality, eds. Holly E. Reed and Charles B. Keely. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

[xv] Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon, and the Destruction of Cambodia, William Shawcross.

Liberation of Libya

 

 

This article appeared in the December 4 edition of the Sri Lankan  newspaper The Nation.

 

 

 

How is  that liberation of Libya thing working out?

Now, I am well aware that Muammar Qaddafi may have had a few little faults. I have no wish to downplay  his  darker side. I have written about this in some detail at:

https://pcolman.wordpress.com/2011/08/23/the-milo-minderbinder-school-of-foreign-polict/

He armed many terrorist groups and bankrolled the genocidal leader of Ethiopia, Mengistu Haile Mariam, trained Charles Taylor of Liberia, gave sanctuary to Idi Amin.

The plus side was that Libya’s oil revenues were distributed very widely, creating  a welfare state from which virtually all Libyans benefited, with  high standards of healthcare, high rates of schooling for girls as well as boys, a literacy rate of 88% per cent, more opportunities for women than in other Arab countries and the highest per capita income in Africa.

How  does Colonel Gadfly compare to other monsters around the world? Saddam Hussein was hanged; Osama Bin Laden was shot; many other bad people have been assassinated. What was his kill rate compared to GW Bush, Tony Blair and Barack Obama?

Would he have fallen if he had not given up his nuclear weapons? Hugh Roberts, writing in the London Review of Books, said:

“Numerous states in Africa and Asia and no doubt Latin America as well (Cuba and Venezuela spring to mind) may wish to consider why the Jamahiriyya, despite mending its fences with Washington and London in 2003-4 and dealing reasonably with Paris and Rome, should have proved so vulnerable to their sudden hostility. And the Libyan war should also prompt us to examine what the actions of the Western powers in relation to Africa and Asia, and the Arab world in particular, are doing to democratic principles and the idea of the rule of law.”

Western intervention was justified by the news that , on 21 February, the regime was using its air force to slaughter peaceful demonstrators in Tripoli and other cities. The main purveyor of this story was al-Jazeera, but the story was quickly taken up by Sky, CNN, the BBC, and ITN. At this point, according to Human Rights Watch,  the total death toll since 15 February was 233. The total death toll in Tunisia was 300 and in Egypt at least 846. According to Roberts, the “‘genocide’ claim was histrionic rubbish which none of the organisations with an interest in the use of the term was moved to challenge”.

Sound familiar?

Roberts again: “The slanted coverage in the British media in particular, notably the insistence that the regime was faced only by peaceful demonstrators when, in addition to ordinary Libyans trying to make their voices heard non-violently, it was facing politically motivated as well as random violence (e.g. the lynching of 50 alleged mercenaries in al-Baida on 19 February), was consistent with the destabilisation theory. And on the evidence I have since been able to collect, I am inclined to think that destabilisation is exactly what was happening.”

“It is tendentious and dishonest to say simply that Qaddafi was ‘killing his own people’; he was killing those of his people who were rebelling. He was doing in this respect what every government in history has done when faced with a rebellion. We are all free to prefer the rebels to the government in any given case. But the relative merits of the two sides aren’t the issue in such situations: the issue is the right of a state to defend itself against violent subversion. That right, once taken for granted as the corollary of sovereignty, is now compromised.”

A  report has been prepared for the attention of  UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Yes, another one. This one apparently says there have been war crimes in Libya. Yes – Libya. Not Sri Lanka.

Who has been committing the crimes? The freedom fighters supported by NATO seem to have been doing their share.

According to the UN report, thousands of people, including women and children, are being illegally detained by rebel militias, that is the victors supported by NATO,  in Libya. The Independent reports that many of the prisoners are suffering torture and systematic mistreatment while being held in private jails outside the control of the country’s new government. A UN resolution was secured in March in order to protect civilians from merciless suppression  by the Qaddafi regime. Political prisoners  held by the Qaddafi regime have been released, but their places have been taken by up to 7,000 new “enemies of the new state” under the control of revolutionary brigades, “with no access to due process in the absence of a functioning police and judiciary”.

The report states that  both sides committed war crimes in the bitter battle for Colonel Qaddafi ‘s hometown, Sirte. Armed militias continue to  control many towns settling  internecine feuds through gun battles.

The city of Tawerga, whose residents were mainly black, was largely destroyed by rebel fighters from neighbouring Misrata. A number of black Africans were lynched following claims, often false, that they were hired guns for the Qaddafi regime. “Cases have been reported of individuals being targeted because of the colour of their skin.” Blacks have been targeted  for torture and  “ revenge killings, or taken by armed men from their homes, checkpoints and hospitals, and some allegedly later abused or executed in detention”.

The report acknowledges the brutality of the outgoing regime. Ban Ki-Moon said: “I was deeply shocked by my visit to an agricultural warehouse in the Khallital-Ferjan neighbourhood of Tripoli where elements of the Qaddafi regime had detained civilians in inhuman conditions, had subjected some to torture and had massacred as many as they could and burned their bodies”.

Quadaffi  strongly opposed the installation of the US military’s ‘Africom’ on the soil of any African country. He funded a wide range of development projects in sub-Saharan countries. Libya is rich not only in oil. Quadaffi  planned to exploit the immense water reserves under Libya’s Sahara and to transform the economic prospects of the Sahel countries. Western , particularly French, water companies are now salivating at the prospects of profit.

Salem’s Lot

A version of this article was published in the print edition of Lakbima News on Sunday 25 September. Unfortunately, it does not appear on the online edition even though it is listed in the Lakbima News contents.

Why does the Salem News hate Sri Lanka so much? The Salem News website carries ads saying “Check the label. Boycott Sri Lanka”.

Oregon

Oregon is a beautiful place. I spent happy times there.

US state capitals can be surprising. You would expect Portland to be the capital of Oregon – it has a cosmopolitan feel to it. Culture abounds, the great Powell’s bookshop – although there did seem to be a lot of drunken Native Americans in the gutters when I was there. If you felt a bit clever you might guess Eugene to be the Oregon state capital. But no, the capital of Oregon is Salem, the county seat of Marion County, population 154,637. They have two universities, Willamette and Corban. Two famous people came from Salem. The great guitarist John Fahey was known for his coarseness, aloof demeanour, and dry humour – but hell he could play guitar. Carmella Bing is known for- well, I’m not sure. She is described as a “pornographic actress”. I know nothing of such things.

You would have thought Salem News  would be mainly interested in goings-on in the state of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. They claim: “Serving the community in very real terms, Salem-News.com is the nation’s only truly independent high traffic news Website.”  They have global, rather than local, ambitions.

Salem News’s Global Mission

“Salem-News.com is the premiere Independent Online Newsgroup in the United States. Salem-News.com is setting the standard for the future of news.

Truth
Justice
Peace

 

Salem News boasts 96 writers in 20 countries. It is somewhat difficult to negotiate the rather messy site – almost as bad as Lakbima News. One of the contributors is Gilad Atzmon, the Israeli jazzman, novelist, and activist whose musical work I greatly admire (he used to play with Ian Dury and the Blockheads. Robert Wyatt described him as a genius.)

Embedded – in Bed with Ronald McDonald

The editor of Salem News is Tim King, “a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com’s Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines.” When he set off to be  embedded with the 41st Combat Brigade of the Oregon National Guard in Kabul,  Salem News called for local businesses to sponsor his trip. “McDonalds Restaurants of Salem provided $1,100 toward the trip to Afghanistan. We hardly know how to thank them enough, but we know this is one organization that sees the value of bringing the stories of our Oregon soldiers home.”

It is somewhat bizarre that a libertarian news outlet should be grovelling in this manner to a bastion of global capitalism. I  am confident that Tim would have  condemned US war crimes that he witnessed but wonder if he has queasy feeling of complicity from the very fact of being embedded with good old boys from Oregon who are slaughtering Afghan civilians under the sponsorship of Ronald McDonald..

US War Crimes

Tim  certainly criticised the USA in an article about WikiLeaks revelations of an Apache helicopter attack on a group of unarmed Iraqi civilian journalists that showed the U.S. Army “absolutely decimating a group of eight, with apparent enthusiasm, and a desire to lay waste to the people on the ground. The helicopter crew continually asked for permission to attack the people, who were in no way acting a like a military force. The journalists had no reason to suspect that an American helicopter would actually attack and leave them all dead. The Apache crew fired at the wounded and chuckled over the results, while insulting the dead as they lay on the ground. I don’t say this often, but the government of the United States of America is as corrupt and wrong as any that has ever existed, whether Americans themselves can appreciate that or not. We have broken the world in ways that can never be mended and when we aren’t doing it militarily, we are behind environmental devastation, economic depression; you name it. Capitalism as a concept has run a bad course and western people leading sheltered lives have no idea what on earth they have been paying for. Thanks to groups like this, the truth does come forward. The importance of that can never be underestimated.”

Israel

King  came under criticism for Salem News’s line on Israel: “Reading Tim King’s response, it becomes clear, however, that editorial standards are somewhat confused at the Salem News.” He responded vigorously: “I guess taking other people’s land leads to endless problems, and that is the story of Israel. I view it all as a huge entitlement problem.”

Loose Talk Costs Lives

I am not going to argue that the Salem News is an apologist for the US government. I am not going to argue that Sri Lanka should not be criticised. However, one obvious flaw in the Salem News line is its somewhat loose use of the English language. You will note that in his piece on the killing of journalists in Iraq he wrote: “the U.S. Army absolutely decimating a group of eight”. “Decimate” used to mean “to select by lot and kill every tenth man”. How is that possible with a group of eight? Was the death toll really 0.8 people? In these decadent times the word decimate has become devalued. Because it sounds similar it has come to mean devastated or even mildly depressed.

Language is an organic thing, meanings change,  but I do get a bit “decimated” myself when the currency gets debased. Genocide is a  word that Salem News uses a lot in relation to Sri Lanka.

Genocide

“Our report on Sri Lanka’s genocide of the Tamil people and war crimes against Liberation Tigers of Tamileelam (LTTE), came at a time when the wagons of the Sri Lankan government are tilting over on their sides.” Again this is an example of the English language being abused. What does  it mean?

Raphael Lemkin, a Polish lawyer of Jewish descent coined the term. Genocide is generally defined as “the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial or religious group.”

Has this been happening in Sri Lanka? Has there been a systematic plan to eradicate the Tamil race?

At the end of the war, David Begg of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions managed to find the time in his busy schedule of dealing with the disappearance of the Irish economy down the toilet – redundancies, and pay and benefit cuts for his members – to urge the then Irish Foreign Minister, Mícheál Martin (he has since been consigned to the toilet) , to apply sanctions to faraway Sri Lanka as a protest against “genocide” and “concentration camps”. Begg’s letters seemed to suggest that he thought that all Sri Lankan Tamils had been confined to a narrow strip of beach to be shelled by government troops and then herded into extermination camps. This suggests a certain ignorance about Sri Lanka’s history and of the current situation. Trinity College, Dublin hosted a two-day hearing by the Permanent People’s Tribunal which delivered the judgement that the Sri Lanka government was guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The tribunal was further pondering the issue of genocide.

Genocide is a  word that Salem News uses a lot in relation to Sri Lanka.

“Our report on Sri Lanka’s genocide of the Tamil people and war crimes against Liberation Tigers of Tamileelam (LTTE), came at a time when the wagons of the Sri Lankan government are tilting over on their sides.”

Again this is an example of the English language being abused. What does  it mean? You notice that they are not talking about crimes against innocent Tamil civilians but crimes against the LTTE.

Has this been happening in Sri Lanka? Has there been a systematic plan to eradicate the Tamil race? As P{resident Rajapaksa said, why would he be providing camps, whatever the shortcomings of the IDP camps,  with food, health care, education, banks (with ATMs) if his plan was to exterminate the Tamil race in Sri Lanka?

Freedom Fighters or Terrorists?

Salem News says: “It carries with it a potential to reveal the truth about the Tamil people and their tragedy in seeking independence from the Sri Lankan government. Interestingly, and importantly, the Tamil people represent different nationalities and religions; they are diverse and not easily categorized. They have experienced grave suffering as a result of their ambitions to seek political independence in Sri Lanka since 1983, the year the 16-year long Civil War began.”

There is a certain element of tin ear about this. “Seeking independence from the Sri Lankan government” is not a usual formulation neither is “since the 16-year long Civil War began”. It was more than 16 years. Civil war may not be an accurate description.

Freedom  fighters have often been described as terrorists. Salem News says: “This is used by the Israelis against the Palestinians they displace; the Americans describe Arab freedom fighters trying to repel an occupation that has claimed over a million civilians on their soil with this word; it is the term China uses when describing Muslim ethnic minority Uyghurs seeking equal rights, and the list goes on. It is high time we stop describing those who fight for human freedom; against military occupations that violate international law, with this ugly, branding word.”

The LTTE were not the same as the oppressed Palestinians. Tamils live all over Sri Lanka. Except in the areas controlled by the LTTE, they had rights and freedom. Tamils held  positions of influence. The Sri Lankan army was the legitimate force of a democratically elected government.

According to Salem News: “The story of the Tamil Tigers LTTE may the most overblown in the usage of the word ‘terrorism‘ ever, and that is really saying something.” Again not very elegant English. I do not need to spell out to Sri Lankan readers that the LTTE were really terrorists.

I wonder how many members of the Tamil diaspora are providing funding for Salem News. There are certainly Tamils being offered up for marriage in Oregon.

“Preeti is sensitive, broad-minded and an outgoing individual. She has a passion for travel and enjoys listening to music. She likes hiking and has also completed 2 half marathons. She is a cheerful caring person who enjoys being surrounded by her family and friends. She has fantastic appreciation for art, culture, people and has a positive outlook towards life.”

I advise Lakbima News readers to set up a Google alert to find out what Salem News is saying about us. I advise Sri Lanka’s ambassador in Washington to comment on Salem News biased coverage of the country he represents.

The Milo Minderbinder School of Foreign Policy

No tongues please. I’m British!

I wrote this in April 2011. Things have moved on since.

 

“In a democracy, the government is the people,” Milo explained. “We’re people, aren’t we? So we might just as well keep the money and eliminate the middleman. Frankly, I’d like to see the government get out of war altogether and leave the whole field to private industry.”

Milo Minderbinder, the mess officer  in Catch-22 is the personification of capitalism. He has no allegiance to any country, person or principle unless it pays him. Milo doesn’t see himself as corrupt or evil. He claims to live by a strict moral code. The one country he will not deal with is the Soviet Union (although they are supposed to be allies in the war)  out of respect for private property and disdain for socialism.

Milo organizes the bombing of his own base because he has a contract with the Germans. The Germans may be the enemy but they are good payers.

Milo was a neo-liberal avant la lettre. When markets fail to deliver, the capitalist is quick to turn to the government for help. Milo depends on governments for his riches.

His moral code allows for price inflation and betraying one’s country for the sake of profit. Everyone has a “share” in the Syndicate, a fact which Minderbinder uses to defend his actions- what is good for the company is good for all. He secretly replaces the CO2 cartridges in the emergency life vests with certificates for shares in M & M, on the assumption that the future person who may need that vest will be instantly compensated for its absence. He steals the silk out of parachutes, the morphine out of  first aid kits, all in the name of making a few bucks, honest or otherwise.  His most interesting attributes are his complete immorality without self-awareness, and his circular logicality in running his Syndicate. Minderbinder decides that he can trust Yossarian  because “anyone who would not steal from the country he loved would not steal from anyone.”

This fellow is a bit more cautious on a first date.

Libya and the IRA

During the period 1969–1971, the Provisional IRA was very poorly armed. By 1972, the IRA had large quantities of modern small arms, particularly Armalites, made and bought in the USA. The IRA’s main gun runner in the USA was George Harrison (no relation) an IRA veteran, who had lived in New York since 1938. Harrison bought guns for the IRA from a Corsican arms dealer named George de Meo who had connections with organized crime. Harrison was funded by NORAID -“Irish Northern Aid Committee”.

The IRA used the QE2 to smuggle arms from the USA.

Joe Cahill

Quadaffi first donated arms  to the IRA in 1972–1973, following visits by veteran IRA man Joe Cahill to Libya. In early 1973, the Irish navy seized an arms shipment on the Claudia. Five tonnes of Libyan arms and ammunition were found on board. The weapons seized included 250 Soviet-made small arms, 240 rifles, anti-tank mines and other explosives. Cahill was arrested on board. It is believed  that three shipments of weapons of similar size did get through to the IRA around  the same time. The early Libyan arms shipments provided  the IRA with its first RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenade launchers.  Qaddafi also donated three to five million US dollars to the IRA at this time.

IRA contact with Libya was broken off in 1976 but was restored after the 1981 IRA  hunger strikes. In this period, Libya provided enough arms to equip at least two infantry battalions. Qaddafi is thought to have decided to support the IRA to get back at the British government for its support for Reagan’s bombing of Benghazi and Tripoli in 1986. US planes had been allowed to take off  from British bases. Sixty Libyans died in the attacks, including Qaddafi’s adopted baby daughter Hanna. This second major Libyan contribution to the IRA came in 1986–1987. In 1987, the French navy intercepted the  Eksund in the Bay of Biscay. She was carrying 120 tonnes of weapons, including HMGs, 36 RPGs, 1000 detonators, 20 SAMs, Semtex and 1,000,000 rounds of ammunition from Libya. There were four shipments before the Eksund incident which were not intercepted. There had been a huge intelligence failure of both Irish and British agencies  author Brendan O’Brien described as ‘calamitous’. O’Brien claims that, thanks to Libya, there was an “oversupply” of arms in the hands of the IRA by 1992. It is also estimated that the Libyan government gave the IRA the equivalent of £2 million cash along with the 1980s shipments.

On 31 October 2009, a cross-party delegation of Northern Irish politicians travelled to the Tripoli for the first face-to-face meeting with Libyan government ministers to discuss compensation claims for victims of IRA violence.

Shootout at the Libyan Embassy

On 17 April 1984, there was a demonstration by anti-Quadaffi dissidents outside the Libya embassy in St James’s Square, London . Thirty police officers were sent to control the situation. Shots were fired and eleven people were hit. WPC Yvonne Fletcher died from her wounds. An inquest ruled that she died as a result of a stomach wound caused by bullets from two Sterling sub-machine guns fired from the embassy. Following the shooting, the embassy was surrounded by armed police for eleven days, after which the staff were allowed to leave and then deported. The UK broke off diplomatic relations with Libya.

Joe Vialls, conspiracy theorist or  self-proclaimed private investigator dedicated to “exposing media disinformation,”,  concluded that the fatal shots had come not from within the embassy but from a penthouse flat next-door-but-one to the Libyan embassy, and were fired by CIA/Mossad agents. Vialls may have been a crank but more respectable people were also sceptical about the official line on the shooting. These included George Styles, a top army ballistics expert, Hugh Thomas, expert on bullet wounds from his experiences as consultant surgeon of the Royal Victoria hospital in Belfast, and veteran Home Office pathologist, Professor Bernard Knight.

A report from April 2007 concluded that two men, who were later senior members of the Libyan regime, played an “instrumental role” in the killing. According to a report in the Daily Telegraph in 2009, the Crown Prosecution Service had been told  by an independent prosecutor that there was sufficient evidence to prosecute two Libyans.

The Foreign Office eventually  bowed to Libyan pressure and agreed that Britain would abandon any attempt to try the murderer of WPC  Fletcher. Anthony Layden, Britain’s former ambassador to Libya, said he had signed an agreement with the Libyan government when Jack Straw was foreign secretary. At the time Britain was negotiating trade deals worth hundreds of millions of pounds with Libya. The deal followed a visit by Tony Blair, then prime minister, to meet Colonel Qaddafi in March 2004 after Libya announced that it was ending its nuclear weapons programme. The Foreign Office said the deal had been sealed in an exchange of ambassadors’ letters in 2006: “The Fletcher family know all this and have not considered it to be a big issue.” Queenie Fletcher’s  MP questioned this interpretation.

On Friday, 25 March 2011, Kim Sengupta wrote in The Independent  about a meeting with Omar Ahmed Sodani, the chief suspect in the killing of WPC Fletcher.  Sodani, now 59, was  head of the Al Ejanalghoria, Muammar Qaddafi’s militia in Benghazi. He has been questioned by his captors in the rebel movement, not only about the shooting, but for allegedly providing reports on Libyan students in London which led to their persecution back home, as well as complicity in human rights abuses. “They have interrogated me about the shooting all those years ago,” he said. “I have explained to them that I did not do it.”

Sengupta wrote: “After talking for a little more than an hour, Mr Sodani was led away. As he departed, he made one final pronouncement: ‘I have full confidence in the fairness of the revolution and the revolution’s judges. This country would be a far better place in the future than it was in the past.’ There was no mistaking the fear in his voice.”

Lockerbie

On Wednesday 21 December 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was destroyed by a bomb, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew members. Eleven people in Lockerbie, a town in southern Scotland, were killed as large sections of the plane destroyed several houses. Total fatalities were 270. Libya did not formally admit responsibility until 16 August 2003. In a letter to the UN Security Council it “accepted responsibility for the actions of its officials” but expressed no remorse.

The motive that is generally attributed to Libya can be traced back to a series of military confrontations with the US Navy that took place in the 1980s. Libyan planes were shot down and ships sunk. Libya was accused of retaliating by ordering the bombing of the La Belle nightclub in West Berlin in 1986.

Even in February 2004, Libya did  not accept guilt. Prime Minister  Shukri Ghanem told the BBC that his country had paid  compensation as the “price for peace” and to secure the lifting of sanctions. He also denied that Libya was responsible for killing Yvonne Fletcher. Qaddafi later retracted Ghanem’s comments, under pressure from Washington and London.

There are  many conspiracy theories about the Lockerbie case. I will not go into them in detail here but those interested in following this up will be guided by:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pan_Am_Flight_103_conspiracy_theories

Campaigning journalists, John Pilger and the late  Paul Foot have written extensively about Lockerbie.

Iran was initially the prime suspect for the Lockerbie bombing and had the most obvious motive. Five months earlier, an Iranian civilian aircraft had been  shot down by the US warship USS Vincennes and Ayatollah Khomeini had called for revenge. The theory is that Iran paid the Syrian-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command (PFLP-GC) to carry out the attack on its behalf. Ahmad Behbahani, a former Iranian intelligence official, later claimed that he personally conveyed the message to the PFLP-GC.

A recurring theory is that the CIA, or rogue elements within it,  it had cleared a drugs smuggling route from Europe to America involving Pan Am flights in return for intelligence about militant groups.

Saif al-Qaddafi said that Libya had admitted responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing simply to get trade sanctions removed. He went on to describe the families of the Lockerbie victims as very greedy: “They were asking for more money and more money and more money”. Several of the victims’ families refused to accept compensation because they did not believe that Libya was responsible. On 23 February 2011,  Mustafa Mohamed Abud Al Jeleil, former Justice Secretary of Libya, claimed to have evidence that Qaddafi personally ordered the bombing.

Indictments for murder were issued on 13 November 1991 against Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer and  Lamin Khalifa Fhimah, Libyan airlines station manager in Malta. (Don’t forget that Milo was Mayor of Valetta). UN sanctions against Libya and protracted negotiations with the Libyan leader secured the handover of the accused on 5 April 1999 to Scottish police. Both accused chose not to give evidence in court. On 31 January 2001, Megrahi was convicted of murder by a panel of three Scottish judges in a courtroom in “neutral” Holland. There was no jury. Megrahi was sentenced to life imprisonment but Fhimah was acquitted.

Megrahi served eight and a half  years of his sentence, throughout which time he maintained that he was innocent. Some argue that the governments in England and Scotland in effect blackmailed Megrahi into dropping his appeal as a condition of his immediate release.

He was released from prison on compassionate grounds on 20 August 2009 as he was suffering from cancer. Allegations have been made that the UK government and British Petroleum sought Al-Megrahi’s release as part of a trade deal with Libya. In 2008, the British government “decided to do all it could to help the Libyans get Al-Megrahi home … and explained the legal procedure for compassionate release to the Libyans”.

Some argue that key evidence presented at the trial (for example, timer fragment, parts from a specific radio cassette model, clothing bought in Malta, a suitcase originating at Luqua, could have been fabricated by the U.S. and Britain for the “political” purpose of incriminating Libya. Paul Foot wrote that when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1991, Bush Sr needed Iran’s support as he built a “coalition” to expel his wayward client from an American oil colony. The only country that defied Bush and backed Iraq was Libya. “Like lazy and overfed fish,” wrote Foot, “the British media jumped to the bait. In almost unanimous chorus, they engaged in furious vilification and open warmongering against Libya.”

Former CIA officer Robert Baer, who took part in the original investigation, said ” the evidence amassed by [Megrahi’s] appeal is explosive and extremely damning to the system of justice.” A “key secret witness” at the original trial, who claimed to have seen Megrahi, loading the bomb on to the plane at Frankfurt, was bribed by the US authorities holding him as a “protected witness”. The defense exposed him as a CIA informer who stood to collect, on the Libyans’ conviction, up to $4m as a reward. New evidence would have shown that a fragment of a circuit board and bomb timer, “discovered” in the Scottish countryside and said to have been in Megrahi’s suitcase, was probably planted.

Paul Foot, wrote that  the Scottish judges, while admitting a “mass of conflicting evidence” and rejecting the fantasies of the CIA informer, found Megrahi guilty on hearsay. Their 90-page “opinion”, wrote Foot, “is a remarkable document that claims an honored  place in the history of British miscarriages of justice”. (His report, Lockerbie – the Flight from Justice, can be downloaded from http://www.private-eye.co.uk for £5.) Foot reported that most of the staff of the US embassy in Moscow who had reserved seats on Pan Am flights from Frankfurt cancelled their bookings when they were alerted by US intelligence that a terrorist attack was planned.

Britain’s strange constitutional arrangements allowed Gordon Brown, who, although a Scotsman representing a Scottish constituency,  was PM of the UK, to express ersatz outrage at the decision by the Scottish government to allow the release. Not only was this hypocritical because  a release was being negotiated for a long time by the Blair and Brown administrations because of oil and arms sales, but there were doubts about Megrahi’s guilt and the fairness of his trial.

John Pilger was incensed at the hypocrisy of the reaction to Megrahi’s release. “No one in authority has had the guts to state the truth about the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103”.

Tony  Minderbinder Blair

Whether Libya was guilty over Lockerbie or not,  there have, no doubt, been dirty deals. Tony Blair first announced a “new relationship” with Libya in 2004. The Duke of York visited Libya several times, meeting Qaddafi and his son Saif. Minderbinder Blair, now peace envoy in the Middle East, recognized that peace and friendship with  Libya was good for UK plc. British Aerospace could provide employment for British workers by selling arms to Libya. Blair stopped the Serious Fraud Office investigation into BAE bribery charges.

And, of course, there is the oil.

David Cameron is the new Minderbinder in Downing Street. Having sold arms to Quadaffi,  the UK  is now entertaining  the Libyan rats deserting the ship. Speaking at a Downing Street press conference about the defector, Moussa Koussa,  Cameron said: “The decision by the former Libyan minister to come to London to resign his position is a decision by someone at the very top. It tells a compelling story of the desperation and the fear right at the very top of the crumbling and rotten Qaddafi regime.”

However, Lockerbie won’t go away. It was made clear that Koussa’s defection will raise uncomfortable questions about atrocities which happened when he was a senior figure in Libya’s foreign intelligence service. Scottish prosecutors told the Foreign Office they want to interview Koussa about  Pan Am flight 103. He could also face questioning about the murder of Yvonne Fletcher.

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