In defence of the British.

Today, the New York Daily News ran an editorial about the release of the Lockerbie bomber. Which to be honest wouldn't usually rock my world because this story has been rumbling on for a while now and I've not got the longest attention span but the difference is that this particular editorial is not just taking a swipe at the weasels in charge, no, this one points the grenade squarely at the entire populace of Britain. And that's not on. So, why do I have a problem with this article? Let's take a look shall we?

It was Winston Churchill who asked in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, "What kind of people do they think we are?" And it is Gordon Brown who has given grounds to believe that today's British are a cowardly, unprincipled, amoral and duplicitous lot. Because he is all those.

Well that's a ridiculous statement for a start. The US President is black and was born in Hawaii. Does that mean all US citizens are black and were born in Hawaii? No, it doesn't. The US president believes that healthcare reform is needed. Do all Americans believe this? No, they do not. The British are like every other nation on earth, a populace made up of individuals, not a homogenous mass with a single set of characteristics and beliefs. To call the British cowardly, and unprincipled is not only inaccurate, it is also a shameless way to get a badly written and poorly researched editorial into the public eye.

Can he remain in power having been revealed as at least complicit in an atrocious miscarriage of justice and breach of faith. That will be up to the Brits, but on this side of the Atlantic Ocean it is inconceivable that an elected official would have a snowball's chance after sanctioning an oil-for-terrorist deal.

Brown has remained in power despite presiding over a massive recession and the running up of the biggest government debt since the second world war. I'm pretty sure that the release of a dying man under controversial circumstances, a decision that on the face of it wasn't his anyway, isn't going to have him out before the next election. While we're here, let's make something clear shall we? The Scottish Judiciary is not a UK wide entity, it deals solely with Scottish legal issues and it's decisions come from Holyrood not Gordon Brown. The decision was made by the Scottish Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill and until any conclusive evidence comes out that proves otherwise perhaps we should accept Mr MacAskill's assertion that this was his decision. Ironically, this kind of blustering attack on the UK is the greatest favour that the author of the editorial could have done Gordon Brown. He's really very unpopular here but if there's one thing we don't like in the UK it's being told what to do by someone else. What makes a journalist think he has the right to tell the UK Prime Minister how to act? It's the very height of arrogance. As for the assertion that no official who has done anything dodgy in the name of oil would stand a chance of re-election in the US, I have one word for him – Bush.

Surely Brown can hardly survive the revalation that his government assured Libya that the Prime Minister did not want the Lockerbie bomber to die in prison, a message duly passed on to the Scottish official who released Abdelbaset al-Megrahi on "compassionate grounds".   

As I explained above, Brown has no power in this case, the Scottish Judiciary could have taken his opinion, that he didn't want Megrahi to die in a foreign prison and stuck two fingers up at him, deciding to keep him incarcerated and send him back in a box when it was all over. But they didn't. And since when was showing compassion to a dying man a sackable offence? Surely it shows a level of humanity that the bomber himself was lacking and places the compassionate individual on a higher moral plane than the man he is judging?

As for the 'special relationship' between the US and Britain, the storied alliance built on the resolve of World War II and carried on through Thatcher and Blair, through Iraq and Afghanistan: It is, in a word, gone. 

Yes, the special relationship survived the Thatcher years, when the IRA was mainly funded from the US, when millions of US dollars went into allowing terrorists to commit atrocities on British soil against British military personnel, political figures and innocent citizens. We in the UK knew that although the money was coming from donors in America, the average US citizen wouldn't support the blowing up of men, women and children in the UK and so the special relationship continued. It survived UK soldiers being dragged by our government into Iraq and Afghanistan because we were allies of the US and would fight alongside them. Yes, it survived all that but now we've gone and done something utterly reprehensible, something so unforgivable that the 70 year old relationship is in tatters – we didn't do what we were told. So, according to the journalist who wrote this article, the 'special relationship' is entirely based on the UK doing what the US wants rather than making it's own decisions. I don't believe for a moment that is what it's all about but if the guy is right and that's all it takes to end it then it wasn't a very strong or healthy relationship in the first place, was it?

Brown's maneuverings to get into the good graces of Libyan mass murderer Moammar Khadafy broke the bond between America and the Blessed Plot beyond his ability to repair it. That work will fall to someone else, someone who values human life more than commercial expediency, someone who is stalwart rather than a sneak, someone true to his pronouncements.

I can't begin to offer comment on any of this because quite what the 'blessed plot' is is a mystery to me. The only plot related issue I can seem to see here is that the author has quite clearly relinquished his grip on whichever one he once had and has entered the realms of bile-filled rambling by this point.

The US and the UK committed to imprisoning Megrahi in Scotland after the Libyan spy was convicted of blowing Pan Am Flight 103 out of the air over that country in 1998. The atrocity was a direct precursor of 9/11 and no one could have imagine that Brown – leader of a nation that too has been terror's target – would trash the pledge.

Leaving aside the fact that the article is so poorly copy edited that no one has picked up the fact Pan Am flight 103 actually got blown out of the air in 1988 not 1998, the author is right, they couldn't have predicted that Brown would trash the pledge at the time. This is because in 1988 he was some political junior whose party wasn't even in power and also because he didn't trash the pledge (assuming that by pledge he means the sentence Megrahi was given), the Scottish Justice Secretary did. The atrocity was 13 years before 9/11, which hardly makes it a direct precursor of 9/11 merely because the terrorists in both cases shared the same religion. Something that he might have picked up on if he'd bothered to check what year the Lockerbie bombing actually happened.

But Brown did trash the pledge and in the most revolting terms, letting it be know, it bears repeating, that he did not want Megrahi, author of of 270 murders, to die in prison. 

One more time for the procedurally challenged – BROWN DIDN'T TRASH ANYTHING. He just expressed his opinion and the Scottish Judiciary did the rest. It has been reported here that Brown did not say he didn't want Megrahi to die in prison, the opinion he actually expressed is that he didn't want him to die in a strange prison, i.e. a foreign prison. Which shows a compassion that to be honest, I didn't think he had in him. Megrahi's conviction was about to be appealed, it was shaky to say the least and under those circumstances I would have shared his opinion, not out of any disrespect for our American friends, some of whom I have chatted to through this blog and have found to be a diverse and intelligent bunch with a host of opinions and beliefs, but because I believe that we should be more compassionate than the terrorists we condemn. Otherwise we're no better. 

So Megrahi has returned to Libya a hero, perhaps dying of prostate cancer, perhaps not. Brown got his way and he will never outlive the stain.

Brown has power over a lot of things but not the reception that Megrahi received when he returned to Libya. Unlike certain journalists he does not appear to presume to tell the Libyans how they should behave. To claim that Megrahi doens't have prostate cancer is not only potentially libellous, it's also childish and utterly without basis. Megrahi has been examined by a number of doctors, some of whom have gone on the record to say that his cancer is terminal. What sort of mainstream newspaper allows it's journalists to go around spouting whatever they like without any proof just to try and score a pathetic point off a politician? Their editor ought to be ashamed. Brown did not 'get his way', he merely expressed an opinion and frankly, in this country the stain on his reputation caused by this comment is minor league compared to those caused by the economy, ill advised cabinet appointments, the expenses scandal and the rise of the nanny state.

Now I understand that opinions in the US are running high about Megrahi, some agree with it the decision, many don't but I would like to point out two very important issues to the author of this editorial, issues which may help him in his future career:

1) British legal and political decisions are taken by British politicians NOT foreign journalists. These politicians will consult experts in the field, their colleagues and very occasionally the British public. They will not consult a junior who writes poor editorials for a paper.

2) Research is key. If you are going to be outraged at the release of a terrorist then firstly check what year the atrocity occured in and secondly the process by which he was released, making a careful note of who was responsible. Otherwise you run the risk of merely making yourself look like a rabid fool who is writing tabloid trash insulting other nations in a bid to make get your own name into the spotlight. And for the record I think you're wrong, I believe that the relationship between the US and the UK will continue, perhaps slightly differently, perhaps on altered terms but as for it being broken? I don't think so.

If anyone wants to see the article it and related comments it can be found at  and in case someone realises that they've cocked up what year the bombing happened and alters it, I'd like to state that on 3rd Sep at 1.30pm it very definately said 1998, not 1988. 

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11 Responses

  1. I have HUGE problems with anybody – be they a columnist for any newspaper or a blogger hiding somewhere in their mommy's basement – commenting on the politics of a country (or even a state – in the case of the US) they do not live in … and apparently don't know a thing about.I also have HUGE problems – as you pointed out – of anyone painting any country with the broad brush of ONE person's actions … especially when it's apparent the writer has no idea whether or not said actions took place – he's just guessing.As an American, I can attest to the indignity I felt having all American's colored by BOTH our past President and our current President by folks all over the world. Neither of the men are representative of my feelings and beliefs, and so common sense would dictate that no citizen of any country should be characterized as being equal in actions to their leaders.

  2. [esto es genial]

  3. I had to add my own punctuation because I was concerned that if I copied theirs, someone might think it was my fault that there were commas in odd places. You'd think that even given the pathetic standard of the paper they'd have at least bothered to check a few facts but apparently not. They've just embarrassed themselves by printing this load of crap and watching it hit the world news.

  4. This is the problem when people get carried away by the pompous tones of their own self-righteousness, all common sense goes right out of the window and they start writing irrelevant crap. And, as you say, making sweeping, pointless and lazy generalisations.

  5. Well said. As an American, I know that Gordon Brown is not representative of the British people as a whole, and believe that that journalist needs to check his facts before saying something so damned stupid.-Wil

  6. Thanks! Seems that this idiot journalist isn't representative of the people he claims to speak for too…

  7. You're welcome! And exactly, this guy has an overrated opinion of himself and his opinion. He needs to realize his opinion is only one out 300+ million Americans, and not all of them agree with it.

  8. you need to look at the whole story, when ever the united state has a moral or social problem alot of people point to europe or england and say''see'' thats how they solved that,thats how there dealing with it,when the arguments come up for healthcare the liberals will almost always point east and say ''see'' ….so when they released this lowlife who had only served 22 days for each live he took. alot of people saw the writing on the wall,they will use this as a reason to show the terrorists in gitmo more mercy,they will point to england which alot of people in this country still use as a moral compass and insist that we need to be that merciful.i saw the outcry in england and i know that all british wern't in favor of it,but the bleeding heart liberals will be using this in the future to their own ends

  9. But the release of Megrahi had absolutely nothing to do with the English. Scotland is a semi-autonomous state, some of it's services are run not from Westminster by Brown and the government by from the Scottish parliament. The judiciary is one of those services. the decision was taken by the Scottish Justice Secretary and had nothing to do with anyone in England or Wales. To be honest, until they are tried and convicted I think that more mercy should be shown to terrorists in Gitmo because until they receive a conviction from a jury then they are 'alleged terrorists' not actual terrorists. The number of people held in Gitmo without proper process is not acceptable at all. The UK and the US are meant to be civilised nations, we should act as such.

  10. I know England releases a lot of prisoners when they are dying – makes economic sense, as the cost of their care is no longer their responsibility! I don't think that they acted any different in this case than Ronnie Biggs and others. I also think that it is time for some Americans to stop thinking that they can bully the rest of the world.

  11. Excellent post. I listened 'live' as the Scottish Justice Secretary made his announcements and I thought he gave his reasons with care and intelligence and he made it absolutely clear that his decisions were his alone.

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