Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Americans even spun themselves on Lockerbie

One thing I've found slightly amusing about the WikiLeaks cables so far is the entirely superfluous efforts of the authors to paint the US in a saintly light, despite the (intended) highly restricted audience. For instance, in the now-notorious write-up of Prince Andrew's boorish behaviour, we have the American ambassador "gently reminding" the prince that her country's presence in Central Asia is not in any way a continuation of the "Great Game", ie. competition with Russia for spheres of influence. Well, if you believe that you'll believe anything, but it appears the US has a self-image to maintain at all costs.

In the light of which, we shouldn't be surprised that the newly-published documents relating to the Megrahi release generate more spin than light, and seek to bolster the favoured US narrative despite the - quite literally - total absense of supporting evidence. One cable is dramatically titled "Qatar's Involvement in Al-Megrahi's Release" - but that 'involvement' seems to consist solely of the Qataris speaking to the Scottish government. It's fairly plain that there's an intense longing on behalf of the author for something far juicier, but instead all he/she can do is faithfully record the Qataris' entirely plausible denials of wild (and seemingly rather vague) US allegations of "any financial or trade incentives to induce Al-Megrahi's release".

Another cable purports to relate the Scottish government's "underestimation" of, and Alex Salmond's private "shock" at, the US reaction to Megrahi's release. But once this light dusting of spin is brushed away, what we actually learn is that Salmond's private statements were near-identical to what he was saying in public. It seems his "shock" related primarily to FBI director Robert Mueller's public letter of protest, and given that the widespread view in these parts was that Mueller's intervention was astonishingly thuggish, ill-conceived, self-indulgent and unprofessional, it's hard to see what reaction other than "shock" would have been appropriate in the circumstances. It's gratifying to learn that the Scottish government's representative made abundantly clear to the US that the shock was of the "offended" rather than "humbled" variety, although you'd be forgiven for thinking otherwise from the cable's billing (not to mention the Guardian's credulous summary).

Of course, it's the little details that give the authoritativeness (or otherwise) of these documents away, so it's also somewhat amusing to learn that the Americans were clearly basing their understanding of the Scottish Parliament's procedures not, as you might expect, on a close reading of the Scotland Act, but instead on the media's entirely erroneous belief that a two-thirds majority was required to pass a motion of no-confidence in the government. And this is supposed to be the world's most sophisticated intelligence-gathering outfit?

1 comment:

  1. As just demonstrated in the latest wikileak about Trident/Gordon Brown [ ],

    i've just realised that Whitehall bureaucrats/politicians keep the US very informed about what the British Government is doing and thinking.

    Almost as if the UK is an American satellite state.