Thursday, February 24, 2011

It seems my "apologism" goes on...

With utter predictability, Political Betting's resident US Republican cheerleader 'Stars and Stripes' popped up a couple of hours ago to triumphantly pounce on the story from a Swedish tabloid that the former Libyan justice minister (who has defected to the opposition) claims to have proof that Colonel Gaddafi ordered the Lockerbie bombing, and that Megrahi was guilty.  For the uninitiated, Stars and Stripes is one of the most consistently vicious and offensive commenters on PB, for all that he maintains a veneer of civilised discourse much of the time.  Here's his pearl of wisdom for this evening -

Now that we have the admission of the Libyan justice minister that Libya was indeed behind the Lockerbie bombing, and Megrahi indeed did it, will we still hear from PB’s Scottish government apologists who insisted Megrahi was just a poor stooge unjustly convicted by the West because we couldn’t get our hands on the real culprit?  Thought not.

So, naturally, I felt a response of some kind might just be in order...

Even for a man who’s been so spectacularly wrong so many times before, S&S, you’ve just surpassed yourself.  Wrong yet again.  As the weight of evidence stands at the moment, Megrahi’s conviction is unsafe, and indeed even simply on the balance of probability he’s likely to be innocent.  “Apologism” for the Scottish government doesn’t come into this, as they - wrongly, in my view - professed their faith in Megrahi’s guilt when they released him. 

Now, if this new claimed evidence is actually produced and stacks up, what will I say then?  Well, to coin a phrase - “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”   In your case, S&S, we already know the answer to that question from your reaction to the severe doubts raised over Megrahi’s conviction by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission.  You stick your fingers firmly in your ears.

Incidentally, here’s the wry response to this ‘revelation’ from Professor Robert Black, one of the architects of the Lockerbie trial in the Netherlands -

“[On this blog yesterday, the following was posted:]

“What’s the betting that, sometime in the next few weeks, the following happens:
1. In the burned out ruins of a Libyan government building, someone finds definitive documentary ‘proof’ that Libya and Megrahi were responsible for Lockerbie, and/or

2. A Libyan official reveals, ‘we did it’.

The official case is now so thin that only such concoctions can save it (although it’s also crossed my mind that a prisoner will come forward who says ‘Megrahi confessed to me’ – another hallmark of paper-thin cases).”"

Sure enough, my own first reaction was how eerily similar this was to the forged “Galloway documents” that conveniently turned up in Baghdad within days of the fall of Saddam’s regime.  But unlike you, S&S, I’ll be waiting to see if this proof actually stacks up before reaching a definitive judgement.  Facts may be dull things, but in the long run they’re so much more reliable than gut certainties.

It is of course true that there have been instances over the years where, despite considerable doubts over the safety of a conviction, new evidence emerged that conclusively demonstrated the individual in question had been guilty all along.  A good example is James Hanratty, and I always thought it was a matter of regret that the legendary campaigner Paul Foot couldn't bring himself to concede he'd been wrong in that case - albeit wrong for the very best of reasons.  It certainly wouldn't have detracted from the many, many cases he'd been proved right about, most notably that of the men jailed for the murder of Carl Bridgewater.  But the idea that a vague assertion from a man who has every motivation to urgently burnish his anti-Gaddafi credentials means that all the doubts about Megrahi's conviction have been instantly and comprehensively magicked away is utterly risible.  Here is a telling quote from a Swedish Middle East expert, highlighted by a commenter at Robert Black's blog -

"At the same, considering Al Jeleil just left the regime, there may be a credibility issue. It could be that these sorts of leaks from former members of the regimes are more about distancing themselves from Gadaffi as than revealing the truth."

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