Saturday, July 17, 2010

Should Kenny MacAskill submit to American imperial pretensions?

I'm not quite sure how to react to the suggestions in The Scotsman that Kenny MacAskill could be summoned before the US Senate committee that is about to conduct a forensic (ahem) probe into the decision to release the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing. On the one hand, it smacks of the depressingly familiar American imperial presumptions - that all must defer towards that country's institutions as the world's ultimate authority, and that even democratically-elected politicians from other countries must submit themselves for questioning or censure if their actions happen to conflict with American sensibilities. The worst example of this breathtaking arrogance was exhibited last year by FBI director Robert Mueller in his shameful, self-indulgent and (to put it mildly) deeply unprofessional rant in a letter to MacAskill, which the Scottish government managed to dismiss with considerably more grace and good manners than it deserved.

But the flipside of the equation is that it would be rather timely to see a member of the Scottish government have the chance in an open hearing to blow apart some of the fantasies the US senators have been peddling. Alex Massie, in the latest installment of his brilliant commentary on the Megrahi affair, has identified the newest batch of what George Galloway might call "schoolboy howlers" committed by US senators -

"Unfortunately their request is predicated upon nonsense and, for that matter, riddled with errors. Among them:

1. No "Scottish court" ordered that Megrahi be released. It was a matter for the Justice Secretary and him alone.

2. The prognosis given by Karel Sikora and the other doctors paid by the Libyan government played no part in MacAskill's decision. He never saw Sikora's report. The decision was made on the basis of reports compiled by Dr Andrew Fraser, the senior doctor in the Scottish Prison Service. These drew on the findings of at least two other independent consultants.

3. If BP really was lobbying the British government for Megrahi's "release" it was lobbying the wrong people since the British government did not have competence in this matter. Again, and evidently this still needs to be spelt out, London could no more approve Megrahi's release than could Timbuktu."

The only drawback is that, if MacAskill appears before the committee, he probably won't confront the senators with the most uncomfortable truth of all - that they should drop this pathetic self-righteous smokescreen, and instead conduct a more illuminating investigation into the strong suspicions that their own country's authorities tampered with evidence and helped to frame both Megrahi and the state of Libya. Sadly, the Justice Secretary has felt honourbound to profess his absolute belief on Megrahi's guilt, and so can't say any of that. Come to think of it, I'd quite like to see Christine Grahame summoned...


  1. These US Senators are simply blowing off on a political bandwagon because its election year for some of them. Megrahi and BP are the current political footballs in US politics, they probably don’t really want Kenny to appear and blow their arguments to smithereens. Wait till after the elections and see what happens I bet it all blows over.

    I see that our dear PM has waded in by telling Americans in Time Magazine that Britain is the junior partner in the “special relationship” ahem indeed. And even better that we should not expect anything in return for our slavish devotion to their causes. Does that mean we are going to go on spending millions on the causes of a President who seems antipathetic to Europe in general and Britain in particular?

    I have yet again risked the ire of the Tory bloggers at al by posting on this latter subject myself. I have refrained from using the word hypocrisy. Lets see if I get accused of another needless anti-Tory rant.

  2. Ah'm sure Kenny could gie a guid account o' his actions, should he choose tae visit the Senate committee, as he has aye spoken thoughtfully an' sensibly o' the decision he took. Ah'm no sure tho if it wid be worth even the plane fare, fer thon same Senators arenae exactly showin onythin like the same amount o' sense an' sensibility, an' the hearin widnae likely shed ony mair light oan the issue, regardless o' Kenny's performance.

    American politicians arenae weel-kent fer their subtlety, honesty, nor integrity. Can ye imagine the American uproar were we tae summon yin o' their's in front o' oor parliament?

  3. The words “horns” and “dilemma” come to mind.

    Of course the American Senate has absolutely no right to call for a Cabinet Secretary of another country to appear before it. As Sophia says, how would they feel if we summoned Hilary Clinton before us?

    On the other hand, I watched, nearly a year ago, as Kenny made a statement, clear and honest, and then answered questions from hostile MSPs looking to make political capital out of the joint tragedies of the awful Panam crime, and the eating away of a man by cancer.

    His calm Scottish voice, and his honest belief that what he did was both right, and followed tothe letter of the law the prescribed method of dealing with a situation like this, would surely knock any right thinking person who had been swayed by the pre-election baying of a few Senators. It might be worth it for him to go, as long as it was made very clear that he was there because he wished to set the record straight, and not because he had been summoned as if he were some junior contributor, and not a senior cabinet member.

    It seems to me that Munguin is right. The clamour for any explanation will soon disappear once the need to court popularity has ended... in November.

    Kenny on the other hand, must have known that although releasing Al Megrahi might be popular with a few people, it was likely to be unpopular with far more. The failure to release him would, however, be understood by most and please many. He took anything but a populist decision.

    Of course Cameron’s despicable comments on the subject show that he, given a similar situation would have his law officer disregard the law of his country (similar I think to ours) and bow to an inevitable outcry from America.

    It was not wrong Mr Cameron. It was what our law demanded. Some of us work on these principles, and not on PR. I hope you have a good trip to the States by the way!

  4. Sophia, if he does go I trust he'll demand his plane fare is reimbursed!

    Tris - yes, it really shows the value of Scottish self-government, however imperfect it is in its current state. I presume pre-1999 the decision on compassionate release would have been made by the Secretary of State of Scotland? It would have been nominally an independent decision, but the idea that he wouldn't have done whatever the Prime Minister wanted (which would, entirely coincidentally, have been whatever the Americans wanted) isn't remotely credible.

  5. Yes James. I think that that is what would have happened prior to 1999. I suspect that that may (just may) be why the court case went the way that it did.

    At that time, control of what the CIA did in Scotland would have been in the hands of the SoS/Prime Minister/American President, and the justice system, although separate, was overseen from London.

  6. Let's see, this scumbag lets free the greatest mass murderer in British History , and your concern is American Imperialism. Says more about you then him

  7. Anon - The fact that you apparently aren't remotely troubled by the severe doubts over whether Megrahi is indeed guilty of mass murder probably says something quite profound about you. I'd suggest you have a very close look at the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission findings on Lockerbie - which referred Megrahi's case back to the Court of Appeal - before you shoot your mouth off any further.