Monday, August 24, 2009

Proud to be Scottish

Imagine a nation that takes compassion on dying prisoners, by virtue of law, even. How horrendous and venal such a place must be, nothing less, to borrow a phrase, than a wretched hive of scum and villainy. To hear recent talk of Mother Scotland, you'd think it was such a pit of ill-fame.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill's decision to free Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi has been met with a resounding, international "Oh no, you didn't", not least among naysayers the United States. Aye, you heard right: the US is calling foul on this transgress of international law. Robert Mueller, head of the FBI, goes so far as to say that MacAskill "makes a mockery of the rule of law" and "gives comfort to terrorists around the world." He doesn't go so far as to say that this would never happen if al-Megrahi had been at Guantanamo Bay, but the implication is clear.


Mr Mueller methinks protesteth too much. Which law is being mocked, precisely -unless he means to suggest that going contrary to US wishes is to impugn justice globe-wide. Even British PM Gordon Brown can see through this shimmy vapor of an argument. "This was a decision taken by the Scottish justice secretary in accordance with the laws of Scotland," he says through a spokesman. "I don't see that anyone can argue that this gives succour." Not that this takes Brown entirely off the hook. As detailed at Caledonian Comment, the PM has been talking about Scotland's decision with Libyan leader Muamar Gadaffi for over a month. Even so, the dodginess of Mr Brown isn't exactly news to anybody, is it?

Getting back to home turf here in the US, I don't buy into the outrage against compassionate dispensation of the rule of law, especially when it is shouted out from places that vigorously pursue the death penalty, champion indefinite detention, and carry out extraordinary rendition from black sites around the world. It's a bit disingenuous to take Scotland to task for showing compassion upon a man who is expected not to survive past Christmas. How does this give comfort to agents of terror?
Was the decision linked to trade deals with Tripoli, or Britain's interests in Libya's enormous oil and gas reserves? MacAskill rejects this, quoted as saying: "It was not based on political, diplomatic or economic considerations."

He adds that, "In Scotland we are a people who pride ourselves on our humanity...The perpetration of an outrage ... cannot and should not be the basis for losing sight of who we are."

The real loser in this is Libya. Giving al-Megrahi a hero's welcome was hardly cricket. It makes mockery of the very real grief suffered by families of those killed on Pan Am Flight 103. Worse, it undermines Scotland's credibility. How sad is that? A nation takes compassion and is made to look the fool.

Nevertheless, MacAskill was right in his decision. The perpetration of outrage should never be the basis of the rule of law.


Shinade aka Jackie said...

Trust me when I say I am making this statement from the heart and has nothing to do with me being American.

But, a dear friend of mine lost the love of her life, her husband on that flight and to this day she still suffers from the effects of the loss.

Odd that your government chose to release him after the survivors finally got their settlement just last year!

What he did was horrible and he deserved to spend the rest of his life in prison.

After all, all of the victim's family members are condemned to deal with there loss until their death.

You might feel a little different yourself if it had been your mother or father killed!!

Ian Woolcott said...

WNGL can speak for himself, Shinade. But I happen to know that he is, in fact, an American, though a Scot by ancestry.

It's perfectly understandable that someone affected by the Lockerbie incident would want the convict kept in jail to his dying breath. But this was an action taken in accordance with rule of (Scottish) law and so it is not for us to second-guess it too vociferously. It's certainly not as if there is any more satisfaction to gain, somehow, from Megrahi's continued detention. Losses such as those suffered by victims' families are permanently felt and irrecoverable.

wngl said...

My heart certainly goes out to those who lost loved ones. The grief, tragically, is all too keen whether al-Megrahi served out the balance of his sentence or not.

As a US citizen of Scotch ancestry, I wish to see more compassion in the carrying out of law and remain proud of my motherland: fraught as MakAskill's decision is, it goes in the face of those who would wish to perpetuate violence and suffering in the name of justice. This is a better course, in the great hope of preventing future meaningless acts of terrorism against innocents.

Caledonian Jim said...

The release had nothing to do with compassion and everything to do with oil.

Not to mention the intrinsic appeasement of Muslim extremists which prevails amongst the UK political elite.