Where British Tradition once mandated subjects to genuflect before their royals, Britain is now busy instructing itself on how to properly render homage by prostrating themselves nose to ground before their new potentates, the oil barons of Araby.
There he was, Libyan Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi who had been found guilty of the murderous Lockerbie air disaster that took the lives of 270 people, stepping off his specially chartered Libyan aircraft to a cheering crowd upon his arrival at the airport in Tripoli. Eichmann being received by a cheering crowd in Germany would have been the same, not in dimension, but certainly in principle.
Al-Megrahi's release was being trumpeted by Mr. Kenneth MacAskill, Scotland's Justice Secretary, as an act of compassion for a man said to be diagnosed with prostrate cancer and having but three months to live. It was a decision met with outrage by family members of the victims, and a general outcry of disgust throughout much of the world ranging from President Obama to FBI Director Robert Mueller, "makes a mockery of the grief of the families who lost their own on December 21, 1988".
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said that the act of releasing al-Megrahi had been the the decision of the Scottish Secretary alone. But was it?? Or as commented in the Financial Times, politicians are now prepared to go to extra lengths to maintain good relations with his country -- the richest in North Africa and an important supplier of energy to Europe. Even more pointedly according to Lord Trefgarne, Mr. al-Megrahi's release had opened the way for Britain's leading oil companies to pursue multibillion dollar oil contracts with Libya which had demanded Mr. al-Megrahi's return in talks with British officials and business executives.
Scandalous? Perhaps. But then again maybe not if this has become Britain's new norm. Kowtowing to moneyed Middle Eastern/North African oil interests may not be new but it does assume a singular level of malice when it is dealt with in such a brazen manner trashing tradition and principles of law, in the lust for lucre or responding to outright intimidation and blackmail.
Just a year ago the United Kingdom's Highest court provided details on how the Saudis had pressured Prime Minister Tony Blair to close down a politically inflammatory bribery investigation implicating the Saudi Ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar (often referred to as Bandar Bush given his close ties to the Bush family), in effect "buying" the British government by getting Britain's Serious Fraud Office to drop a probe into the $2 billion commissions and multimillion dollar transfers through the now defunct Riggs Bank in Washington. Funds allegedly paid out to Prince Bandar as part of the British Aerospace System's (BAE's) $85 billion 'Yamamah' arms deal to sell British warplanes to Saudi Arabia.
The Saudis didn't simply threaten to substitute French jets for British jets if the probe wasn't brought to an end, but also threatened to cut off cooperation on terrorism operations, in effect blackmailing the British government given its concerns that if the Saudis followed through on their threats it could lead to another 7/7, British shorthand for the murderous July 7, 2005 terrorist attack on London subways killing 52 and injuring 700.
A Newsweek article quoted Ali Al Ahmed, director of the Washington-based think tank, the Gulf Institute. "Terrorism is being used to blackmail the West. You watch it is only a matter of time before they do this in the U.S."
The U.S. Justice Department is meant to be investigating allegations that BAE has paid millions of dollars in bribes to Prince Bandar and other Saudi officials in possible violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Yet little has been forthcoming to date. And no wonder when such as Louis Freeh can retire as the head of the FBI and be retained by none other than Prince Bandar to represent him in connection with the Justice Department probe, while William Bradford Reynolds the chief of the Justice Department's civil rights division during the Reagan administration is representing Prince Bandar in ancillary lawsuits. It further raises the question how can government gainfully serve and be objective if there are such potentially conflicted relationships as those between the need for fair and objective governance and the personal career tracks, access and ambition of those representing the electorate in positions of public authority.
But getting back to Libya. Along with the U.K. Libya has had a running battle with Switzerland. It seems Switzerland had the effrontery to arrest Hannibal Qaddafi (Col. Muammar el-Qaddfi's son) for beating service staff with a belt and hangar while in a Geneva hotel. In retaliation Libya cut off all of its oil shipments to Switzerland and withdrew $5 billion from Swiss Bank accounts, awaiting an apology.
Libya's UK triumph was not in isolation. The FT reported that hours before Mr. Megrahi's plane landed in Tripoli the President of Switzerland Hans-Rudolf Merz was in the Libyan capital apologizing publicly for Hannibal Qaddafi's arrest in Geneva. President Merz would subsequently defend his public and humiliating apology as the only way of getting exit visas from Libya for two Swiss citizens being held there.
Colonel Qaddafi, in this triumphal moment was moved to proclaim:
And I say to my friend Brown, the prime minister of Britain; the Queen of Britain, Elizabeth; Prince Andrew, who all contributed to encouraging the Scottish government to make this historic and courageous decision, despite the obstacles.
May one make a suggestion. When visiting your new friend, in greeting remember body must be prostrate on the floor with arms flung forward and with nose and forehead touching the ground.
Good, excellent, you've finally got it!
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