Friday, August 21, 2009

London Times: UK Traded Pan Am Bomber for BP Oil Deal

According to the London Times, Scotland's "compassionate release" was about British access to Libyan oil:
Supported by a walking stick, and wearing clothes that hung off his clearly diminished frame, Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi did not look like the biggest mass murderer in British history as he boarded the flight yesterday that would take him home.

The Libyan known to the world as the Lockerbie bomber returned to his native country a free man after being granted compassionate release by the Scottish government, a decision that some believe has its roots in a deal made between Tony Blair and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi more than two years ago.

The notorious “deal in the desert” was a significant step towards Libya’s rehabilitation among world leaders after it was held responsible for the explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 in December 1988, and also helped to clear the way for BP to invest £450 million in exploring Libya’s vast untapped reserves of oil. The prisoner transfer arrangement that the leaders agreed was also the first indication that al-Megrahi could one day return home.
Here's the Daily Mail version of the story:
Tony Blair has been accused of agreeing a 'blood money' deal involving the Lockerbie bomber with Colonel Gaddafi just hours before BP unveiled a £500million oil contract.

The then Prime Minister laid the foundations for the release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi during a meeting with the Libyan leader in a desert tent two years ago.

The pair thrashed out a controversial prisoner transfer deal just before BP chairman Peter Sutherland announced the firm was investing $900million - about £545million - to search for oil in Libya. If the firm strikes rich, it could be worth £13billion.
Sounds plausible to me, as the British are rather cold-blooded and need some money fast right now. However, instead of empty statements from the administration "condemning" the release, the US government has some more substantive options, since BP does plenty of business here in the good old USA...some of it with the US government.

Congress could investigate these allegations, holding committee hearings after Labor Day. Then, if it turns out they are true, all US government contracts with BP should be cancelled immediately--Surely, there are some oil companies not in bed with mass murderers which might like to take over BP's US business?

Secondly, the families could begin their own public relations and advertising campaign to keep the matter alive--both as a public relations problem for BP (Perhaps with an ad campaign such as: "Fight Terrorism--Boycott BP") and as an issue in the 2010 congressional races. In fact, they were not the only victims of Libyan terrorism--just the most directly affected. Every US citizen was a victim of the attack on Pan Am 103. It was an attack on the United States of America (as well as Great Britain, but that's not our problem). It also set the stage for 9/11, in a "can you top this?" for terrorism kind of way.

I believe there is no statute of limitations on murder, especially mass murder. Therefore, the Justice Department may have the option of indicting Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi on some fresh charges, and asking for his extradition from Libya to face trial in the United States.

So, the silver lining of this scandal is that it presents an opportunity to let the world see just how serious anyone is about bringing terrorists to justice--without rendition, without Guantanamo, and without torture.

BTW, Here's the official Libyan position on the release--not a word about compassion or cancer--but a "hostage" no doubt traded for ransom, therefore consistent with the London Times account:
Libya Consistent Position That El Megrahi Was Political Hostage According to All International Norms is Crowned by His Return Home Today

Tripoli-20.8.2009(JANA) The Position that Libya has maintained all along that Abd al Basset al Megrahi, who was convicted in Lockerbie case, was a political hostage according to all international norms was today crowned by his release and return home from Scotland.

El Megrahi arrived in Mi'tiga International Airport accompanied by Seif al Islam Gaddafi, Chairman of Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation where he was received by his family, friends and a number of citizens.

The position of the Jamahiriya that El Megrahi should be released since he was a political hostage has attracted widespread international support ..since 2001 consecutive summits of the Arab League, African Union and the Non-aligned Movement always had the issue of El Megrahi on their agenda.

All summits have stressed repeatedly that continuous detention of El Megrahi would be considered as a political hostage in accordance with all international norms.
More background at The Lockerbie Case Blog. Still more from AFP at
The release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi was linked to trade deals with Britain, Seif al-Islam, the son of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, said in a interview broadcast Friday.