Al-Megrahi; international power politics at its worst…
Foreign policy is one of the areas where politics being the ‘art of the possible’ really hits home; it is an area where whether you like it or not you have to deal with the world as it is not as you would wish it was and how it is being well beyond your sphere of influence means that your say and ability to apply principle is further diminished. It would be easy to jump on the bandwagon and make this a post slating the SNP’s administration in Scotland or else turn it onto London like David Cameron has; easy but in my eyes wrong. This is a messy case and even the scrambles of Hillary Clinton and the US for the moral high ground ring hollow; so easily they forget the slaughter of innocents on an Iranian passenger plane 5 months prior to the bombing by an American military cruiser.
They have no outraged Secretary of State to plead for them; no Barack Obama to hammer into a government on their behalf but there is nothing less shocking or more right about that event. This is the problem with international power politics; the brutal reality is that each national government looks after it’s own interests and is more than prepared to ignore others. Each claims to be representing higher ideals but none realistically is; the American government would not advocate so passionately for grieving Afghans and usually offers the most terse remarks when it frequently kills innocents.
Given this it would not be surprising if there were British trade issues involved. However, there is a wider issue as highlighted by Christine Grahame, the courageous SNP MSP who has penned a piece for The Independent outlining the case for Al-Megrahi’s acquittal. Reading it created in my mind significant doubt about his guilt and in my book that means unequivocally the decision to release was the right one; as has been said justice is not about retribution and revenge and never must be, this is why it is dolled out by judges and juries, not victims or their families. Even taking that point; if there is reasonable doubt then that must mean acquittal in a legal system which presumes innocence and there seems to me here to be a large dollop of reasonable doubt and if Al-Megrahi should have never been convicted in the first place then the least that can be done now is he is allowed to die with his family, scant compensation for the injustice of his imprisonment but a sort of justice nonetheless.
It seems likely that this weighed heavily in the decision to release him; better the embarrassment of this decision than the calamity and massive compensation liability that would have arisen from a successful appeal. The strong suggestion is that Al-Megrahi was convicted as a political expedient so, once again we are back to the point I was making at the top; however, the key issue should not be whether this release was right or wrong but how an independent enquiry is now established to see that justice is truly done.