On Megrahi, again, as before

John Rentoul

stel 300x237 On Megrahi, again, as before I hardly have the strength for this, after watching Philip Gould’s affecting interview with Andrew Marr this morning, but thought it worth putting something that William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, told The Times last week, outside the pay wall:

The overall strategy of engaging with Gaddafi to turn him away from a nuclear programme was right, including the contact with the intelligence services. Imagine the greater difficulty we would have had if he had had a whole range of weapons over the last few months.

The Blair haters will never get it, preferring to luxuriate in the imagined moral purity of condemning leaders when they engage with dangerous despots to secure disarmament as loudly as they condemn the same leaders when they intervene militarily to get rid of them. “Have nothing to do with anybody”: stitch that to your banners.

Thus my surprise that The Sunday Telegraph should have thought that “After he was prime minister, Tony Blair had two meetings with Gaddafi” was worth the front-page lead. Laden with innuendo about the media myth of the release of the Lockerbie bomber that is simply wrong.

We know that Blair wanted Megrahi out (or, rather, that he wanted Gaddafi to think that he was trying), but that it was not his decision. It was the decision of the Scottish executive, namely Alex Salmond, the Scottish National Party leader, and Kenny MacAskill, his justice minister.

Salmond would not have released Megrahi because Blair wanted him to. Salmond hates Blair, whom he tried to “impeach” over Iraq (showing no better understanding of the English language than the UK constitution or what was right), and the sentiment is warmly returned.

(It is not legally or formally relevant, but it is not irrelevant that there are serious doubts about Megrahi’s guilt.)

As for the imagined morally pure, the idea that a policy of engagement can be right at one time and that  military intervention can be right at another (in support of a popular uprising, for example) is too complicated to grasp.

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  • Kippers

    People are now better informed about foreign affairs: governments have not yet come to terms with this. People want to know under what circumstances their governments will go to war, have contacts with other governments, sell arms to other governments. It’s no longer possible to simply assert that another country is in breach of UN resolutions: the whole argument, with the supporting evidence, will have to be provided. And people are not going to accept for much longer having spin doctors like Rentoul throwing sand in our eyes.  

    The narrative that “Blair engaged with Libya to secure the disarmament of a despot” leaves too many unanswered questions. The available evidence suggests a Libyan WMD programme that had run into the sand many years ago: Hague’s hint that Libyan WMD might have been available in 2011 if it had not been disarmed is not supported by the available facts about Libyan WMD programmes. The amount of engagement with Libya that took place up until early 2011 thus seems out of proportion to the benefits, and in utter contrast to the policy in the last six months.

    The most important gain from engagement with Libya was more information about the Khan network selling nuclear technology, but that is a subject politicians prefer to avoid.

  • Stephen

    Really?  I think merely liking Mr Blair as you do – as a fan and supporter – regardless of his mistakes and moral failings, is the more simple approach.   My post introduced a moral/analytical element, clearly more complex than your amoral/uncritical idolatry.  Basically, you’re a fan, I’m a moral analyst.  You’re a believer, I’m a scientist.  You’re a supplicant on your knees before your idol; I’m observing you. 
        You’ve also done a very Blair thing – you took my hard moral questioning and tried to give it a ’spin’:  Hypocrisy becomes ‘nuance’, flogging arms to fascist tyrants becomes a ‘trade-off’ and the stupidity of espousing blatantly contradictory views becomes the virtue of ‘complexity’.   You say politics is for grown-ups but offer no serious engagement with the points I made.  You avoid meaning but use snide put-downs.  If politics is, as you claim, for grown-ups, why noy say something about the issues I raised instead of acting like a fan having a hissy fit because someone dared to use simple but serious and principled yardsticks by which to appraise Mr Blairs unfortunate legacy?

  • JohnJustice

    As a “moral analyst” you should be able to appreciate that there are some questions to which the right answer is yes in certain circumstances and no in certain circumstances. All your questions fall into this category and the circumstances for yes or no answers are so obvious to sensible people that I can’t be bothered to spell them out for the benefit of senseless people with an axe to grind.

    And as a scientist you should also be able to appreciate that logical responses can become distorted by emotional attachments-in your case an attachment to the Blair-hating cause.

  • trottitout

    You need to distinguish between the maniac responsible for the litany of crimes against humanity and an anonymous poster on a comments board. Good grief, man this is a joke. Blair has caused the deaths of countless hundreds of thousands of innocent people and he is not above a self-interested and greedy kowtowing to the despotic Gadhafi either. He’s disgusting. The fact you don’t agree doesn’t make it ok for you to constantly attempt to belittle or patronise others who do. That’s the issue. You are not addressing this point. Actually, you spend your time accusing others of this. How droll. 

  • trottitout

    The latest question thrown up with the revelations out of Libya is why the hell was Blair acting as a consultant to Gadhafi? It beggars belief that he thought he would get away with this for ever. He really does have psychological issues or some kind of delusion that he thinks he can be so lacking in integrity and decency and not be found out. Lunacy.

  • trottitout

    Oh, right. The vast majority of people are just Blair-haters. That’s it. Ahahaha.

  • JohnJustice

    You belittle yourself by resorting to such obnoxious, ad hominem remarks about Blair. The fact that you don’t agree with him doesn’t make it ok to stoop to this level of abuse.

  • trottitout

    I don’t think that I do. Blair has behaved in an execrable manner and a few ad homs is the least of the opprobrium that he deserves. Anything less than this kind of language from me would betray a deceit. It is my honest opinion that he deserves a great deal more than a few choice words from moi.

    I have not given up hope that he will be investigated in a court of law and that he will get his just deserts. If International Legal instruments and courts of law are to mean anything then one day he will be in the dock.

  • coventrian

    Isn’t it funny that there is absolutely nothing that will shake the conviction of the B£air lovers that the object of their passion can do no wrong. The latest revelations of B£airs’s sordid deals with Gaddafi leads them to try to justify the taking of bribes from a murderer and torturer. Keep it up suckers!

  • JohnJustice

    Likewise I believe you and the other Blair haters are behaving in an execrable manner but I try to keep my ad homs within bounds and to only use them in response to the ad homs of others.

    I would also like to see some of the hate speech against Blair investigated in the courts in the hope that those using it will get their just deserts.

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