The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Desert Pong

Eamonn McCann • 27 March 2004

Two years ago, Nelson Mandela travelled to Glasgow to visit Abdel Baset al-Megrahi in Barlinnie prison. Megrahi, a Libyan, is serving 27 years for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, in which 270 innocent people died.

Emerging from Barlinne, Mandela told journalists that he had been "impressed" by Megrahi but "unimpressed" by the conditions in which he was being held. He hoped Megrahi would be allowed to appeal to the European Court. Pressed to explain his interest, Mandela refused.

The reason for the reluctance to comment directly was, presumably, that it would have been inappropriate for the former president of a foreign country publicly to question a Scottish court verdict. But why had Mandela taken the time out to travel and visit Megrahi? And why express the view that he did about his prison conditions and prospects of an appeal?

Mandela was clearly implying that he believed Megrahi to be innocent.

Jim Swire believes this, too. His daughter, Flora, died in the atrocity. He was one of the leaders of the campaign which led to Megrahi's trial before three Scottish judges in the Netherlands four years ago. Earlier this month, he met Megrahi's wife, Aisha, 41. She now lives in Glasgow so as to be near enough to her husband for their four children to visit.

Said Swire: "I told her I fear I may have played an important part in a miscarriage of justice. I told her I hoped there would be a new appeal and of my guilt over what has happened to her husband, who I believe is innocent".

These are useful things to keep in mind as we consider coverage of Tony Blair's Libyan visit.

Tory leader Michael Howard, backed by much of the media, complains that the wounds of Lockerbie remain raw, that the time is not yet to normalise relations. New Labour and another media faction would have it that the visit is apt "reward" for Libya having paid compensation to the Lockerbie victims. This is an ersatz argument.

Libyan Premier Shukri Ghanem blurted out the truth on Radio Four, that the compensation was not an acknowledgement of blame for the bombing but the price which had to be paid for restoration of economic ties.

As for Weapons of Mass Destruction, Libya doesn't have any. What's being dismantled is a potential capacity to produce WMD. Israel, on the other hand, is armed to the teeth with WMD. As, of course, is Tony Blair's Britain.

Libya is a country which has suffered from international terrorism for generations. It lost more people per head in the struggle against fascism in the 20th century than any other country in the world. Libyans were rounded up in droves by Italian troops and hanged in public from scaffolds 50 yards long which could handle 20 executions at a time. The cruelty was such that the German consul in Benghazi protested to Hitler, urging intervention with Mussolini.

A fair number of readers will have heard of Tobruk, taken by the British from the Italians in January 1941, by the Germans from the British in June 1942, by the British back from the Germans in November '42. It's a small Libyan port, about the size of Newry. There was scarcely a stone left upon a stone when the European armies had done with it.

Few people know these things, because many don't want them known.

I wouldn't like to be a Libyan on the wrong side of Gadafy. But the Libyans I know I like very much. They are are friendly and forgiving to an extent which seems almost irrational to the Western mind. The fact that they allowed Blair into their country proves the point.







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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

28 March 2004


Other Articles From This Issue:


Trials Under the Shadow of Irish Emergency Laws
Marianne Quoirin


Sinn Fein A Dictatorship: Martin Cunningham Interviewed
Anthony McIntyre


How to Get to 2016
Brian Mór


Desert Pong

Eamonn McCann


Reading the Future from the Past
Mick Hall


Bush in Haiti: Operation Enduring Misery
Brian Kelly


No Promise, No Hope?
Danielle Ni Dhighe


25 March 2004


Deporting the Burly Bartender: Seán Ó Cealleagh
Seaghán Ó Murchú


For Being Irish in the Wrong Place and at the Wrong Time
Breandán Morley


Lords' Ruling Timed to Stymie Collusion Inquiries

Eamonn McCann


Cannabis Ard Fheis Blow
Mick Hall


Why Growth and Power in Both Parts of A Divided Country Will Do Sinn Fein Just Fine
Anthony McIntyre


In Defence of the Crown
Eamon Sweeney


Game Playing by "Free Trade" Rules
Toni Solo


Social Inequality, Grinding Poverty, State Negligence
Cédric Gouverneur




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