Sunday, July 25, 2010

Obama and the Deal

The al-Megrahi to Libya story took a turn this afternoon as this revelation appeared, then disappeared off Drudge:
The United States told Scotland it was "far preferable" to free the Lockerbie bomber than have him transferred to a Libyan jail, leaked documents showed Sunday, amid renewed US criticism of the release.
Of course the administration has been saying they had nothing to do with the release, so if true this amounts to yet another event lacking the promised awesome transparency that BushCheneyburton denied us (Air Force One, Sestak, Sherrod among others). But it's also not much of a bombshell. They admit to not wanting him released and if so, not wanting him going back in Libya.

Total WAG--this was a payback leak from Downing Street. Several UK leaders have recently snubbed the Senate dog and pony inquiry while Obama has been standing on the sidelines acting as shocked as Captain Renault about everything. So maybe they're mad because maybe everyone was thumbs up on the deal when it was arranged and now we're welching on our end for political theater. And maybe Quedaffy is laughing the loudest.

Still, the idea our State Dept had such little leverage over the UK in such a situation is hard to believe. Almost 200 Americans died, and troops are dying in Afghanistan fighting terror. Which is why BP is probably still in play here. We'll see where the inquiry goes this week.

MORE 7/26/10

Here's British British Foreign Secretary David Miliband on August 21, 2009 responding to Libya's giant FU to the west regarding al-Megrahi:
"I think it's very important that Libya knows, and certainly we have told them, that how the Libyan government handles itself in the next few days after the arrival of Mr. Megrahi will be very significant in the way the world views Libya's re-entry into the civilized community of nations," Miliband said.

"It is in our interests to stand up for our own principles in the interests of international relations," he said. "Where Libya is willing to abide and engage in the international system in a way that does the right thing for those international principles, we will engage with Libya."
And here's Obama press flack Robert Gibbs the same day:
Q Despite official protests from this government, on every level, the Scots released the Lockerbie bomber. The President yesterday said he hoped that they would place him under -- in Libya under house arrest. Instead he gets a hero's welcome; people are outraged.
MR. GIBBS: Rightly so. I think the images that we saw in Libya yesterday were outrageous and disgusting. We continue to express our condolences to the families that lost a loved one as a result of this terrorist murder. We communicated with the Libyan government, and we continue to watch what they do in the days going forward about this individual, and understand that the video that you saw yesterday is tremendously offensive to the survivors that, as I said, lost a loved one in 1988.
Q They're like blowing off the President. I mean, the guy who shook the President's hand at the G8, who runs Libya, is basically thumbing his nose at the President.
MR. GIBBS: Well, we're watching the government to see how they respond.
...and, here's Britain Prince Andrew having a noted Libyan cabinet member over to St. James Palace just this past week while his PM David Cameron was meeting in Washington with Obama:
A senior Libyan minister was entertained by Prince Andrew at St James's Palace as David Cameron prepared to hold talks with Barack Obama over the Lockerbie bomber, it has emerged.

The official, a key figure in Colonel Gaddafi's cabinet, led a delegation of Libyans who also held talks with a Tory defence minister and with senior Scotland Yard counter terrorism officers.

Abdel-Fatah Yunis al- Obeidi also met a Foreign Office minister during his UK trip.
Heh, looks like they tried to sneak him in.

So, what can the average Joe glean from any of this, assuming he cares? Perhaps this: it's likely the Obama administration--if they were really so outrageously opposed to Megrahi's release--could have threatened to leak it to the press beforehand should Scotland consider acting unilaterally. After all, this was a terrorist convicted of killing nearly 200 Americans. Surely they considered the blow back for not strongly opposing such a move would be akin to what we're seeing right now. So one would think the US would have used their power or at least gotten their CYA story more in order.

As to the line from Downing Street and Washington about really watching Libya's actions going forward, well, they must have found nothing wrong with them because it would seem that absolutely nothing has been done to them in reply to their outrageous actions. The US has done nothing, that we know of at least. And the Brits are having them over for tea.

To be fair, if there was a deal it might have been about more than a BP oil deal, perhaps some cooperation on terrorism as well (that cannot be released publicly other than through Wikileaks) as the Libyan minister was discussing joint terrorism operations with Prince Andrew. Qaddafi seemed to ruin that notion with his hero's welcome in Tripoli but judging from the non-reaction from the aggrieved parties one has to question whether Megrahi's kabuki theater was also part of the deal--something they insisted on in order to placate their own masses. Such can be the machinations of realpolitik.


Ed Morrissey has a summary, the gist of which is that we didn't care all that much. So consider the following scenario--the UK comes to Washington and says they've got a chance to get Libya back into the league of sane nations and they'll drop terrorism and allow BP oil exploration if we allow them more open trade and swap back some prisoners--including Megrahi. Our State guys say, "sounds good, but don't send him back, give him house arrest in Scotland because a hero's welcome would look really bad for us", etc (assumes those officials believed the doctor's report on his upcoming demise, of course).

And then Scotland unilaterally sends him back to Libya against our wishes? Sounds implausible, or Clinton is more inept than anyone figured (remember the Secretary of State--she's getting a complete pass on this one). Recall the initial outrage was that he got a hero's welcome, not was sent back. So the only thing that makes sense is that Libya busted the agreement (the Brits won't release the letter between Downing and Tripoli urging Qudaffi to downplay the return) on the hero thing but otherwise stuck with the deal, and the west is stuck with pressing on because they need the oil rights. Of course if they all knew the doctor's report was phony that takes it to another level.

MORE 7/27/10

Mediaite is all over Fox and Dana Perino for continuing to question the release after the full contents of the letter from US Charge' d'affaires Richard LeBaron was given the press; they seem to think it was a slam dunk, and while it does say the US government is not in favor of the release under any circumstances (but if so, he should remain in Scotland) it also says this at the very end:
– We appreciate the manner in which the Scottish Government has handled this difficult situation. We recognize that the prisoner transfer decision is one that the Scottish Government did not invite, but now must take. We hope that the Scottish Government would consider every available alternative before considering the granting of Megrahi’s prisoner transfer application.
So Scotland holds all the cards as to releasing prisoners yet their hands are tied? Presumably this means by London, and presumably this would involve a package negotiated by Libya that would contain some goodies for the UK. Overall the letter makes it sound better for the Obama folks; they set up the proper CYA and never really lied about it after the fact despite Obama making it sound as if the decision came out of the blue.

The question this letter doesn't answer is whether the US was in any way involved with the pressing deal that was tying Scotland's hands on the release--clearly State knew about the deal beforehand. Yet the letter sent to John Kerry from Hague, the UK home secretary, stated that Scotland made the decision independently and without pressure. So somebody is still lying.


Sam Huntington said...

I want to argue, "There is no way our government could be complicit in such a thing ..."

I can't.

A.C. McCloud said...

If the US was so against this move then why not threaten to take it public when first discussed, ie, "if you plan to do this we are going to leak it ahead of time"? That would have shut the door on it completely.

And that's why I think they were complicit. But giving the benefit of the doubt, we don't know what the trade was entirely. It might have been something useful. Still, in the end Q-ball hosed everyone and nobody's even talking about his end.

Debbie said...

The Obama administration was to perfect during the campaign controlling things, but now... they have proven themselves completely inept. Gibbs is a joke.

I figured that Obama knew about this prior. You are right A.C. this is a big SCREW YOU from the UK.

It sure is interesting to follow.

Right Truth

A.C. McCloud said...

It's a screw you from Libya for sure, but not sure yet about the UK. Obama may have been playing along.