The Sunday Times is reporting the British government spent at least two years negotiating a prisoners-for-oil deal with Libya, citing leaked government documents as their source. The Times report indicates that an oil exploration deal between the Libyan government and BP was stalled as Libya demanded the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi. In order to finally clinch the deal, pressure was put on Scottish Justice Minister Kenny McAskill by British Justice Minister Jack Straw to release al-Megrahi.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Labour government reportedly decided it was “in the overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom” to let al-Megrahi go.
This situation makes two points evident: first, the “West” will weakly allow itself to be browbeaten by the likes of Muammar al-Qaddafi when oil is at stake; second, Western standards for justice are for sale when they conflict with corporate profits and political power.
Obviously, developed nations have historically done much worse than this in order to secure oil supplies. But in the current international climate, with Britain taking an active role fighting global terrorism, it’s political suicide for Gordon Brown to have allowed this deal to go through.
So perhaps a third point can be drawn from this: Labour knows Gordon Brown is doomed the next time Britain holds elections, and they see advantage in selling him out as the goat in the profit-for-justice scandal. BP is happy with their oil deal. Libya is happy with the charge to its prestige in the Middle East. And Labour ministers and corporate supporters are happy with the favors now owed them from all sides. Casting Brown adrift is costing them nothing.
Who isn’t happy? The families of the Lockerbie victims have been sold out, lied to, and made to feel insignificant in their grief. Those British troops fighting and dying in Afghanistan and Iraq have been shown how little their government thinks of their efforts. And the so-called “War on Terrorism” is shown up as the joke it actually is.
Would the United States have done any differently? Probably, simply because we have more options than Britain does. Or perhaps not – remember when we traded with Iran during the 1980s, when they were off limits? In general, most governments will do whatever is most expedient, profitable, and in their “overwhelming interests” – even if they must degrade their own citizens and their ideals while doing so.