Did the White House Green Light Lockerbie Bomber’s Release? — UK documents show Lockerbie bomber set free for oil contracts — David Frum: Barack Obama’s Lockerbie sleight of hand — No-go zone: U.S. refuses to pay £50m VAT tax on new embassy — Obama Sends Churchill Home —
SURPRISE – SURPRISE
Ken Blackwell – FOXNews.com – August 27, 2009
The recent events in Scotland show the futility of treating a war as a criminal justice issue. Did Gordon Brown get a green light from the Obama administration to let a convicted murderer, Al Megrahi, go “scot free”?
By now we all know that the Obama administration would prefer to call the War on Terror an “overseas contingency operation.” And they’d prefer to pursue CIA interrogators more than they’d like to go after terrorists.
All of this is in keeping with their September 10 mindset. They want to return us to the way the Clinton administration viewed terrorism– as a problem of criminal law enforcement, not something to be prosecuted as a war. This, despite the fact that Usama bin Laden took advantage of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal to declare war on the United States. And despite the fact that Saddam Hussein used the distraction of the Clinton’s domestic troubles to boot U.N. arms inspectors out of Iraq.
Americans paid with their lives for that fatal error in judgment. The attacks on the U.S. embassies in East Africa (1998) and the suicide mission to blow a hole in the hull of the USS Cole (2000) show how lethal such misjudgments can be.
The recent events in Scotland show the futility of treating war as a criminal justice issue. The only man convicted in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, was released unconditionally after only eight years in prison this month. He had been sentenced to life in prison.
Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the press he was appalled, but qualified it by saying he was speaking “just personally.” The Justice Department’s Richard Kolko wouldn’t even go that far.” There remains an open indictment in Washington, D.C. and an open investigation.” That should strike fear into al-Megrahi’s heart. And in Libyan strongman Muammar al-Qaddafi’s heart, too.
President Reagan was roundly criticized for launching a raid against Qaddafi in 1986. But the president said then “they can run, but they can’t hide.” He was determined to let those who attacked Americans know that we would pursue them to their lairs.
Once, when Libyan jets’ radar locked onto U.S. jets over international waters, Reagan left orders to shoot down any aircraft making aggressive moves against our forces. How far would we pursue Qaddafi’s jets once they’d attacked us, Reagan was asked. “Right into their hangars,” he replied.
The release of the only man convicted murderering 270 innocent civilians stinks. It should result in the toppling of Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Labor government. Surely no one can have confidence in his spineless government.
But the larger question is this: Did Gordon Brown get a green light from the Obama administration to let this convicted murderer go “scot free?” Did the British government even consult with Washington before taking this despicable action?
What does this discreditable affair say about the “special relationship” that has existed for a century between Great Britain and the United States?
We are only seven months into this new administration. The early indications are not good that we have a seasoned and serious team manning the helm of the ship of state. For the sake of the country we all serve, let’s pray they learn quickly.
Ken Blackwell is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council and the American Civil Rights Union.
Posted on August 30, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
The Times of London continues to rip to shreds the official explanations from Edinburgh and London over the so-called “compassionate release” of Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi, the terrorist who killed 270 people, mostly Americans, in the 1987 bombing of Pan Am flight 103. The Scots insisted that the release was consistent with their “values”, while the Gordon Brown government insisted that they did nothing to influence the decision. New documents unearthed by the Times show both to be lying:
The British government decided it was “in the overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom” to make Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, eligible for return to Libya, leaked ministerial letters reveal.
Gordon Brown’s government made the decision after discussions between Libya and BP over a multi-million-pound oil exploration deal had hit difficulties. These were resolved soon afterwards.
The letters were sent two years ago by Jack Straw, the justice secretary, to Kenny MacAskill, his counterpart in Scotland, who has been widely criticised for taking the formal decision to permit Megrahi’s release.
The correspondence makes it plain that the key decision to include Megrahi in a deal with Libya to allow prisoners to return home was, in fact, taken in London for British national interests.
What does it say about the governments in Edinburgh and London that Moammar Gaddafi’s son has been more honest about this than Brown, Straw, and MacAskill? Seif Islam (Gaddafi) had insisted from the beginning that Megrahi got exchanged for the completion of oil contracts with the Libyan government. Perhaps Brown and his team thought Libya would be more discreet, but the Libyan government needs to build its credibility with its subjects — and freeing Megrahi would be far too tempting for public-relations purposes to remain silent.
What happens to Brown’s government now? Will Parliament issue a vote of no confidence and force his resignation and new elections? After this debacle, men of honor wouldn’t wait for a vote of no confidence but resign in disgrace, not just for the grubby commercial bargain but for their contemptuous lies afterward.
Posted: August 28, 2009, 10:30 AM by NP Editor
Muammar Qaddafi delivered President Obama a welcome gift this week — a gift made all the more valuable by the remarkable lack of curiosity of the U.S. press about what exactly was contained inside the box.
The hero’s welcome given to the convicted Lockerbie bomber in Tripoli diverted media attention from embarrassing questions about the bomber’s release to the much easier issue of the bomber’s reception. Now the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy will drive the entire subject into the back pages and specialty blogs.
President Obama is unlikely now to have to explain any of the strange mysteries and contradictions in his administration’s handling of the affair. Let’s recap:
When the Scottish government announced its decision to allow Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi to return home, the Obama administration reacted with remarkable restraint. Two hundred seventy people were murdered in the Lockerbie attack, 180 of them Americans—the worst international terrorist attack on Americans before 9/11 itself. Megrahi was the only person brought to justice in the case, and he had served only eight years in prison. Now he was to go free. The president’s reaction? He called the decision a “mistake.” In a written statement, his secretary of state pronounced herself “deeply disappointed.”
This president knows how to express himself more vividly when he wishes. He didn’t call the arrest of Henry Louis Gates a “mistake.” It’s not “disappointment” he conveys to Benjamin Netanyahu over Israeli settlements.
The president’s defenders applaud his restrained language. The blogger Matthew Yglesias wrote in praise of Obama’s “no drama foreign policy”: “Talking with the UK government in advance about our objections to releasing a Lockerbie bomber might achieve something. But loudly denouncing them ex post facto isn’t going to help anyone or improve anything.”
But the question raised by the president’s muted response to the release is precisely that. Did the U.S. administration speak to the U.K. about the release in advance? And what did the U.S. say?
It’s becoming apparent that much that has been said about the release was untrue, or at least misleading.
We were told that the decision was wholly and entirely that of Scottish Justice Minister Kenny McAskill. That story is disintegrating before our eyes. Megrahi’s release has been the subject of negotiation between Libya and the United Kingdom government since at least 2004. Before quitting office, Tony Blair negotiated a prisoner transfer agreement with the Libyans—an eyebrow-raising use of prime ministerial time, since there was only one Libyan national in the entire UK prison system: Megrahi. At the same time, the U.K. energy company BP signed a huge new deal to explore for gas in Libya.
After meandering for years, the Megrahi discussions suddenly accelerated in 2009. Gordon Brown and Muammar Qaddafi met privately at the G-8 summit in Italy in July. According to correspondence released by Downing Street this week, they agreed there on a discreet reception for Megrabi in the event of a hypothetical future release.
So Scotland’s decision came as no surprise to Gordon Brown. Rather what seemed to have happened was this:
The U.K. government negotiated and smoothed the way for Megrahi’s release. Then it sat back and left the dirty work to the Scots, in full awareness of the very left-leaning McAskill’s soft-on-crime susceptibilities.
Brown knew his man. Scottish prison regulations contemplate compassionate release only for those within three months of death. It is not at all clear that Megrahi has come so close to his end—most of the medical advice received by the Scottish government predicted that Megrahi could live another year or more. McAskill set aside the consensus to rely on one assessment by one doctor.
Relations between the Scottish and U.K. governments are poor these days, and so McAskill’s decision represented a double win for Brown: He got the release he wanted—and the Scottish National Party government back in Edinburgh got the blame.
But here’s the question that has yet to be asked by U.S. reporters: Where was the Obama administration during these U.K. machinations?
We do know that the British kept the U.S. briefed well enough for American diplomats to protest the looming U.K./Scottish decision. At the same time, we read in the British press that U.S. officials indicated that they preferred a humanitarian release to a prisoner transfer. Those reports raise further questions:
Exactly how vigorously did the Obama administration protest? Why did those protests produce so little result? Do British/Scots feel so little regard for the new Obama administration that they ignore its strong complaints? Or were complaints possibly less than strong? After all, a complaint in the form, “We don’t want you to do X, but if you must do X, we prefer that you do it in the following way…” does not constitute a very resounding warning.
If the U.S. complaints about the decision to release were as weak as reported, why were they so weak? Many in the intelligence community have long doubted that the Libyans were in fact responsible for the Lockerbie bombing. Serious people have argued for 20 years that the attack originated in Syria and Iran. Does Secretary of State Hillary Clinton share those doubts? Very possibly so. Listen to her careful avoidance of any affirmative statement about Megrahi’s guilt in an Aug. 19 interview with the BBC: “I just think it is absolutely wrong to release someone who has been imprisoned based on the evidence about his involvement in such a horrendous crime.”
Will somebody please ask the secretary what she meant by those words? Will somebody please ask the president whether he too feels such doubts? And if the administration does doubt Megrahi’s guilt, what steps will they take to bring the real terrorists to justice? Or is going after Syria and Iran even more inconvenient to this administration’s foreign policy goals than going after Libya?
Nobody is asking. Nobody seems to much care. The festivities in Tripoli have allowed White House spokesman Robert Gibbs to pile up the rhetoric. The bomber’s reception was “disgusting” said Gibbs. Those words enable reporters to say that the administration has strongly denounced … something. But what exactly has been denounced?
Who notices the sleight of hand by which the condemnation has been redirected from the people who let Megrabi go to the people who took Megrahi in? Who sees that the intent of the administration’s belated outrage is not to condemn Libya, but to exonerate itself?
Former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright has referred to the destruction of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie as an “accident”.
Albright, Secretary of State under Bill Clinton, was speaking in a live, unscripted two-way with the studios of news network MSNBC debating the furore over the return of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi to Libya.
“This issue itself is most unfortunate because so many Americans and other nationals died in that terrible, terrible accident,” Albright said.
Her comments echo those of former Scottish Secretary Malcolm Rifkind, speaking in the immediate aftermath of the incident, when he also described the destruction of the plane as an “accident” on STV.
A Firm investigation concluded that there is sufficeint evidence to justify an investigation into the possibility that Pan Am 103 was destroyed as the result of an accidental explosion, possibly resulting from the unintended detonation of weapons components carried illegally on the plane. Such material can be sensitive to specific radio frequencies.
The explosives incident aboard the airliner took place during a period of intense radio activity as the cockpit communicated with air traffic control to obtain their transatlantic clearance. Explosives evidence introduced during the Zeist trial was later found to have been fabricated.
An analysis undertaken by Dr Ludwig de Braeckeleer concluded that it was “scientifically implausible” for Pan Am 103 to have been brought down by a semtex detonation as alleged at the Zeist trial.
Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi inexplicably dropped his appeal shortly before returning to Libya, ensuring that the possibility that a miscarriage of justice may have occured will now not be tested before the courts.The Scottish Government firmly said no pressure had been brought upon him to do so.
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 12:42 PM on 28th August 2009
The American government is fighting the Treasury over a £50million tax demand.
The Treasury is demanding that it pay VAT on the construction of its new £275million embassy, known as The Iceberg.
The building would be situated in Nine Elms, Battersea, and would be finished by 2016.
The Americans are being supported by Wandsworth council’s Tory leader Edward Lister, who has asked Chancellor Alistair Darling to grant an exemption.
Mr Listeer said that ‘substantial’ economic benefits and future tax revenues risked being lost to London if the Treasury’s ‘rigid attitude’ was not reversed.
The U.S. wants to move its embassy from Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, to increase security. The new building, to be built near New Covent Garden Market, would be protected by a 30-metre ‘blast zone’.
In the past eight years the U.S. has escaped paying tax on 68 diplomatic properties it has built around the world.
The U.S. government has also refused to pay the congestion charge since its introduction in 2003, claiming diplomatic immunity from taxes.
At the start of last month it had 30, 979 unpaid tickets, running up a debt with Transport for London of almost £3.6million.
One Whitehall source told the Financial Times that the battle to avoid VAT on the new embassy had reached high levels in the U.S. government.
‘This is very important to the U.S., it has been raised at the highest levels in Washington – though not quite Obama.’
One solution has been suggested of allowing the UK a similar tax exemption on British building projects in Washington.
The Foreign Office said there was no strict rule on whether the UK paid a sales tax such as VAT on its overseas contracts.
‘It depends on local circumstances – sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t,’ a spokesman said.
Some years ago, the British government gave a bust of Winston Churchill to the White House, and George W. Bush featured it directly in the Oval Office. It symbolized the special relationship between Britain and the United States that has lasted for decades.
Recently, President Obama decided to return Churchill to his home country.
As radical as the changes being proposed by the new American administration are, one of the most radical in the foreign-policy realm is its imminent redefinition of the historic British-American relationship. As Ron Fraser explains in the newest Trumpet print edition,
The coming of the Obama administration has mortally wounded the natural symbiosis of diplomacy between Britain and America. This is a radical departure from the 200 years of mutual support and cooperation between the U.S. and Britain, particularly in matters of defense and security. The Blair-Bush years were the swan song for that strongest of natural, yet unwritten, alliances.
Last Saturday’s Telegraph reports on the same theme in its article “Will Barack Obama End Britain’s Special Relationship with America?”
In the marbled halls of the British ambassador’s residence in Washington … a quiet fear is calcifying. Hints from the White House machine suggest that the Age of Obama means a dramatic makeover not just for America, but for that old symbol of Anglo-American fealty, the special relationship. … [W]ord is spreading through political Washington that the new president wants to shake up the way the U.S. government relates to its allies, which will leave little space for the sentiment of old ties.
Two weeks ago, when the White House announced British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s visit this week, spokesman Robert Gibbs said, “The United States and the United Kingdom share a special partnership.” The Telegraph says,
Those familiar with the thinking of Mr. Obama’s top team say that use of the word “partnership” rather than “relationship” is an important distinction—it illuminates Mr. Obama’s belief in practical measures that work, not the old way of doing things.
A Washington official who is close to several members of Mr. Obama’s inner circle said: “They craft every word for the stone tablets. Words are what they do. It is not a mistake.
“A partnership is a business arrangement based on what you can do for Obama, not a relationship like a marriage that thrives through thick and thin until death do us part. He’ll judge the specialness of a partnership with Britain on what he gets out of it.” … [I]nsiders say he will be ruthless in cutting adrift countries who do not cooperate with his global agenda, whatever their historic relationships.
A British official said: “I don’t think Obama is steeped in the tradition of the special relationship going back to Churchill and Roosevelt. Of course someone of his generation is going to look at it differently. I think what he looks at are the assets that are brought to the table and the expertise you have. This is a definite change of emphasis.”
In the six decades since … Winston Churchill first coined the phrase “special relationship,” successive American presidents have paid ritual obeisance to the notion that Britain should assume a place at the White House top table.
Now even allies of Mr. Obama believe he intends to extract a higher price for access to the corridors of his power.
Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation think tank, who has links with the higher echelons of the Obama administration, said that Britain would be expected to make sacrifices in return for influence.
Mr. Obama’s approach was “all about putting a price on access and a price on the relationship,” he said. “I think Obama does believe that this is a time of historical change. He wants to push reset on a lot of things. He thinks old patterns, old framings can get you into trouble, particularly when you’re trying to encourage different parts of the world.” …
The conventional wisdom, which Mr. Obama has done little to dispel, is that he is less anglophile than his predecessors. He hailed the resilience of America’s Founding Fathers against the British “enemy” in his inauguration speech and devoted 35 pages of his memoir, Dreams From My Father, to his grandfather’s torture under British colonial rule during Kenya’s Mau Mau rebellion.
The British-U.S. relationship can only be fully understood when viewed in its true historical context, explained in rich detail in Herbert W. Armstrong’s book The United States and Britain in Prophecy. And as much as President Obama would like to push reset on these ties, biblical prophecy shows that America’s fate is inextricably linked with that of Britain. The weakening of the relationship will only weaken both countries and make them more vulnerable to being trampled by ascendant powers. Read about the stunning prophecy of their simultaneous fall in our article “Band of Brothers.”
Soldier tackles Brown on Afghan visit as PM urges talks with the Taliban
DailyMail By Glen Owen, 30th August 2009
A brave young British soldier challenged Gordon Brown face-to-face yesterday over why our troops in Afghanistan have to pay tax – while American soldiers don’t.
The confrontation occurred shortly after the Prime Minister – on a surprise visit to Afghanistan – signalled for the first time that he would be prepared to sit down with the Taliban to broker a political solution to the war in Afghanistan.
He also pledged that the number of specialised troops trained to tackle Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) – the deadly roadside bombs that have blighted the mission – be doubled to 400 within a year.
As Mr Brown chatted about football to a group of Welsh Guards over lunch at a British military base in Lashkar Gah in Helmand Province, 20-year-old Lance Corporal Dean Byfield politely inquired if he could ask a more serious question.
Showing no signs of nerves, he asked the Prime Minister: ‘Why do we have to pay tax while we are out here?’
Mr Brown, taken aback by the direct approach, explained that as a British soldier, Lance Corporal Byfield is technically a UK employee and therefore his income is taxed back home, even though he is stationed overseas.
Keen to show his interest in their financial concerns, Mr Brown asked L/Cpl Byfield, from Valley, in Anglesey, North Wales, what he and his comrades received while serving in Afghanistan.
Appearing to offer some hope that they might get more, he said: ‘Every year we look at these things and at what is happening at different grades.
‘I hope, nevertheless, that you have found your service here rewarding. You are doing a very important job.’
The Prime Minister joined the troops for a light lunch of sandwiches, fruit and crisps, under a shaded canopy during a two-hour tour of Lashkar Gah.
British troops in Afghanistan and Iraq have long envied their American counterparts who get tax-free salaries when they are fighting overseas.
France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands all offer extra allowances to boost their soldiers’ pay packets. German troops even get a Christmas bonus.
New recruits in the Australian army get a basic salary of £19,000 with extra money for ‘inconveniences’ – such as working at weekends – which takes their pay to nearly £24,000.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: ‘Deployed personnel receive an Operational Allowance, a tax-free lump sum paid into salaries at the end of deployments.’
The allowance of £2,380 is paid on top of a minimum £1,194 longer separation allowance to a private soldier deployed on their first operation overseas – bringing the pay to a minimum of £20,255.
The spokesman said: ‘Deployed personnel receive an operational allowance, rather than tax-free pay, because it brings most benefit to lower ranks who pay less tax.’
But after Mr Brown left, L/Cpl Byfield said soldiers on active duty should not have to pay tax. ‘I think it is wrong – we are out here fighting for our country, paying tax.’
L/Cpl Byfield’s mum laughed when The Mail on Sunday broke the news about his direct question to the Prime Minister.
‘He’s honest and straight-talking – that’s typical of him,’ said Sharon Jones, 40.
‘Dean’s a very loyal lad who cares a great deal for his mates.
‘He’s right to raise the point – the lads should not have to pay taxes when they are in a war zone.’
The family of Corporal Kevin Mulligan, 26, of 1st Battalion the Parachute Regiment, killed in Afghanistan earlier this month, yesterday paid tribute to him as he was buried in his home town of Alloa, Clackmannanshire.
They said: ‘Today it was clear that Kevin was loved and will be remembered fondly by so many people he met in his short life.’
It came as a Royal Marine was killed in an explosion in Afghanistan just hours before Mr Brown’s visit, bringing the British death toll to 208.
Michelle Malkin: Lockerbie cover-up: What is the White House trying to hide?
TimesOnLine: Arrogant and joyless: Obama’s take on Britain?
CFR: Remarks by President Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, March 2009