Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tripoli Tonight

Even though I didn't have my camera with me I couldn't help but take some photos with my crappy mobile phone. Of course because my mobiles camera is of such low quality you won't really get how great the view was; but at least you'll get a glimpse of it ;).

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Hijabis don't need banks !

At least according to the biggest bank in France. According to them a women covering her hair and body is a security threat. Women, it seems, have to come in with exposed butt cheeks ( preferably with a thong ) and cleavage; for security reasons ( because there is no such thing as metal detectors ). And of course because France is such a Liberal Utopia that respects gender equality, nothing like it's barbaric southern Muslim neighbors, men with hats, suitcases, backpacks, trousers ( shorts only ), pullovers, jackets .... etc. won't be allowed in either .............. they'll have to come with shorts and sleaveless t-shirts. But if you really want to know what I'm ranting about watch the video below.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Killing Hope

Instances of the United States overthrowing, or attempting to overthrow, a foreign government since the Second World War. ( from the book Killing Hope )

When a range of years is given, the effort to overthrow was
not necessarily an active operation each year of the period.

* = successful ouster of a government

China 1949, 1950s
Albania 1949-53
East Germany 1950s
Iran 1953 *
Guatemala 1954 *
Costa Rica mid-1950s
Syria 1956-7
Egypt 1957
Indonesia 1957-8
British Guiana 1953-64 *
Iraq 1963 *
North Vietnam 1945-73
Cambodia 1955-70 *
Laos 1958-60 *
Ecuador 1960-63 *
Congo 1960 *
France 1965
Brazil 1962-64 *
Dominican Republic 1963 *
Cuba 1959 to present
Bolivia 1964 *
Indonesia 1965 *
Ghana 1966 *
Chile 1964-73 *
Greece 1967 *
Costa Rica 1970-71
Bolivia 1971 *
Australia 1973-75 *
Angola 1975, 1980s
Zaire 1975
Portugal 1974-76 *
Jamaica 1976-80 *
Seychelles 1979-81
Chad 1981-82 *
Grenada 1983 *
South Yemen 1982-84
Suriname 1982-84
Fiji 1987 *
Libya 1980s ( he actually has a chapter on this called "Libya - 1981-1989: Ronald Reagan meets his match" )
Nicaragua 1981-90 *
Panama 1989 *
Bulgaria 1990 *
Albania 1991 *
Iraq 1991
Afghanistan 1980s *
Somalia 1993
Yugoslavia 1999
Ecuador 2000 *
Afghanistan 2001 *
Venezuela 2002 *
Iraq 2003 *

( source )

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Kenny MacAskill's decision to free Megrahi is a tribute to our decency

( source )

Nothing in his experience of life or politics could have prepared Kenny MacAskill for the walk towards that podium last Thursday and I wondered if he would endure the ordeal ahead. Scotland's justice minister, an honest journeyman in the minority part-government of a relatively unimportant country, had nothing beyond a desire to see that natural justice must prevail as he pondered his decision to show compassion to Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi.

This is the man whom Scots justice had found guilty of the biggest terrorist atrocity committed on these islands, the bomb aboard Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988. He knew that his decision was being scrutinised on four continents and that his character would be trashed before the hour was spent. Yet he emerged from his trial with his stature increased and Scotland woke up on Friday with its reputation for decency and fairness enhanced.

MacAskill could have washed his hands of this issue and simply had a terminally ill man spend the few remaining days of his life in a Greenock prison cell. Few, beyond the masters of the British petroleum industry, would have demurred. Certainly not Downing Street, whose haunted incumbent would have been praying for such a verdict, and certainly not America whose default position on justice is: "When in doubt, hang them from the neck… especially if they are poor, black and uneducated." In the Arab world, there would have been desultory protests but nothing more. Baghdad, Helmand, Kabul and the West Bank are of far more pressing concern than the final resting place of a man they all wished to forget.

But this unprepossessing minister of justice sought to ignore all the serried interests of the global supermen. Instead, he found refuge in the fundamental principles of a judicial system that has served Scotland soundly for more than 400 years. For 16 years now, our statutes have given us leave to release from prison anyone who is deemed by competent medical authority to have three months or less to live. It was a concession rooted in compassion, pity and forgiveness. Few in the United Kingdom have ever taken issue with it. It is a good and just law. MacAskill simply applied it. In this case, he used it merely to allow a murderer go home to die. Before Megrahi, 23 other prisoners had been shown a similar mercy in Scotland. It was also a decision buttressed by two oncologists and two urologists who provided written documentation that, in their opinions, the Libyan prisoner was in the very last stages of his final agony.

Nor had MacAskill been party to any quid pro quo deal that involved Megrahi dropping his appeal against his original conviction in return for compassionate release. The desired outcome for the Scottish government was for Megrahi to die in a Scottish jail and for his appeal to proceed.

It was easy for them to reject the Libyan government's application for release under Tony Blair's gross act of cynicism in the desert with Colonel Gaddafi in 2005 that established a prisoner transfer treaty between the UK and Libya. Only one Libyan prisoner resided in a British jail, Megrahi, and yet the Scottish government was not consulted about it.

One senior SNP politician I spoke to last night stated categorically that no deal had been struck with Megrahi: "Politically, the worst option for us was the one chosen by Kenny MacAskill. But it was also the right and proper one and consistent with the principles this nation strives to govern itself by. What no one could have foreseen two years ago was the onset of the prisoner's aggressive prostate cancer and this changed everything."

The criticism of MacAskill from opposition parties has been pitiful. Labour leader Iain Gray wasted no time in branding the decision a disgrace, yet he and his party know that the only disgraceful act by a UK politician over this affair was Blair's deal in the desert which owed more to the interests of British petrochemical companies in securing contracts with a country which owns Africa's biggest oil reserves than to any notion of justice.

The Conservatives, in the spirit of the nearby Edinburgh comedy festival, suggested that Megrahi be made to see out his final days in a detached bungalow in Newton Mearns, an affluent suburb of Glasgow.

The Liberal Democrats are always keen to demonstrate their utter irrelevance in Scottish politics and they couldn't help themselves this time either. They could do nothing more than criticise MacAskill for dithering in the time he took to come to his decision.

Megrahi's homecoming to Libya has variously been described as triumphant and joyous, strange words to describe an event about a man about to die of cancer. Did anyone ever truly believe that there would be no fanfare for a man who swears that he is blameless and whom the country believes is innocent?

But it has been the outrage of the Obama administration in Washington that has been most difficult to stomach. Hillary Clinton's cack-handed attempt to interfere in matters under the jurisdiction of Holyrood last week was highly dubious. Scotland needs no lessons in matters of fairness from a country that has been routinely waterboarding suspects in Guantánamo Bay.

America bows to no one in the art of political expediency. Surely that wasn't North Korea, top of the league in the axis of terror, that Barack Obama's new best friend Bill Clinton was bending the knee to earlier this month, to secure the release of two US nationals. Intriguingly, neither the Washington Post or New York Times elected to devote much coverage to Megrahi's release the following day. Like most observers, they probably sense that many facts about 21 December 1988 will never emerge and that if justice truly has been dragged through the mud then the process started in the weeks immediately following Lockerbie.

The next time Clinton calls to express her disgust about the decision to send Megrahi home to die, perhaps someone in the Scottish government could ask her in return about the leniency shown to US soldiers involved in the Mai Lai massacre in 1968. And then they can remind her about the US warship Vincennes, which blew an Iranian Airbus and its 290 passengers out of the sky in 1988.

There remain some doubts about the evidence used to convict Megrahi of the Lockerbie attack, yet even if it had been tested once more at a court of appeal along with any new evidence, the decision to convict may still have prevailed.

And it is simply naive to believe that somehow all the conspiracy theories surrounding the atrocity would have been laid to rest by a new trial. But there is something worse than all of this. That somehow, even if more answers were found, the pain of those closest to the 270 victims of Pan Am flight 103 could be assuaged a little. Does anyone truly believe that somehow, even if more answers were found, the pain of those closest to the victims could be assuaged a little? Further revelations in another Scottish court will not reduce their loss or remove their hurt.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Robert Fisk: For the truth, look to Tehran and Damascus – not Tripoli

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Forget all the nonsense spouted by our beloved Foreign Secretary. He's all too happy to express his outrage. The welcome given to Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi in Tripoli was a perfect deviation from what the British Government is trying to avoid. It's called the truth, not that Mr Miliband would know much about it.

It was Megrahi's decision – not that of his lawyers – to abandon the appeal that might have told us the truth about Lockerbie. The British would far rather he return to the land of the man who wrote The Green Book on the future of the world (the author, a certain Col Muammar Gaddafi, also wrote Escape to Hell and Other Stories) than withstand the typhoon of information that an appeal would have revealed.

Brown and Gaddafi. Maybe they should set up as a legal company once their time is up. Brown and Gaddafi, Solicitors and Commissioners for Oaths. Not that the oaths would be truthful.

Megrahi's lawyers had delved deeply into his case – which rested on the word of a Maltese tailor who had already seen a picture of Megrahi (unrevealed to us at the time) so he could identify him in court – and uncovered some remarkable evidence from the German police.

Given the viciousness of their Third Reich predecessors, I've never had a lot of time for German cops, but on this occasion they went a long way towards establishing that a Lebanese who had been killed in the Lockerbie bombing was steered to Frankfurt airport by known Lebanese militants and the bag that contained the bomb was actually put on to the baggage carousel for checking in by this passenger's Lebanese handler, who had taken him to the airport, and had looked after him in Germany before the flight.

I have read all the interviews which the German police conducted with their suspects. They are devastating. There clearly was a Lebanese connection. And there probably was a Palestinian connection. How can I forget a press conference in Beirut held by the head of the pro-Syrian "Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine" (they were known, then, as the "Lockerbie boys") in which their leader, Ahmed Jibril, suddenly blurted out: "I'm not responsible for the Lockerbie bombing. They are trying to get me with a kangaroo court."

Yet there was no court at the time. Only journalists – with MI6 and the CIA contacts – had pointed the finger at Jibril's rogues. It was Iran's revenge, they said, for the shooting down of a perfectly innocent Iranian passenger jet by the captain of the American warship Vincennes a few months earlier. I still happen to believe this is close to the truth.

But the moment Syria sent its tanks to defend Saudi Arabia after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, all the MI6 truth-telling turned into a claptrap of nonsense about Col Gaddafi. And Gaddafi, let's face it, was in deep trouble. Libya almost certainly was responsible for the earlier bombing of French UTA flight 772 over Chad in 1989. Why not frame him with Lockerbie too?

Of course, we must now forget the repulsive 2004 meeting that Blair arranged with Gaddafi after the latter had supposedly abandoned plans for nuclear weapons (not that his Tripoli engineers could repair a blocked lavatory in the Kebir Hotel), an act which the former foreign secretary Jack Straw called "statesmanlike".

This was the same "statesman" who hosted a group of gunmen that attacked a Greek cruise ship; whose navy had hijacked a yacht called the Silco and held its crew for eight years; and whose secret service kept the Provisional IRA supplied with weapons. Indeed, it was the same "statesman" who murdered the regime's opponents abroad and shot dead a young British policewoman in London.

Thank God for Jack Straw. He cleaned up Gaddafi's face and left it to Miliband to froth on about his outrage at Megrahi's reception back in Tripoli.

Meanwhile the relatives of those who died at Lockerbie – and here I am thinking of a deeply sad but immensely eloquent letter that one of those relatives sent to me – will not know the truth.

I suspect that the truth (speak it not, Mr Miliband, for you do not wish to know) lies in Lebanon, in Damascus and in Tehran. Given your cosy new relationship with the last two cities, of course, there's not a whimper of a chance that you'll want to investigate this, Mr Foreign Secretary. And not much encouragement will "Mad Dog" Gaddafi give to such an undertaking, not after the gifts – oil deals, primarily, but let's not forget the new Marks & Spencer in Tripoli – which he has given us.

Those who complain might be hanged publicly in Benghazi – like the public hanging there of dissident university students in 1979 – or otherwise wiped out, like poor old Mansour al-Kikhiya, who "disappeared" at a Cairo human rights conference in 1993 after complaining about the execution of Gaddafi's political opponents.

Ironically, Megrahi flew home to Tripoli on an Airbus A300 aircraft, exactly the same series as the Iranian plane the Americans shot down in 1988 – and about which Gaddafi never said anything.

It was Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri (once Khomeini's chosen successor but now a recluse under semi-house arrest who stands up for President Ahmadinejad's political opponents) who said in Iran in 1988 that he was "sure that if the Imam [Khomeini] orders, all the revolutionary forces and resistance cells, both inside and outside the country, will unleash their wrath on US financial, economic and military interests".

Remember that, Mr Miliband? No, of course you don't. Not even a whimper of outrage.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Lockerbie, 20 years on: Behind the frame up of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi

By Norm Dixon ( source )

February 14, 2001 -- The eminent barrister Horace Rumpole has often noted that the “golden thread running through the history of British justice” is that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty by the prosecution “beyond a reasonable doubt”. Of course, Rumpole is a fictional character created by writer John Mortimer. As the verdict handed down in the Lockerbie bombing trial proves, the “golden thread” is just as fictional.

On January 31, 2001, the three Scottish lords sitting in judgement on the charges against two Libyans accused of planting the bomb that felled Pan Am flight 103 over Scotland on December 21, 1988, found Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi guilty of the murders of the 270 people killed in the disaster. Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah was found not guilty.

The nine-month trial was held in the Netherlands and conducted according to Scottish law. It was the result of an agreement between Libya and the US and British governments that finally allowed the trial — which had been stalled for almost five years by London's and Washington's insistence that the case be held in either the United States or Britain — to be heard in a “neutral” third country.

In their 82-page judgement, the three judges found that, despite “uncertainties and qualifications”, “there is nothing in the evidence which leaves us with any reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the first accused [Megrahi]”.

According to the judges, the evidence showed that Megrahi, Libyan Arab Airlines' security chief at Malta's Luqa airport, had purchased items of clothing from a shop in Malta that were of the same brand and type as those that forensics experts had determined were in the Samsonite suitcase that contained the bomb that destroyed Pan Am 103. From the presence of these brands and types of clothes in the suitcase, the judges inferred that Megrahi had somehow succeeded in having the “item of baggage”, unaccompanied by a passenger, transferred from Malta, via Frankfurt, to London's Heathrow airport, where it was loaded onto the doomed aircraft.

The judges added that with “other background circumstances” — such as Megrahi's previous (and seemingly continuing) service with Libya's security organisation (JSO), his “association” with the Swiss company that manufactured a type of timer which the prosecution claimed was attached to the bomb and “his movements [between Malta and Libya] under a false name at or around the material time” — “a real and convincing pattern” formed.


Ian Bell wrote in the Scottish Sunday Herald on February 4, “Last week you would have been hard-pressed to find an Edinburgh lawyer willing to bet on any guilty verdict being reached at Camp Zeist. The same belief was evident, it is reported, in Whitehall.”

Robert Black QC, the highly respected professor of Scottish law at Edinburgh University who in 1994 first suggested the plan for a third country trial, told the BBC on February 4: “This was a very, very weak circumstantial case. I am absolutely astounded, astonished. I was extremely reluctant to believe that any Scottish judge would convict anyone, even a Libyan, on the basis of such evidence.”

Michael Scharf, a law professor at the New England School of Law, agreed, telling the February 2 New York Times: “It sure does look like they bent over backwards to find a way to convict, and you have to assume the political context of the case influenced them.”

Even some of the British relatives of the Lockerbie victims were sceptical: “All we know from this trial is that one of the two was innocent. I think we should be grateful... But we have our doubts about the guilt of Megrahi”, Martin Cadman, whose son was killed in the disaster, told the February 2 London Independent.

Beyond reasonable doubt?

The prosecution case, and the judges' verdict, rested fundamentally on two points: it was Megrahi who purchased the clothes which were packed into the suitcase that contained the bomb, and that suitcase began its fateful journey in Malta rather than either Frankfurt airport or at Heathrow.

Yet, Megrahi was never positively identified as the man who purchased the clothing, the prosecution did not provide any physical or documentary evidence to link Megrahi to the suitcase or the bomb components, and no evidence was offered to prove that the suitcase began its journey in Malta, let alone that it was Megrahi who sent it on its way.

The guilty verdict hinged most on the testimony of Tony Gauci, the owner of the clothes shop in Malta. In their judgement, the judges stated: “We are nevertheless satisfied that his identification so far as it went of the first accused as the purchaser was reliable and should be treated as a highly important element in this case.”

In their verdict, the judges described the torturous path Gauci's “identification” of Megrahi had taken. The shopkeeper was first interviewed by police on September 1, 1989, and described the purchaser as being “six feet or more” in height and well-built. On September 13, he told police the man was about 50 years old.

Megrahi is five feet, eight inches tall, of medium-build and was 36-years-old in December 1988.

On September 14, 1989, Gauci was shown 19 photos and identified a man as being “similar” to the purchaser but added that the purchaser was 20 years older. The man's photo — who was not Megrahi — was included because police thought he resembled an artist's impression and an identikit portrait based on Gauci's description.

On September 26, 1989, Gauci viewed more photos and pointed out another man included at the suggestion of German police. On August 31, 1990, Gauci was shown 24 photos and pointed out a man who, he said, had a face with a similar shape and style of hair to the purchaser. It was not Megrahi.

On December 6, 1989, and again on September 10, 1990, Gauci was shown photos but did not identify anybody. Included both times were photos of Abo Talb, a Palestinian jailed in Sweden in 1989 for terrorist bombings. Yet, Gauci told the court that in late 1989 or early 1990 his brother had shown him a newspaper article about the Lockerbie disaster which included a photo of a man with the word “bomber” printed across it. Gauci said he thought it was the man that bought the articles from him or that it resembled the person who bought the clothes from him. The man was Abo Talb.

On February 15, 1991, police showed Gauci 12 photos. Gauci told police that all the men in the photos were younger than the purchaser. The police pressed Gauci to “allow for any age difference” and look again. He pointed to a photo and said the man “resembles the man who bought the clothing ... of all the photographs I have been shown, this photograph 8 is the only one really similar to the man who bought the clothing, if he is a bit older, other than the one my brother showed me [of Abo Talb].” Photograph 8 was Megrahi's 1986 passport photo.

Towards the end of 1998 or the beginning of 1999, Gauci approached police after he was shown a magazine article about the Lockerbie disaster which named Megrahi as a suspect. He told police that the photo of Megrahi in the article “looks like the man” he sold clothes to.

On August 13, Gauci picked out Megrahi from an identification parade with the words: “Not exactly the man I saw in the shop. Ten years ago I saw him, but the man who look a little bit like exactly [sic] is number 5”. At the trial, Gauci pointed to Megrahi and said he “resembles him a lot”.

The defence lawyers protested that Gauci's eventual, less than positive identification of Megrahi had taken place after the defendant's photo had been in the world news for years.

In their verdict, the judges admitted that Gauci “never made what could be described as an absolutely positive identification”. The judges defended their assessment of Gauci's “identification” with the incredible statement that, “There are situations where a careful witness who will not commit himself beyond saying that there is a close resemblance can be regarded as more reliable and convincing in his identification than a witness who maintains that his identification is 100% certain.”

Gauci was also unclear as to when the items were purchased. On the witness stand, he agreed the date was either November 23 or December 7, 1988. The prosecution insisted it was December 7 and in the verdict, the judges did too.

However, in his statements to police and in his testimony at the trial Gauci said that it had been, or was, raining when the purchaser entered the shop. The nearby Luqa airport's chief meteorologist testified that it did not rain on December 7, but did so on November 23.

Interestingly, before the indictment of the two Libyans, the press reported that the police had stated that the clothing had been purchased on November 23.

Why is this important? First, because Megrahi was in Malta on December 7 but investigators could find no evidence that he was there on November 23, and second, because Abo Talb, who Gauci first identified as the purchaser, might have been. Talb had visited Malta from Sweden in late October 1988. When he left on October 26, he flew to Sweden on a return ticket valid for one month, raising the possibility could have returned.

Talb, who testified at the Lockerbie trial, could only prove he was in Sweden until November 10 and most of December, including on December 7. Talb presented no evidence to prove he was in Sweden after November 10 and before December 5. It is therefore possible that Talb entered Gauci's shop on November 23.

In December 1989, it was reported in several major newspapers that Scottish police, in papers filed with the Swedish legal authorities, had named Talb as the suspect “in the murder or participation in the murder of 270 people”.

The judges, however, chose to declare that “there is some support for Abo Talb when he said that he remained in Sweden and did not return to Malta after 26 October 1988”.


Talb's possible involvement is in line with the defence team's argument that there was a more plausible — and simpler — theory of how the bomb-laden suitcase reached Heathrow than the prosecution's convoluted speculations.

Talb was a member of the Syria-based Palestinian Popular Struggle Front, which worked closely with another Syria-backed terrorist group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC). On October 26, 1988 — less than a month before the Lockerbie disaster — West German police raided PFLP-GC safe-houses and seized Toshiba radio cassette players, explosives, detonators, timers, barometric pressure devices, as well as Pan Am timetables and unused airline baggage tags.

The cache suggested a plot to bomb an aircraft. A trade mark of the PFLP-GC's bombs at the time were that they were concealed within Toshiba radio cassette players. The bomb that brought down Pan Am 103 had been concealed in a Toshiba player, although a different model from that generally used by the PFLP-GC. That not all the PFLP-GC's stock of bombs had been discovered was proven when, in April 1989, three explosive devices were seized in a raid.

At first, US and British investigators also were convinced that the PFLP-GC — with the backing of the Syrian and Iranian governments — was the prime suspect in the Lockerbie disaster.

The FBI in April 1989 leaked news that the PFLP-GC had smuggled the bomb onto flight in Frankfurt. The Washington Post on May 11, 1989, reported that the US State Department had stated that the CIA was “confident” that the PFLP-GC had carried out the attack on behalf of the Iranian government. The attack was said to be in retaliation for the 290 pilgrims massacred while returning from Mecca when a US warship blew a Iranian passenger jet out of the sky as it passed over the Persian Gulf.

On December 16, 1989, the New York Times reported that Scottish investigators had announced that they had “hard evidence” that the PFLP-GC was behind the bombing.

In October 1990, US and British authorities suddenly did a backflip as the US build-up in the Gulf was gathering pace following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Investigators attention suddenly shifted from the Syria-backed PFLP-GC to Libya. In 1991, the two Libyans were formally indicted.

What changed between 1988 and 1991? Syrian dictator Hafiz Assad was an enthusiastic participant in the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq, whereas Libya's leader Moammer Qadhafi opposed the war and campaigned for a peaceful settlement.

The judges rejected this alternative theory, although they did “accept that there is a great deal of suspicion as to the actings of Abo Talb and his circle, but there is no evidence to indicate that they had either the means or the intention to destroy a civil aircraft in December 1988”.

This contention is based on the claim that the Lockerbie bomb was triggered by a Swiss-made timer of a type (MST-13) that had been supplied to the Libyan army in the mid-1980s. Yet the owner of the company that made the devices testified that MST-13s had also been supplied to the East German Stasi spy agency. East Germany is known to have harboured the PFLP-GC.

Despite the judges' proviso that “we are unable to exclude the possibility that any MST-13 timers in the hands of the Stasi left their possession, although there is no positive evidence that they did and in particular that they were supplied to the PFLP-GC”, their verdict stated that “the evidence relating to [the terrorist activities of the PFLP-GC] does not create a reasonable doubt in our minds about the Libyan origin of this crime”.

`Major difficulty for Crown'

The judges' verdict doggedly insisted that “we are satisfied that it has been proved that the primary suitcase containing the explosive devise was dispatched from Malta, passed through Frankfurt and was loaded onto PA103 at Heathrow”.

Yet, the judges contradict themselves by admitting that there were no records that showed any unaccompanied baggage was carried on the flight to Frankfurt and that all luggage in Malta was checked by military personnel for the presence of explosives. The judges noted that the Luqa airport had a “relatively elaborate security system” and security procedures that “seem to make it extremely difficult for an unaccompanied and unidentified bag to be shipped on a flight out”.

The judges conceded that: “If therefore the unaccompanied bag was launched from Luqa, the method by which that was done is not established, and the Crown accepted that they could not point to any specific route by which the primary suitcase could have been loaded... The absence of any explanation of the method by which the primary suitcase might have been placed on board KM180 [the Malta to Frankfurt flight] is a major difficulty for the Crown case.”

The judges' determination to deny that the bomb could have been introduced at a point other than Malta, and by a culprit other than Megrahi, led them to ignore that the security at Frankfurt airport was notoriously lax — something the US law enforcement authorities knew about at the time.

According to an October 30, 1990, US NBC television news report, “Pan Am flights from Frankfurt, including 103, had been used a number times by the [US Drug Enforcement Agency] as part of its undercover operation to fly informants and suitcases of heroin into Detroit as part of a sting operation to catch dealers in Detroit... Informants would put suitcases of heroin on the Pan Am flights apparently without the usual security checks ... through an arrangement between the DEA and the German authorities.”

The report stated that the DEA was investigating the possibility that a young man who lived in the US and regularly visited the Middle East may have unwittingly carried the bomb aboard flight 103.

An investigation commissioned by Pan Am's insurance company in 1989 also concluded that the most likely source of the bomb was that the PFLP-GC had infiltrated the DEA's protected drug smuggling operation and succeeded in having the bag containing the bomb placed on Pan Am 103 in Frankfurt.

Megrahi should have been found not guilty because the prosecution did not prove him guilty beyond “reasonable doubt”. A terrible miscarriage of justice has taken place because the three loyal servants of the British imperialist ruling class who sat in judgement on the fate Megrahi and Fhimah had already decided to find one of them guilty regardless of the facts.

The lords knew that the political stakes were too high to allow both Libyans to walk free. Such a verdict would have exposed the lies upon which nine years of UN sanctions, which have cost Libya US$33 billion and 10,000 lives, have been based. It would have also shed some light on the cynical, sleazy and embarrassing political operations that the US government is involved in throughout the world.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Libyan Facebook

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Robert Fisk's take on the arab human development report

Robert Fisk: Why does life in the Middle East remain rooted in the Middle Ages?

According to a UN report, the global improvement in living standards has passed much of the Arab world by. Robert Fisk explains why

Why is the Arab world – let us speak with terrible sharpness – so backward? Why so many dictators, so few human rights, so much state security and torture, so terrible a literacy rate?

Why does this wretched place, so rich in oil, have to produce, even in the age of the computer, a population so poorly educated, so undernourished, so corrupt? Yes, I know the history of Western colonialism, the dark conspiracies of the West, the Arab argument that you cannot upset the sheikhs and the kings and the autocrats, the imams and the emirs when the "enemy is at the gates". There is some truth to that. But not enough truth.

Once more the United Nations Development Programme has popped up with yet one more, its fifth, report that catalogues – via Arab analysts and academics, mark you – the retarded state of much of the Middle East. It talks of "the fragility of the region's political, social, economic and environmental structures... its vulnerability to outside intervention". But does this account for desertification, for illiteracy – especially among women – and the Arab state which, as the report admits, is often turned "into a threat to human security, instead of its chief support"?

As Arab journalist Rami Khouri stated bleakly last week: "How we tackle the underlying causes of our mediocrity and bring about real change anchored in solid citizenship, productive economies and stable statehood, remains the riddle that has defied three generations of Arabs." Real GDP per capita in the region – one of the statistics which truly shocked Khouri – grew by only 6.4 per cent between 1980 and 2004. That's just 0.5 per cent annually, a rate which 198 of 217 countries analysed by the CIA World Factbook bettered in 2008. Yet the Arab population – which stood at 150 million in 1980 – will reach 400 million in 2015.

I notice much of this myself. When I first came to the Middle East in 1976, it was crowded enough. Cairo's steaming, fetid streets were already jam-packed, night and day, with up to a million homeless living in the great Ottoman cemeteries. Arab homes are spotlessly clean but their streets are often repulsive, dirt and ordure spilling on to the pavements. Even in beautiful Lebanon, where a kind of democracy does exist and whose people are among the most educated and cultured in the Middle East, you find a similar phenomenon. In the rough hill villages of the south, the same cleanliness exists in every home. But why are the streets and the hills so dirty?

I suspect that a real problem exists in the mind of Arabs; they do not feel that they own their countries. Constantly coaxed into effusions of enthusiasm for Arab or national "unity", I think they do not feel that sense of belonging which Westerners feel. Unable, for the most part, to elect real representatives – even in Lebanon, outside the tribal or sectarian context – they feel "ruled over". The street, the country as a physical entity, belongs to someone else. And of course, the moment a movement comes along and – even worse – becomes popular, emergency laws are introduced to make these movements illegal or "terrorist". Thus it is always someone else's responsibility to look after the gardens and the hills and the streets.

And those who work within the state system – who work directly for the state and its corrupt autarchies – also feel that their existence depends on the same corruption upon which the state itself thrives. The people become part of the corruption. I shall always remember an Arab landlord, many years ago, bemoaning an anti-corruption drive by his government. "In the old days, I paid bribes and we got the phone mended and the water pipes mended and the electricity restored," he complained. "But what can I do now, Mr, Robert? I can't bribe anyone – so nothing gets done!"

Even the first UNDP report, back in 2002, was deeply depressing. It identified three cardinal obstacles to human development in the Arab world: the widening "deficit" in freedom, women's rights and knowledge. George W Bush – he of enduring freedom, democracy, etc etc amid the slaughter of Iraq – drew attention to this. Understandably miffed at being lectured to by the man who gave "terror" a new name, even Hosni Mubarak of Egypt (he of the constantly more than 90 per cent electoral success rate), told Tony Blair in 2004 that modernisation had to stem from "the traditions and culture of the region".

Will a solution to the Arab-Israeli war resolve all this? Some of it, perhaps. Without the constant challenge of crisis, it would be much more difficult to constantly renew emergency laws, to avoid constitutionality, to distract populations who might otherwise demand overwhelming political change. Yet I sometimes fear that the problems have sunk too deep, that like a persistently leaking sewer, the ground beneath Arab feet has become too saturated to build on.

I was delighted some months ago, while speaking at Cairo University – yes, the same academy which Barack Obama used to play softball with the Muslim world – to find how bright its students were, how many female students crowded the classes and how, compared to previous visits, well-educated they were. Yet far too many wanted to move to the West. The Koran may be an invaluable document – but so is a Green Card. And who can blame them when Cairo is awash with PhD engineering graduates who have to drive taxis?

And on balance, yes, a serious peace between Palestinians and Israelis would help redress the appalling imbalances that plague Arab society. If you can no longer bellyache about the outrageous injustice that this war represents, then perhaps there are other injustices to be addressed. One of them is domestic violence, which – despite the evident love of family which all Arabs demonstrate – is far more prevalent in the Arab world than Westerners might realise (or Arabs want to admit).

But I also think that, militarily, we have got to abandon the Middle East. By all means, send the Arabs our teachers, our economists, our agronomists. But bring our soldiers home. They do not defend us. They spread the same chaos that breeds the injustice upon which the al-Qa'idas of this world feed. No, the Arabs – or, outside the Arab world, the Iranians or the Afghans – will not produce the eco-loving, gender-equal, happy-clappy democracies that we would like to see. But freed from "our" tutelage, they might develop their societies to the advantage of the people who live in them. Maybe the Arabs would even come to believe that they owned their own countries.