Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Why the Lockerbie bomber was set free

[Qaddafi - nicer than Hillary?]
In 1988 a bomb went off aboard a Boeing 747 over Lockerbie, Scotland. 270 people were murdered, 180 of them Americans. The bomb was proven to have been planted by the Libyan secret service.

From today's Times of London-
The Libyans, however, were not the only country lobbying hard over the PTA. In Washington, Eric Holder, the Attorney General, and Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, were making plain to the British and Scottish governments that letting al-Megrahi be transferred would break a decade-old agreement that anyone convicted of the Lockerbie bombing should serve their sentence in Scotland.

This had been a compromise painstakingly negotiated by Robin Cook, then Foreign Secretary, to overcome Madeleine Albright’s opposition to plans to try the Lockerbie suspects in The Netherlands. Mr Cook later said the insistence that those convicted should be jailed in Scotland as a matter “of principle” for both nations.
The PTA is the Prisoner Transfer Agreement which trades al-Megrahi for an unspecified but certain-to-be-large quantity of oil.

It is hard to imagine this happening if Condoleeza Rice were still Secretary of State. Ms. Rice left the impress of her Pradas on diplomatic crotches all over Europe. Even representing an uncommonly unpopular president, she went from diplomatic victory to diplomatic victory.

Secretary Clinton is just the opposite. Though representing a president reputed to walk on water, she has gone from diplomatic defeat to diplomatic defeat. (Remember Uzbekistan closing our airbase there?)

In retrospect Mrs. Clinton was an odd choice for Secretary of State. She is notorious for her grating personality. It is a handicap in domestic politics. In world diplomacy it is likely fatal. It is hard to imagine her appointment was about anything but unifying the Democratic Party after a bitterly fought primary contest against Obama.

During her husband's administration she was identified with health care reform and unsuccessfully managed the reform bill in Congress. As senator she was identified with child welfare. So why was she not appointed Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare?

She was appointed because Secretary of State was the biggest plum the administration could give her, senior to the Secretary of HEW and more visible. The appointment was to mollify her loyalists within the party, not to get a competent Secretary of State. One has to hope her loyalists were mollified because we sure as hell did not get a competent Secretary of State.

Would it be petty of me to suggest that two other reasons may have been to keep her from sinking this health care reform bill as she is reputed to have sunk her husband's? And to avoid her rather than Obama being identified with it if it should pass? The president will need all the legislative record he can muster in the 2012 election.

Might it also be shamelessly petty of me to suggest that Secretary of State is not that big a deal in an administration which has made it abundantly clear its main concerns are domestic?

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