Why Gaddafi's British apologists should hang their heads in shame

March 3, 2011 - 0:0

With David Cameron talking about creating a ‘no-fly zone’ in Libya, arming the rebels and even sending in British troops, the crisis is worsening. The prime minister is putting pressure on Col Muammar Gaddafi to capitulate, and also trying to seize back the initiative which the government lost last week when it reacted so slowly in evacuating Britons trapped in Libya. Let’s hope Cameron’s bellicosity is not tested, and that the rebels are able to jettison Gaddafi themselves.

How extraordinary that a regime which until last year was nurtured by the Labour government - and to some degree by this one until a couple of weeks ago - should now be posing such a danger to British lives, as well as threatening to unleash genocide against its own people.
As the beleaguered Gaddafi fights to survive, there is a small group of increasingly desperate politicians disowning him in what, let’s pray, are his final days.
In the good times these associates shamelessly sucked up to the genocidal maniac, and in many instances profited from the association.
*** Favours I am not talking about Libyan former comrades-in-arms of the mad tyrant who are deserting him as fast as their legs will carry them. I am referring to his former British friends, no less anxious to put as much distance as possible between themselves and Gaddafi. Foremost among them is Tony Blair, as well as the former unofficial deputy Prime Minister, Peter Mandelson, though (as I shall explain later) he cannot resist a wistful look at Gaddafi’s repulsive son, Saif al-Islam.
There is also Baroness Symons, a friend of Blair’s and his former special envoy to the Middle East, who resigned from a Libyan investment body. She once claimed the Libyan people ‘recognized and valued’ Gaddafi’s regime. And there are numberless dons at one of our leading academic institutions, the London School of Economics. Times newspaper ran an interview with Blair carried out by a friendly journalist who flew all the way to Jerusalem, where the former prime minister is sometimes to be found in his guise as an official peace envoy to the Middle East. He claimed his stomach is being ‘churned’ by what is happening in Libya.
Can this be the same Tony Blair who, after leaving office in June 2007, has visited Libya on several occasions, apparently not simply for the joy of meeting Col Gaddafi but also to do business in the country?
A case can be made for the diplomatic rapprochement with Gaddafi begun by Blair in 2004 while Prime Minister, though it quickly developed into an in advisedly close relationship based on the exchange of favors, of which the premature release of the convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi in August 2009 was the most shocking example.
Cameron was right to condemn ‘the appalling dodgy dealings with Libya under the last government’ in the Commons.
But what concerns me is not so much the excessive courting of Gaddafi by Blair while he was in office but his excessive courting of the tyrant after he left it.
In June 2010, the Libyan dictator’s son Saif gave an interview to the Mail in which he claimed that the former prime minister was a ‘personal family friend’ who had visited Libya ‘many, many times’ since stepping down. Saif also claimed that Blair had secured a consultancy role with the Libyan Investment Authority, a state fund which manages his country’s £65 billion of oil wealth. Blair has denied that he has ever held any such position and, since Saif is plainly a wild and unreliable man, I suppose we had better believe him.
However, Blair has not denied that he has visited Libya several times since 2007. It has been widely reported that he went there on behalf of J.P. Morgan, an American bank which pays him a mere £2million a year, and which has been keen to develop banking opportunities in the country. By his own admission, Blair spoke to Gaddafi twice on Friday, in an apparent attempt to urge him to go quietly. To make these calls at such a time implies a closer relationship between a former British Prime Minister and the Libyan leader than one would expect or deem appropriate. As recently as last Friday, he was quoted by an unidentified friend of Saif as being a ‘good friend’ of the regime.
However much his stomach may be churning, and however statesmanlike and troubled he may look in the photograph taken by The Times, the fact is that Blair has got far closer to Gaddafi than was seemly or wise.
I suspect there is much more information to emerge on this front which Blair may not be able to control. We already know enough to say that at the very least he has shown colossal misjudgment. His business and other links with Libya surely make him an unsuitable official envoy to the Middle East (representing the U.S., the EU, Russia and the UN) — not that he has made one iota of progress since taking up the job. Peter Mandelson’s friendship with Saif Gaddafi is equally predictable. But whereas Blair strives to wash his hands of the Libyan leader, Lord Mandelson is still emotionally involved. He suggested in a television interview on Sunday that Saif should have telephoned him for advice on spinning before making a bloodcurdling TV address last week in which he vowed to ‘fight to the last bullet’. The ‘Prince of Darkness’ warmly defended his and Blair’s decision to make friends with the Gaddafi clan (‘absolutely right’), and expressed little horror at developments in Libya.
More surprising, and in many ways more depressing, is the close association between the London School of Economics and the Gaddafis. Although described by one academic as not a ‘great student’, Saif was awarded a doctorate by what is supposed to be one of our leading universities.
There are suggestions, which the LSE is belatedly investigating, that Saif cheated when submitting his thesis. Unbelievably, the institution accepted a £1.5?million gift from Saif after his graduation, though only £300,000 has so far been received. Where did they think this money came from?
Saif may have made noises about introducing a measure of democracy in Libya, but they were the noises of the heir apparent of a bloody dictator. Offensive Perhaps the most shaming event of all was a speech which Gaddafi made via video just two months ago to senior LSE academics in which he spouted offensive rubbish about the Lockerbie bombing (which defecting Libyan ministers now confirm he personally authorized), and attacked Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. How could this happen? Here is a man who has been accused of massacring his own people (in one month in 1996 he is alleged to have killed 1,200 prisoners).
In the 1970s he supplied arms and explosives to the IRA - which were used to kill British citizens - and in December 1988 he ordered the Lockerbie bombing, which resulted in the deaths of 270 people.
And yet a group of leading academics listened reverentially to his ravings, having already accepted £1.5million from his son - money that could turn out to have been stolen. Heads should roll at the LSE, though I don’t suppose they will.
As for David Cameron, let’s hope that he remains cool, and is not easily tempted to follow the path to war so often taken by Tony Blair, for whom he retains a bewilderingly high opinion. Whatever happens, there is no doubting that the former prime minister and his friends got far too close to the monster Gaddafi. My bet is that if the tyrant falls from power, more damning information about this intimate relationship will emerge which all the spinning in the world by Blair and Mandelson will not stop.
(Source: dailymail.co.uk