Forty years after the death of the “last lion,” Great Britain is producing men of straw rather than of Churchillian iron.
It was only six months ago that the British government humiliatingly and shamelessly bundled visiting Dutch politician Geert Wilders back on to a plane to his native Holland to appease Muslim public opinion. Wilders had been invited to show his documentary film, “Fitna,” at Britain’s House of Lords, but, in a gross outrage, was denied entry to the country.
That watershed moment of capitulation, however, was surpassed last week when the Scottish government released Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Magrahi from prison on “compassionate” grounds after serving only seven years of a life sentence for murdering 270 people, 189 of them Americans, when a bomb destroyed Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.
Al-Megrahi is said to be suffering from prostate cancer and given only three months to live, though many believe that he should have spend those final months in prison.
To add insult to injustice, Libya welcomed al-Megrahi home with a hero’s reception – despite official promises that it would not do so. In a choreographed demonstration, al-Megrahi was greeted at Tripoli’s airport by hundreds of people, some waving Scottish flags. As al-Megrahi appeared before the jubilant crowd, Seif al-Islam, the son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, lifted his arm in victory. It was, indeed, a victory for terrorism, and an insult to the victims of the Lockerbie bombing and their still-grieving families.
Scottish authorities were caught off guard by the scandalous reception. “It’s a matter of great regret that Mr. al-Megrahi was received in such an inappropriate manner,” said Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who made the decision to release the Libyan. “It showed no compassion or sensitivity to the families of the 270 Lockerbie victims.” But why should MacAskill’s have expected a dictator like Gaddafi to show compassion for the victims of a man that he regards as a national hero?
MacAskill may deny it, but the Libyan’s release was simply part of the politics of appeasement that Scotland and other European countries are practicing when dealing with Libya and other Islamic countries. Ever sensitive to perceived Israeli and American human-rights violations, and increasingly fearful of their own restive Muslim populations, European governments turn a blind eye to the abuses committed in the Islamic world.
A good example of this accomodationist policy occurred in July 2007, when Gaddafi, ever the artful schemer, shook down the European Union for $400 million for an HIV outbreak in a Libyan children’s hospital. Six foreigners, five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor, were blamed for intentionally infecting 438 children and held for almost eight years in Libyan dungeons where they were tortured, raped and sentenced to be shot. “Some said it was the CIA. Others said it was the Mossad Israeli intelligence. They carried out an experiment on these children,” said the Libyan leader with a straight face at a 2001 African summit.
But instead of sending aircraft carriers to deal with Gaddafi’s criminal treatment of its citizens (Bulgaria is an EU member), the EU gave in to tyranny. Even though two European AIDS experts, one of them the co-discoverer of the virus, had concluded the outbreak had started a year before the Bulgarian nurses had even arrived in Libya, the EU, like in the days of the Barbary Coast pirates, simply paid the ransom. France mediated this devil’s deal and even sent the president’s wife to escort the nurses.
Like MacAskill, French President Sarkozy maintained that France’s motives were only humanitarian. But, lo and behold, immediately after the nurses’ release, a European aerospace company, in which France has a 15 per cent interest, received an order for anti-tank missiles from Libya. It is also probably no coincidence that this deal was exceeded only a few months later when Gaddafi was welcomed in France and business contracts worth $14.7 billion were signed.
Even more recently, the Swiss president was forced to apologize to the Gaddafis for Swiss police having arrested Gaddafi’s son, Hannibal, and his pregnant wife in 2008 for beating their servants. Although the charges were quickly dropped – despite Hannibal’s urging that a nuclear bomb be dropped on Switzerland – Libya still demanded an apology and seized two Swiss citizens as hostages. At first the apology was resisted. But when it looked like Swiss firms were going to be kicked out of Libya, and millions of dollars would be lost, the apology was made, infuriating both the public and the press. “In this crisis Switzerland loses more than honor,” lamented the Swiss paper, Le Temps. “The country has slowly taken stock of its powerlessness.”
Powerlessness is not too harsh a word. Europe may still pride itself on its commitment to human rights, but a cold look at the evidence shows that in recent years EU countries have been more determined to please the Islamic world – even rogue-states like Libya – than stand up for those very rights it claims to hold dear. Whether cynical business interests are to blame, or whether the flaw lies in the burgeoning fear of militant Islam, is immaterial. At the end of the day, Europe has lost its nerve.