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Stebbing, Great Dunmow, Essex, United Kingdom
The occasional blog of an Anglican priest in rural Essex

Sunday, 23 August 2009

collecting my thoughts about Libya and the US

This is the collect for today, Trinity 11

O God, you declare your almighty power
most chiefly in showing mercy and pity:
mercifully grant to us such a measure of your grace,
that we, running the way of your commandments,
may receive your gracious promises,
and be made partakers of your heavenly treasure;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Amen.

And here is the full text of a letter from FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, III, to Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill.


Now, I have many friends and acquaintances on both sides of the Atlantic who were profoundly affected by the Lockerbie bomb. Some lost relatives, some knew their home town would never be the same again.

I also have some friends, acquaintances and family who have worked or are working in the prison system in England and in Scotland. It seems to me therefore in my limited understanding of this thing that the release of Al-Megrahi is being processed and interpreted by at least two different cultural mindsets and two different legal systems, which by implication may reflect two different understandings of God, his compassion and our calling to reflect that compassion in our attitudes.

The Scottish Justice Minister has replied to Mueller's letter stating (among other things) that compassionate release is part of the Scottish justice system, but that it is not part of that of the USA. Scotland can scream as loud and long as they like that this release was done in accordance with the rule of law. The US will never understand that because for them the rule of law means something very different, and given the propensity (not universal I know) for the death penalty, something a lot less compassionate and merciful.

Let's face it, if Mr Al-Megrahi had been tried and convicted in the States it probably wouldn't be cancer that killed him, but a lethal injection or an electric shock.

As for the "hero's welcome" he received, we would do well to remember the media-driven crowd-pulling affairs that occur at any airport when anyone of any repute is arriving. Then we can add into that equation the unpopularity of the States in Libya and the middle east generally.

Then again, the US doesn't tend to give heroes' welcomes to those who return from overseas action - from Gary Powers the downed U2 spyplane pilot (whose family had to wait 40 years to get his medals) to the (perhaps exaggerated by Stallone and co) rejection of Vietnam veterans, to the ungreeted caskets of dead US service personnel flown home during the Bush era from Iraq, so no wonder they disapprove of a few dozen enthusiastic family and friends and some enterprising flag salesmen the other night at Tripoli.

And one more thing, Al-Megrahi did not perpetrate the bombing of PanAm flight 103 (see, I can even write that without looking it up) alone. He is most definitely a scapegoat, and scapegoats are usually prized for their effectiveness in assuaging the guilt of those who are supposed to stop this kind of thing happening. Isn't that one of the reasons the English legal system struggled with the release of Ronnie Biggs?

I (?we) understand power to be properly exercised in showing mercy. Mr Mueller and possibly even Mr Obama seem to understand power to be properly exercised in shows of strength and bullying, and in the throwing out of the pram of toys when things don't go their way. Dare I say that ++KJS and the ECCUSA shares that understanding ...

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