Entry from August 27, 2009

Further to my post of Monday on honor versus compassion and our failure to appreciate cultural differences, I can’t resist adding this priceless comment from Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish justice minister who is carrying the can for the decision to release the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi. A propos of the hero’s welcome this terrorist received on his return to Libya, Mr MacAskill told the Scottish parliament, according to The Daily Telegraph that “It is a matter of great regret that Mr Megrahi was received in such an inappropriate manner. It showed no compassion or sensitivity to the families of the 270 victims of Lockerbie.” Of course, given that the man had murdered the 270 victims in the first place, it could hardly have been that surprising that he was lacking in compassion or sensitivity — unlike Mr MacAskill himself, of course, whose compassion for Mr Megrahi was what sent him home to that welcome.

But then liberals and pacifists always are surprised at the wickedness of the world around them, since their whole philosophy of life is based on denying it. The standard liberal take on terrorism itself is that, if you are nice to the terrorists they won’t “hate” you or, a fortiori, want to kill you anymore. Problem solved! Violence, as we all know, never solves anything. It therefore follows as the night follows the day that conciliation solves everything. Except when it doesn’t. Surprise! As The Times of London reported, young Kenny was also surprised that, by the “inappropriate manner” of the reception given to the ailing terrorist, “Libya had flouted assurances to the Scottish government that al-Megrahi would be given a muted reception in Tripoli.” What? Is’t possible? A terrorist and a terrorist-sponsor breaking a promise? Who could have expected that?

I am not the only observer to point to this sorry affair as an example of the Scottish proclivity, perhaps left over from the country’s Calvinist heritage, to moral ostentation. “Mr MacAskill repeatedly rejected claims that he mishandled the affair, saying that he had exercised the principle of compassion inherent in the Scottish judicial system,” said The Times. “I stand by the law and values of Scotland,” said the minister, by which he meant a place where “we define ourselves by our humanity” — unlike, presumably, certain other countries he could name but didn’t. Gerald Warner in the Telegraph, points to a typical Scottish exercise in self-righteousness when their “wee pretendy parliament” (in Billy Connolly’s phrase) passed, at the cost of some trouble and expense, a law to ban fur farming in Scotland — even though there was no fur farming in Scotland. What else is legislation for but advertising the legislators’ fine and compassionate feelings?

Oddly, this desire to proclaim his country’s moral superiority among the nations of the world gives Mr MacAskill something in common with the man responsible for that Tripolitan triumph, Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi, who, according to Dirk J. Vandewalle associate professor of government at Dartmouth College “likes to rub it in to the West that he was vindicated, that he’s becoming an internationally recognized figure again.” It seems that old-fashioned honor, at least in the form of this unseemly vaunting of one’s own, isn’t dead after all. It’s just that Scotland and Libya find different things to vaunt about. The only thing they have in common is scorn for the United States of America.

But — wait just a minute, folks — we have a late entry in the national morality stakes! And who should it be but the good old USA itself under our highly moral new President who, by the investigation and possible prosecution of his own intelligence service, is out-MacAskilling even Mr MacAskill. He has taken up the task of what Jameel Jaffer, director of the American Civil Liberties Union”s National Security Project, has called “restoring the moral authority of the United States abroad and restoring the rule of law at home.” Top that, you foreigners! We may be more vulnerable to terrorists’ attacks than we were under the hated Bush, but we’re once again the world’s number one in self-righteousness.

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