Former Prime Minister, Tony Blair and former Foreign Secretaries Jack Straw and David Miliband, now face some extremely tough questions as to how much they knew about the extraordinary rendition of prisoners to Libya where they were tortured. The discovery of some extraordinary archives in the ruins of the Ministry of Information in Tripoli by Human Rights Watch suggest that the British security services had much stronger links with their opposite numbers in Gaddafi’s Libya than hitherto thought. And while the security services will befearing even worse revelations, they must also be kicking themselves for not getting to the files first.
If the files are to be believed, the British not only knew about extraordinary rendition, they were complicit in it. Worse still, they handed information regarding Libyan exiles to the Gaddafi regime. In doing that they must have known that some of these people would be tortured and abused. All of this was done under the umbrella of tackling Islamic fundamentalism, and as we were informed at the time to work with the Gaddafi regime and wean it from its weapons of mass destruction programme.
While it made good sense to attempt to normalise relations with the notoriously mercurial Libyan leader, to suggest – as Newsnight did the other evening – that Gaddafi was persuaded from his nuclear weapons programme, seems just a little far fetched. Neither was there any real evidence supplied, to my knowledge, of Gaddafi’s weapons of mass destruction programme.
But it is increasingly clear that the relationship moved to one of realpolitik to a full-blown love-in. The British Government and British business, BP in particular, had very clear economic interests. But at some stage the day to day stuff of diplomacy and business appears to have blossomed into a full on friendship, with Tony Blair even helping Gaddafi’s murderous son, Saif, with his PhD at the London School of Economics. Saif returned the favour with considerable largesse directed towards the LSE. One question that needs to be asked is; did Tony Blair’s Foundation ever receive any money from the Gaddafi regime?
Even if it didn’t Blair, Straw and Miliband were the politicians who had direct responsibility for the activities of the security services. On the basis of the evidence discovered in Tripoli they were acting beyond the law. When previous claims of British complicity in extraordinary rendition were made, David Miliband denied them, only for the truth to be dragged out by the courts. There then followed an equally long and drawn out attempt to silence those same courts.
But the collusion in Libya goes so much further than anything we have seen so far. It brings shame on Britain, and for the servicemen and women, who have recently risked life and limb over the skies of Libya, this is a terrible affront.The idea, frankly, that Tony Blair can continue to act as the Quartet’s envoy to the Middle East, is increasingly untenable. Given his links with the Gaddafi regime and his personal friendships with some members of the murderous Gaddafi family, he should stand down, and stand down now.