Enrichment process

Oily pigeons come home to roost over Libya

The cynical will be unsurprised at the revelations on the weekend that some dirty deals were done in the name of politics concerning Libya and the War on Terror. It appears that in the name of getting into Gaddafi’s oil-soaked pants, the British Secret Intelligence Service were happy to assist in kidnapping people and packing them off to Tripoli for an all-expenses paid torture session.

And now the news is coming out and the spooks are throwing money at the victims to try and buy silence about their screams of confession.

In a nutshell the deal went along the lines of:

BRITAIN: Hi Colonel Gaddafi. We want you to be on our side against bin Laden and also we love your oil. For the low fee of $2.7 billion we’ll remove you from the list of states sponsoring terrorism, clear away all the sanctions and let you sell us oil and gas. We’ll even throw in an appearance by Tony Blair and a bogus PhD for one of your sons. And at no extra charge we’ll also ship you some Libyan dissidents so that you can torture them.

GADDAFI: Do I have to admit that I actually did the Lockerbie thing?


GADDAFI: Done. Have Blair washed and brought to my tent.

To be sure, the alleged victim of this particular MI6-brokered sting has some unsavoury connections of the al-Qaeda type. The problem is that Abdel Hakim Belhadj is now a senior figure in what passes for the Libyan government these days. But equally grubby was Britain’s fawning over Gaddafi as he “came in from the cold” in 2004, re-inventing himself as the West’s new ally in the war against radical Islam. The pictures of a grinning Tony Blair schmoozing the eccentrically dressed Libyan dictator in a desert tent are an indelible image of the same expediency that saw the West cuddling up to all sorts of marginal regimes for the sake of hunting terrorists.

Former British prime minister Tony Blair meets with now dead Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2004. EPA/Peter Macdiarmid

Even more sullied are men like Sir Mark Allen, the British spy who set up these sort of deals, and later, quite coincidentally, I’m sure, found himself working for BP and successfully negotiating big contracts for Libyan oil with his buddies in the Gaddafi clan.

Such goings on are by no means isolated cases and this whole crooked affair is indicative of the blank cheques that were being written in the early days on the War on Terror, where in the name of national security anyone was fair game and torture was franchised out to odious dictators looking for a blind eye to be turned to their own lack of democratic progress. At the same time as we were taking the moral high ground we were flying people off to Third World dictatorships to have their toes crushed with a hammer.

It is certain is that many more of these rendition cases will come to light over the coming years as the survivors start to poke their heads up and talk. What’s less certain is how much the Brits will have to cough up to silence a guy who is now holding a share in the world’s newest independent oil state.