Documents discovered in Libya cast light on the sordid behavior of people supposedly acting in the name of Britain. MI6, the British secret service, evidently struck up a cozy relationship with Libyan opposite numbers. The British have not only hounded Libyan dissidents in England but handed them over to Libya where they were certain to be tortured. These dissidents were held to be active Islamist terrorists, who therefore deserved whatever was coming to them.
The outstanding example of what is now euphemistically called extraordinary rendition occurred in 1940 in the period of the Nazi-Soviet Pact. The Soviet secret police handed to the Gestapo a number of prominent German Communists who had sought refuge in the Soviet Union. Margarete Buber-Neumann, one of the few who survived, has left an unforgettable description of this frightful betrayal. Now it turns out that one of the Libyans betrayed by MI6 is Abdul Hakim Belhaj, certainly an Islamist, possibly a terrorist, but presently a senior military commander of the anti-Qaddafi rebels. MI6 couldn’t have guessed that this man treated as an enemy would emerge a few years later as a hero they were sponsoring. It is uncomfortable to have to admit that the secret services of a democracy operate by the inhuman logic of a totalitarian state.
These documents also reveal correspondence from Tony Blair, then Prime Minister, to Colonel Qaddafi. At the time, Blair delighted in playing up to this monstrous dictator and embracing him for photo-ops. Supposedly this was a reward for the abandonment of Libya’s weapons of mass destruction. Blair was abasing himself voluntarily. In private, he was addressing letters to “Dear Muammar.” In one letter dated 28 December 2006 he wishes his dear Muammar “Eid mubarak,” or the Muslim equivalent of Happy Festival. MI6 was nasty but at least not creepy like this.