The Campaign Spot

U.S. Sanctions Against the United Kingdom for Lockerbie Bomber’s Release?

A thorny proposal, that I suspect will divide my readers:

Sen. Chuck Schumer yesterday called for sanctions against Britain if there was a “quid-pro-quo” involving the release of the Lockerbie bomber and Libya’s approval of a multibillion-dollar oil deal.

“You can’t allow a vicious terrorist who killed so many to go free after eight years,” the New York Democrat said. “If it is true that there was a quid pro quo — and it hasn’t been proven yet — there ought to be some sanctions against Britain.”

First, let’s notice that Schumer is saying less than it seems, since there’s no detail on the burden of proof. The Times of London stacked up the circumstantial evidence: Britain made the decision after talks between Libya and petroleum giant BP over a huge oil-exploration deal hit a snag, and problems were resolved soon after the decision to release Megrahi was made. But short of a memo even more explicit than what we’ve already seen, the British government can and will insist the two events were unrelated. Is the American government willing to accuse the British government of lying?

Yet as tempting as Schumer’s proposal is, it distracts from an issue closer to home: Where was our government? We know how the FBI Director felt about this – furious outrage. Yes, there were statements from Robert Gibbs and Hillary Clinton. But if President Obama had called Prime Minister Gordon Brown before the decision, and made clear his administration’s opposition, would the release have occurred?

A name familiar to NRO readers wants to know precisely what the U.S. said to the U.K. before the release.

The possibility of Megrahi’s release didn’t strike like lightning out of the blue. And when the President of the United States asks a personal favor of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, it carries a lot of weight.

Releasing a mass-murdering terrorist to secure an oil deal is despicable and unforgiveable. But if how can we punish the British if we didn’t do everything we could on our end to avoid this outcome? Schumer’s proposal is an expression of anger at the British government that probably ought to be shared with our own.

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