Monday, September 03, 2007

Avoiding the "lapdog" label

The UK media roundly criticized former Prime Minister Tony Blair for his close association with US President George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq, frequently labeling him a "lapdog." The term has become so devastating that UK politicians will go out of their way to avoid the ruinous epithet. But there is a greater danger to Great Britain today than just a particular alliance with Bush's failed policies, and that is the general risk of allowing your government to be a lapdog to short-term economic interests.

This isn't a risk peculiar to the British, of course. Indeed, it's a general risk for all governments. For some governments, it is the normal course of doing business. However, it wasn't always the case for the UK. Nonetheless, recently the United Kingdom seems to be creating the appearance of subsuming their national interest to short-term economic gain. This came to my mind today when it was announced that British prosecutors were dropping charges against two prostitutes who allegedly (and by "allegedly" I mean "most probably") were beaten to a pulp by the son of Libya's intelligence chief. (See Call girls drop charges against Gadhafi's kin)

I'm not blaming the prosecutors in the case. They can only do so much when the chief witnesses withdraw their complaint. And, of course, this wouldn't be the first case of witness intimidation. However, it does seem strange that the UK police and intelligence services would permit Mohammed al-Sanussi to be in London without being subject to constant surveillance -- or that Libyan intelligence operatives could surrepticiously videotape the two prostitutes in question without themselves being under MI5 surveillance. In other words, it's one thing if you have some neighborhood thug able to intimidate witnesses in some run-of-the-mill criminal case. But having Libyan intelligence do it in your own backyard shows something is wrong. Could they be pussyfooting around the Libyans for fear of botching business negotiations?

If this were a one-off situation, that would be one thing. But coming on the heals of the Alexander Litvinenko assassination and the BAe-Saudi bribery scandal, it's a bit too much.

No comments: