A Matter of Sovereignty

Let me say up front that I agree with David Cameron: Abdelbaset Ali Mohamed Al Megrahi should not have been released from prison. I think he was a fall guy for what was a Libyan government planned and executed operation, but he was convicted and barring a successful appeal, he should have stayed in prison.  However, I think the U.S. Senate is way out of line in investigating his release.

This goes back to my most recent post: it is consistently the view of the US government – at least of the Executive and Legislative branches – that the sovereignty of other countries is always secondary to American interests. The Senate has invited Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill, Scottish prison health director Andrew Fraser, former UK Justice Secretary Jack Straw, and former Prime Minister Tony Blair to appear before it to answer questions as to how and why Megrahi was released from prison on compassionate ground. (This despite the fact that Blair had been out of office for nearly two years at the time of the release.)

Though I have no political affinity to any of the Brits invited, I have to agree with the assessment of Jack Straw:

“It is, in my experience, highly unusual for the legislature of one sovereign state to conduct an inquiry into decisions of another sovereign state, including, as in this case, decisions by a devolved administration on the release of a prisoner. There are therefore important issues of principle here which could affect UK governments of any party, and which will need carefully to be considered before I come to a final view.”

In other words, it is none of their business. The crime occurred over Scottish airspace. Even if the bomb was put on the plane somewhere else, at no time in question was the plane in the United States or its airspace. Neither was it even in international airspace, as the death of 11 Scots killed on the ground in Lockerbie made clear. Scotland had jurisdiction then and it has jurisdiction now. It may come as a shock to a lot of Americans, but killing Americans somewhere in the world does not give the government of the United States jurisdiction over that place or the power to investigate their killing. If Americans leave the sovereign territory of the United States, they assume the risk that they may come to harm without the US Government having the right to vindicate their cause.

Perhaps it is David Cameron’s admission that the UK is the junior partner in the Special Relationship both now and for at least the past 70 years that has emboldened the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to think its senior status carries some sort of weight.

Even if, as has been strongly insinuated by New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, BP lobbied – or even, as has been suggested – bribed UK or Scottish officials or ministers, it is not the business of the US Senate. That is true even though BP is responsible for that terrible oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and apparently needs to be punished further, whatever excuse can be found. If there has been impropriety, it is for the UK government to investigate.

Let’s put the shoe on the other foot, since 67 British people died as a result of the 9/11 attacks. Mohammed al-Qahtani, the alleged 20th hijacker, has been tortured and charges against him have been dropped, re-instated, and dropped again.  Should the British Government open an inquiry and invite US officials to appear before it to answer for how they have dealt with it? Should British parliamentarians and ministers be demanding explanantions? If the American public learned of such an inquiry – that is, if the American press even took it seriously enough to report it – the public would be everything from bemused to outraged that another country would think it had jurisdiction to demand American officials explain themselves.

Sovereignty is sovereignty. It’s time the US respected the sovereignty of other nations to the extent it demands respect for its own.

A Film I’m Destined to See

I don’t know how this one slipped under my radar, but a book I read a number of years ago has been made into a film. Stone of Destiny is current showing in Scotland and will be released across England on Friday.

It is the true story of the Scottish students who stole – or perhaps re-appropriated – the Stone of Scone from Westminster Abbey on Christmas Eve, 1950. The Stone had been used for the coronation of every Scottish monarch  since at least Kenneth MacAlpin in the mid ninth century (it may have been used as early as 574 when Aedan was anointed and crowned King of Dalriada by St Columba) until it was stolen by Edward I in 1296. It had been fixed under the St Edward’s Chair (the coronation throne) since that time.

This incident prompted the only ever closing of the border between Scotland and England, as police searched for the 336 lb rock. The cops were unsuccessful and the Stone was only recovered in April 1951 after the students chose to leave it at Arbroath Abbey.

I’ve seen the Stone three times, twice in Westminster Abbey and once in Edinburgh Castle, where it sits since it was sent back to Scotland by the last Conservative Government in 1996. It stays there with the understanding that it will be returned to London for future coronations.

The film has received a number of favourable reviews. I doubt that I will get a chance to see it before we leave for Christmas. I hope it is still in cinemas when we get back. It is not often that I specifically want to see something on the big screen, but this is one of those times.

UPDATE: There is a good article in the Daily Telegraph about Ian Hamilton, QC, who was the ringleader of the students. It was his book that inspired the film.

Banning Father’s Day

I was just going to write about how thousands of primary school children in Scotland were banned from making Father’s Day cards this year. Then I found out that the same thing happened at the school of an Unnamed Child in the heart of England. It’s probably even more widespread.

This has been done, as they said in Scotland, “in the interests of sensitivity” because of the growing number of single-parent households and children living with a mother and her lesbian partner. I’m hoping there’s none of the latter at the Unnamed Child’s school, as it is in direct violation of the dogma of the Church that runs the school.

Let’s set aside for a moment the children living in Gomorrah situations, as these are thankfully still less than normative. The sensitivity is really over the fact that 25% of children live with a single parent. They don’t want to make the children uncomfortable if they don’t have a father. And herein lies the specious reasoning.

Everyone has a father. I know that science and the Labour government are working to change that, but for now – and certainly for any child of school age – it took a sperm and an egg. Some children may have lost their father through death. This is a terrible thing, but this has always been the case and Father’s Day has never been cancelled because of it.

It is true that there are in increasing number of children who don’t know their father. This may be because their mother doesn’t know who the father is. Or it may be because the father has been marginalised. I know of more than a few cases whether the mother has simply cut the father out of the child’s life.

In most cases, however, the child knows who the father is and even has some sort of relationship with the father, even if his is not resident in the same home. It’s these father’s who get cut out of Father’s Day. As Matt O’Connor, founder of Fathers For Justice, said: “I’m astonished at this. It totally undermines the role and significance of fathers whether they are still with the child’s mother or not. It also sends out a troubling message to young boys that fathers aren’t important.”

Alastair Noble, education officer with the charity Christian Action, Research and Education (CARE), said: “This seems to be an extreme and somewhat absurd reaction. I would have thought that the traditional family and marriage are still the majority lifestyles of people in Scotland. To deny the experience of the majority just does not seem sensible.”

An Unnamed Woman often suggests that rant too often about the “ought” instead accepting the “is”. (That is my terminology, not hers.) I was once told that I will never be successful unless I give up my pre-modern principles and accept the the ways of the modern world.  Perhaps this is true. But despite the 25% of families with a single resident parent, there are still 75% who have both parents resident. There are still most of the 25% who have a dad somewhere.

Most of all, there is still a need to remember that fathers are just as important as mothers.

Court of Appeal Rules Man Can Carry a Stick

It is a stark contrast between the right-to-carry laws in the US and the stripping of weapons in the UK and at the same time a demonstration of taxpayer money wasted in the pursuit of a political agenda.

Stuart Kennedy is a stripper who uses a police uniform as the set up for his act. He was stopped out the Paramount Bar by two real cops. They weren’t so worried about the uniform – though they did follow him to the pub to make sure he was telling the truth. There’s no indication as to whether either constables Amanda Lawson and Fiona Duncan enjoyed the show. Of course they needed to watch the whole thing to be sure. That’s right, two police women watched him on taxpayer time, just to be sure he was a real stripper. PC Lawson told the trial court, “We had never been in a situation like that before. We needed proof he was a stripper.”

But that wasn’t the issue. No, it was his truncheon that bothered them. Stuart used a real police truncheon, not a floppy imitation. The policewomen arrested him after the show. He was charged with carrying of an offensive weapon. There is an provision in the law for a “reasonable excuse” but neither the police nor the Crown Office (the prosecutor in Scotland) thought Stuart had a reasonable excuse. The sheriff (trial judge) disagreed and threw the case out of court. Both he and the general public thought it was a waste of time and money.

Not to be put off by a judge or the overwhelming common sense of the Scottish people, the Crown appealed. This time three judges told them the same thing. The full written opinion will be released at a later date, but the Court of Appeal decided not to waste anyone’s time and let it be known that the Crown’s case had failed.

There is probably no way to tally the total costs of this overblown exercise in comic jurisprudence. All of this over who can carry a stick with a handle.