Senator Bob Menendez has come a long way from the Union City, N.J. Board of Education where he began his political career. A fine practitioner of the black arts of Democrat machine politics, he has proven adept at finding populist band wagons to jump on. One was to co-legislate (with the then Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton) a ban on the sale of port and harbour businesses to foreign "governments". This was a response to the partially state owned Dubai World bidding for P&O in 2006. P&O was eventually sold, but minus its US assets, and that now means that DP World does not operate in the US- despite being one of the largest and most respected port operators in the world.
It was an anti business, populist band wagon, and Senator Menendez found it extremely congenial.
Now, in the aftermath of the horrific oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the former Mayor of Union City, N.J. is strutting his stuff on the international stage. He has found another populist whipping boy, in the shape of the Anglo-American oil giant BP, which he still thinks is called British Petroleum (sic). He has stated publicly that there is a direct link between pressure from BP and the release by the Scottish Justice Authorities of Ali Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi, the man convicted in a special court- indeed the only man convicted- of the Lockerbie bomb atrocity.
Despite firm and repeated denials by British Ministers and officials in the Scottish government, not to mention BP itself, that any such link exists, and good circumstantial evidence to support these denials, this is apparently not good enough for Sen. Menendez. He has issued requests to all and sundry to appear in Washington DC before a Senate committee that he chairs in order to respond to allegations that they have already categorically denied.
In the face of repeated refusals to attend his Kangeroo court, he has expressed himself "disappointed", and thinks it "pretty outrageous" that they will not appear. He suggests that a company "on thin ice with the American people" might want to co-operate with his efforts to understand the release of a "terrorist who murdered 189 Americans". He does not point out that 31 British people were also killed- 11 of them on the ground- and 60 others from 19 other countries also died. After all, those other nationalities will not be voting for Bob Menendez, will they?
What is outrageous is that this Tammany Hall machine pol is attempting to make such crude political capital out of the vile and disgusting crime that was committed in the skies and on the ground in Lockerbie on 21st December 1988.
I saw the aftermath, and I will never forget it.
Sen. Menendez just finds it a convenient populist political bandwagon.
There are several questions about what happened in the lead up to the atrocity, but Sen. Menendez is not proposing to address any of them. He simply intends to try to make BP- already on the ropes- the scapegoat for further unpopularity, and by doing so to raise his own profile.
For what it is worth, I will leave the last thoughts to Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was on board the Clipper Maid of the Seas, and who has been a tireless campaigner to reveal much of what has been hidden about the crime that- remember- only one single individual has ever been convicted of, and that conviction only coming in extremely controversial circumstances.
"Are we not interested that the man who has been freed... might, in fact, not be the man who was involved in causing the tragedy?"
That seems to me over-ridingly a more important question than the question of the minutiae of why he was freed."
I think the knowledge of the wider conspiracy, which has never been made public, that led to the pitiable and shocking sights in Dumfrieshire, includes many individuals in Washington itself. So if Sen. Menendez actually wants to understand the truth about the Lockerbie bomb he should perhaps be talking to people in Langley and Foggy Bottom. Perhaps, after he has done that, he may extend a more courteous invitation to a wider number of witnesses. Then, just maybe, people from Britain might indeed be interested in testifying, even in Washington DC, about the terrible and tragic crime that took place on British territory and which killed 31 British People amongst those 270 tragic deaths.
Over to You, Senator.