You may have heard that a number of Americans are calling for a boycott of Scotland as we, as a nation are accused of pandering to the terrorists, evil doers and bond villains everywhere for releasing Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, the accused Lockerbie bomber on grounds of compassion. Not since the Uist hedgehog cull of 2003 has Scotland had to feel the wrath of a national boycott, and when that happened our shortbread industry ground to a halt, 14 bagpipe factories closed forever and the residents of Morningside were reduced to eating unsold tartan fabric for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Things have picked up but now we are subjected to yet another boycott. Searching for "boycott Scotland" on Google returns 145,000 results! Clearly the USA has already forgotten ye olde legend of balls-kicking John “Smeato” Smeaton!
From reading the comments on the boycott Scotland petition, Petition Now, The Scotman, BBC and Fox News, one thing is abundantly clear – the level of comedy. I have not laughed so much for weeks! Although those making the laughable comments will no doubt claim that laughing at such a serious matter is an admission of a love for terrorism.
It seems though, that a lot of the American commentators are unable to grasp the fact that Kenny MacAskill is separate to the Scottish people; that is that we do not eat, sleep and breathe Kenny. In fact if you were to ask a random person in Scotland only one week ago what he thought of Kenny MacAskill the reply, most likely, would have been “who?”
If we’re being cynical then Al-Megrahi (as we’ll call him from now on) isn't being released on compassion grounds, he was a patsy convicted on extremely flimsy evidence who was advised to drop his appeal for various reasons. So this being a purely political decision is probably due to new information casting doubt on his arrest and the prospect of increased British business opportunities in Libya. Bear in mind that Scotland’s “government” is a devolved government with limited powers meaning that it is not in the position to make international deals, suggesting involvement from London, if that is indeed the reason for his release.
Or, maybe he is being released because he really does only have 3 months to live and Scottish law, which can be quite distinct from English law at times, contains this curious quirk. Alex Salmond, First minister of Scotland has said "we have to do what is right in terms of our legal system, that is what we are duty-bound to do”
But it seems that this doesn’t cut if with the angry yanks. They want justice…wait didn’t I just say that this is written into Scottish law? Ah, they want Scottish law changed to conform to American law (must be that “freedom” thing they refer to!) and they want Al-Megrahi dead, even though - as has been pointed out numerous times but has so far failed to be taken on board - he may be innocent. An eye for an eye, anyone's eye!
On the sites listed above it’s hard to decipher which comments are genuine and which are parody. My favourites have been the jokes about Scots wearing kilts, because yes, we really do wear skirts every day of the year! Then you get the occasional well-written post from an American who rises above the flock but lets it slip at the last by referring to Scotland, or Britain as simply "England".
But best of all we have Americans who despite years of Lulu, Rod Stewart and the Bay City Rollers are only now ashamed of their Scottish roots, suggesting that they will never visit Scotland (again) and will never buy another Scottish thing in their lifetime (I’m sure the lucrative haggis exports will now come to an end), with some proudly claiming that they “haven’t bought French since 2003”. There are comments from restaurant and bar owners claiming that they will never again stock Scottish whiskey, with one guy boasting how he has just poured his whiskey collection down the sink! Some are even threatening to boycott things that aren’t even Scottish, because well they sound Scottish so they might just be, like Lorna Doones cookies for instance.
Not only is this all silly but it shows a distinct lack of knowledge of how world trade works, any serious boycott would reduce products and services going the other way, in other words it would do more harm than good to American business. For instance, what are Scottish whisky barrels most commonly made from? Give up? It's American Oak, and guess which country that comes from?
And if this was how people in the rest of the world based their buying decisions then perhaps very few would be buying coke and big macs, globalization would fall apart and the USA would receive very few visitors each year, although given most of the Stateside views on display, most would probably be in favour of that.
“With allies like these who needs enemies”
And then of course there are the gung-ho “Scottish people must suffer”, “Scotland has failed” and “Bomb Scottland” comments. Now Scotland needs to lose 270 lives in Iraq and Afghanistan to make up for it according to one poster (we’re well on our way and I’m sure a few friendly fire incidents will bring us up to speed) and another poster even said that he wished that Hitler had won WWII, presumably because then the Americans could boycott sauerkraut as well.
Such anger, such aggression, such frustration! What would Freud say? In times like this I am reminded of George Carlin’s “bigger dick” take on US foreign policy, “What, they have bigger dicks? Bomb them!”
There are also plenty of comments calling for the CIA to “take out” Al-Megrahi. Let’s conveniently gloss over the documents that the CIA withheld from the investigation at the time that could have proven who was really responsible and then there’s the $2m that the CIA offered to the only witness to pick out Al-Megrahi from a line-up, a Maltese shopkeeper who has now moved onto a better life in Australia.
It’s interesting to note that the week that Al-Megrahi is released is also when CIA interrogation techniques are released, which include mock executions and threats to rape detainee’s mothers. All this went on at Guantanamo Bay, a US controlled area in violation of its original terms with Cuba, terms which were probably forced upon the Cuban government anyway. Here, the limiting constraints of US and international law seemingly do not apply, where detainees are frequently tortured without any shred of evidence against them, because obviously that is how all good democracies should behave themselves. Also this week, it has become apparent that human rights abuses in Iraqi jails have not improved since the disposal of Saddam, at all.
A few months before the Lockerbie disaster, the USS Vincennes navy ship shot down Iran Air Flight 655 killing 290 innocent civilians, including 66 children.
The incident was passed of as an unfortunate accident because the crew could not differentiate between an attacking Tomcat and a passenger plane on its regular flight path at its regular time emitting a civilian signal. The crew also lied about their position in the sea and the planes position to cover their backs, i.e. they shouldn't have been where they were. To add insult to injury the crew were awarded Combat Action Ribbons, the captain received the Legion of Merit and the American government never formally apologised and in fact blamed Iran for the disaster, with George Bush snr. saying "I will never apologize for the United States of America, ever. I don't care what the facts are.”
One of the original suggestions was that the Lockerbie bombing was simply retaliation for this event, and blame was placed on Iran, Syria and then the Palestinians and only much later, and possibly due to skewed American interests, Libya. This has been brought up on practically all of the discussions, as has various forms of American terrorism: the Mai Lai massacre, The US bombing of Libya in 86, US funding for the IRA (and Libyan involvement in sale of weapons), IBMs involvement in the holocaust, US backed coups against democratic governments from all around the world etc etc etc…but getting a dignified reply is like banging your head against a wall as the average American poster seems unwilling to accept that their government does anything other than defeat the forces of evil (obviously when that consignment of weapons head off to Israel it’s to defeat terrorism, not help a country illegally expand its borders) and when the US directly or indirectly (Iraqi sanctions for example) kills innocent people it simply doesn’t equate to the loss of American life, which is why Scotland “must pay”, even though it didn’t kill anyone. In fact Pan Am Flight 103 came down in a Scottish town killing Scots, ah, but that’s because we hate America so much that we gladly invite fundamentalists to blowup things in Scotland. Some of the logic on display even gives Charles Manson’s freaky ideology credence…wait a minute, isn’t he dead yet? I thought America punished mass murderers!?
So do we hate America? If anything I think the opposite is true - that the USA has complete and utter disregard for the rest of the world. Anything that results in an embargo in cola sales in one part of the world is worth killing thousands for. American policy is to fight fire with fire, which to those outside the American bubble is clearly increasing world terrorism, and like the captain of the USS Vincennes we also have people like Paul Bremer, who made the decision to kick out thousands of Baathists from the US imposed regime in Iraq and disband the Iraqi army, leading to hundreds of thousands of angry men with no jobs but guns and a reason to use them. Was he fired? Was he reprimanded? No, of course not, he was given the “Presidential Medal of Freedom”, America's highest civil award. Bremer claims that there wasn’t much of an army left to disband after a prior CIA orchestrated leaflet-dropping campaign (conducted apparently without Bremer’s knowledge) instructing soldiers to leave their posts and return to their homes and families and the fact that well, there’s a war on, so not everyone was turning up to work. Regardless of the true number made unemployed by Bremer, there does seem to be a point into the occupation when the violence escalated and it wouldn’t be a wild stab in the dark to pin it on this decision. This could have just been the kick in the teeth that some Iraqis were waiting for…and the violence, kidnappings and suicide bombings are still happening - when was the country “liberated” again?
Essentially the message that I can see is that in the minds of the average (I’ll assume Republican Party voting) American public only American lives are worthy. The frequent mention of 270 lives lost in the Lockerbie disaster may well have said 169; the number of American lives lost in the disaster, because that seems to be all they are concerned about, the rest really are just “unpeople” as Mark Curtis and John Pilger would term then.
The dead aren't coming back and an eye for an eye does not peace make. Only this week the US are considering changing their policy in Afghanistan as it isn't working and even if this is a deal over oil, have the Americans forgotten what the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are all about anyway? Oh right, the WMDs are there somewhere…or perhaps they’re now hiding in Libya? Perhaps they might end up in Bolivia and Venezuela as well?
I just wonder how all this anti-Scottish sentiment will affect the real people of Scotland, like Susan Boyle, will she struggle to sell her debut album in the States? Will Groundskeeper Willie be killed off in the next series of the Simpsons because of a badly cooked “suicide” haggis? Will the Proclaimers be booed off stage during their US tour next month?
Surely a South Park episode is in the making?
Anyway I’ve written enough on the matter so I’m now off to love a particular abstract noun with all my might.