Now we know. That handshake in the desert wasn’t just about oil and al Megrahi. Tony Blair and Col Gaddafi, shoulder to shoulder in the war against Osama bin Laden. Of course we gave him arms – he was one of the good guys. How fitting that now, in his desperation to cling on to power, Muammar Gaddafi has resorted to the same bin Laden bogeyman that was used by President George W. Bush and Tony Blair to muster support for their repressive legislation and foreign wars.
What ever happened , though, to the bearded one? The last I heard he was hiding in a cave in Pakistan, being pursued by crack special forces units from Holywood. Daisy cutter bombs were going to smoke him out. As George W. put it: he was to be apprehended “dead or alive”. But he was always more useful alive than dead. Even the war against Iraq was justified on the grounds that al Qaeda were supposedly in league with Saddam Hussein in the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.
The last time I looked, more than half of the American public believed that al Qaeda was based in Iraq and bin Laden was orchestrating his international terrorist operations from Baghdad. Compete nonsense of course – bin Laden and Saddam were bitter enemies. Al Qaeda didn’t appear on the scene in Iraq until well after the invasion, when they entered the country to fight on the side of the insurrection against American troops. Eventually, in Baghdad at least, the Iraqi insurgents turned against their al Qaeda alllies, because of their habit of killing men without beards and beating up women with make-up.
And that’s the last we really heared about bin Laden and his devilish terrorist network. But that is the point about bin Laden. It’s the power of nightmares. He is used to justify repressive legislation in western democracies, and now to rally support behind on of the world’s worst dictators. Next time a British government calls for the suspension of human rights in the war against al Qaeda, I hope we remember.