The meaning of dictatorship 265

Western misunderstandings and misreporting help make the world a worse and more dangerous place.” Barry Rubin writes.

We agree.

The example he gives is the misunderstanding and misreporting of the firing of rockets into Israel from Gaza, the territory Hamas rules dictatorially.

If I had to pick one paragraph that shows what’s profoundly wrong with Middle East coverage in the Western mass media, it would be from the following New York Times article: “A rocket fired from Gaza fell close to a kindergarten in an Israeli village on Tuesday morning. Earlier, the Israel Air Force struck several targets in Gaza in retaliation for a recent increase in rocket and mortar shell fire. Small groups appear to be behind the fire, but Israel says it holds Hamas, the Islamist organization that governs Gaza, responsible.”

What the West, or a powerful part of it at least, the news media, seem not to understand – Rubin rightly points out – is that Hamas is a dictatorship, a totalitarian tyranny.

“Small groups” do not operate freely to attack a neighboring country from a totalitarian tyranny.

What [Hamas] wants to happen happens; what it doesn’t want to happen doesn’t happen, or if it does, someone is going to pay severely for it. There are smaller groups allied with Hamas, notably Islamic Jihad.

Nothing could be more obvious than the fact that Hamas uses these groups as fronts so it can attack Israel and then deny responsibility for doing so.

Of course it may be that the New York Times, and the media generally, are disingenuous, and know perfectly well that when Islamic Jihad fires rockets on Israel it is Hamas who “permits” – ie requires – the group to do so. That would mean that the Western media are largely sympathetic to Hamas and only too happy to  help the Islamic tyrants put out their propaganda lies.

Impossible to believe? Or at least an exaggeration, an unfair accusation? Funnily enough, without stretching our imagination in the slightest, we find we can believe it. In fact, we’re convinced of it.

Yet we also believe that the West does find it hard to grasp what a dictatorship  is; how a totalitarian tyranny operates.

Take the case of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, for instance. He’s the man who was found guilty of placing the bomb in the PanAm plane that blew up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie on December 21, 1988.

On strong evidence of his involvement, the US and Scotland indicted him in November 1991, and requested his extradition from Libya. Colonel Gaddafi refused the request for three years, but eventually, under diplomatic pressure, let him go to be tried in the Netherlands under Scottish law. His trial lasted from May 3, 2000, to January 31, 2001, when he was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.

He served less that nine years. In August 2009 he was released and returned to Libya. The excuse the Scottish authorities made for letting him go was that he was dying of cancer and had only about three months to live. Fifteen months later he is still alive, and WikiLeaks have confirmed what was strongly suspected: that his release had actually been part of a British trade deal with Colonel Gaddafi, and the “compassionate grounds” for it had been a hunk of baloney. (See our posts, Oily gassing villainous politicians, August 23, 2009, and Being really nice to democratic Libya, September 28, 2009.)

We recall all this because the Megrahi case is another example of the West’s misunderstanding – whether genuine or sham – of the nature of dictatorship.

There are no freelance terrorists running round in Gaddafi’s Libya. Gaddafi is the dictator of Libya, and Megrahi was a  highly-place official in his intelligence service.

The only person in Libya who can give the order for an American civil aircraft to be bombed, is Colonel Gaddafi himself. He would leave the detailed planning to his underlings.

When he finally handed Megrahi over for trial, he no doubt promised his man that he, Gaddafi, would do everything he could to get him back. Which he did. Megrahi was the tyrant’s fall-guy – which is not to say that he wasn’t active in carrying out the atrocity, but he would never have thought of doing it, would not have been able to do it, and would have had absolutely no reason to do it on his own initiative. He carried out a Libyan operation for the autocratic ruler of Libya. He served his master well, even enduring over eight years of imprisonment for him. Not once in his trial did he try to save himself by saying that he was carrying out Gaddafi’s orders. No wonder the dictator received his faithful servant with open arms and a hero’s welcome when Megrahi stepped out of the plane that flew him back to Libya, and to what passes for freedom in that unfree land.