Saturday, 5 September 2009

Howard Jacobson: We'd already shown Megrahi compassion – by not sentencing him to death

Oh, God, they're all at it:

Howard Jacobson: We'd already shown Megrahi compassion – by not sentencing him to death

Unlike Robertson, whom Jacobson quotes, the latter permits himself to speculate on what may really have motivated the release of Megrahi. He also appears to assume (at length), that the decision to make the release was a judicial one, when it was not - it was a political one, made by the Scottish Justice Secretary, as I understand it - a point made by Robertson, as it happens. As an aside, I would also point out that Robertson chose to argue that in this case, politicians should stay out of judicial matters, apparently because they made a decision that went back on an assurance made earlier by a different politician who did get involved in a judicial matter. Except on this earlier occasion, Robertson agreed with the decision. So, politicians shouldn't get involved in judicial matters, unless Robertson agrees with the decision made?

Anyway, there is no point to Jacobson's speculation, because it merely clouds the issue - Jacobson cannot know that BP was involved in the decision, nor that more general commercial interests may have been a consideration. So why bother factoring them in - that's the stuff of conspiracy theories? Work with the verifiable facts.

My sense is that Jacobson, like Robertson, disagrees with the decision, and is determined to demonstrate its wrongness. The decision is not going to be changed, for any number of practical reasons. As such, the construction of a flawed and highly emotive argument achieves precisely nothing.

Jacobson also praises Robertson's version of compassion ("we don't hang or torture, in the UK"), and this is where the duty to show compassion begins and ends, it seems - indeed, we don't even have to show compassion ourselves, because this version of compassion is part of the system. Hmmm... What's wrong with that picture? We are excused the obligation to demonstrate forgiveness on a personal level, because we believe we've formalized compassion and can dispense it impartially at a systemic level? Yes, that'd be about fucking right, in my experience.

A question has just popped up in my mind, which will never be answered, of course, and it is this: "what is Jacobson's interest?". As far as I know, he lost no relatives or friends at Lockerbie (I stand to be corrected). Why is he getting so exercized about this? He wants justice, he says (or something of that nature). Life imprisonment, because we don't execute murderers.

An eye for an eye? It'll be the death of you, Howard.

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