11A045 A Tale of Two Gulfs by Jim Davies, 2/14/2011    

Once government is allowed to exist, it will engage itself with businesses. The result will be a tangled web, and this Tale tells of one such tangle.

In 1951 the government of Iran under Mohammad Mosaddegh nationalized the oil company which later became British Petroleum (BP.) That was an act of naked theft, of course, but in response the CIA and the British MI6 organized a coup, which displaced Mosaddegh and earned the hatred of Iranians, which remains to this day and lay beneath the 1979 kidnapping of US diplomats. If BP had handled its own loss without government intervention, none of that would have happened and this Tale would not be here for the telling; but alas the company turned to government for help - and got it.

Resulting bad relations between the two governments led the Feds to station warships in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq War, and one of them, the USS Vincennes, was there in 1988. Commander Rogers, allegedly believing his vessel under attack by an Iranian F-14, ordered it shot down - but it turned out to be a passenger aircraft, flight IR655. All 290 aboard were killed. All aboard the Vincennes were later awarded Combat Action Ribbons by the Federal Government, which also stole some more tax money to compensate the families of the 290 victims.

Later in 1988, a flight from London to New York was bombed out of the sky over Scotland, killing all aboard PA103 and some in their homes on which it fell, total 270 dead. Subsequent, painstaking investigation found the bomb had been placed on the aircraft first in Malta by a Libyan government agent called Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, then transferred to PA103 in Frankfurt. The Feds were also on bad terms with Libya, but a strong unproven rumor persists that the Libyan one was acting in concert with the Iranian government, so as to deal a "tit for tat" revenge for the loss of IR655. al-Megrahi was subsequently found, arrested, tried, convicted in 2001 and imprisoned in Scotland for "life."

In 2009 al-Megrahi applied for and obtained release on the grounds of compassion; he had prostate cancer and was expected to live for only three months. Today, eighteen months later, he is still alive in Libya, and indignation is growing in both the UK and the US that the release was negotiated so as to improve trade relations with Libya, notably regarding oil. Funny thing, but the company pressing hardest for that improvement was BP.

As everyone knows, BP suffered an accident in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, and I was struck at the time how the US media and government were so hostile. The company may have been negligent, but accidents do happen, yet everything its spokesmen said was given nasty interpretations by the Press, and the Feds shook it down for $20 billion to hand out to those affected. The hostility seems to me to arise from US resentment about the Megrahi release.

The hostility continues, and is echoed in the UK itself - whose present government blames the previous one for allowing it to happen. This weekend guilt was pinned even on Prince Andrew, in the belief that he played some part in the deal with Libya. I doubt if he's smart enough. Meantime, the lesson is clear: when honest enterprise gets into bed with government, people die. Some blame companies for that; I blame government. If government wasn't there, companies would have no option but to stand on their own feet.

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