I feel compelled to put down a few thoughts on the compassionate release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi from a Scottish prison. There has been quite an uproar against the release of this man, the only convicted perpetrator of the Lockerbie bombing in 1988. Al-Megrahi was released because Scotland has a clause which allows the release of an inmate when they are shown to be in the last months of their lives, so that they can spend their dying time with family in their home. This release of a terrorist has sparked great debate, some people even going so far as to claim al-Megrahi may become a suicide bomber once he is back in Lybia. The few pictures I have seen of al-Megrahi do not appear to be someone who would be capable of any terrorist act in his current condition. He is suffering late stages of prostate cancer, and is estimated to have three months to live. The issue was even important enough for President Obama to speak out against this action by the Scottish legal system.
The upset is not at all the issue of where one should spend their last months of life. The latest number that I have heard is around 70% of Americans want to die at home with family (what this compassionate release allows for), although only about 25% actually do. In theory, we don't have a problem with dieing at home, although functionally it seems we don't know how to make this wish a reality. But let's save that conundrum for another occasion, shall we?
The inconsistency I want to talk about today, as the title suggests, is that of sovereignty. In the last few years especially, the US has exercised our right to sovereignty many times. Wiretapping of questionable legality? It's our sovereign right. "Secret" interrogation sites in various countries? Our sovereign right. Holding individuals without charge and possibly outside Geneva conventions? Our sovereign right. Aggressive interrogation methods, the same as those for which we have charged other countries with war crimes in the past? Our sovereign right. Preemptive strike? Our sovereign right. See a pattern here?
However, when we look at the US's interactions with other countries just in the past few weeks, the picture is very different. The ability to exercise one's own laws without interference from another country? Not a sovereign right. The current administration has "expressed repeatedly...that Megrahi should serve out his sentence in Scotland" and Secretary of State Clinton and the White House have both been putting pressure on Scotland not to abide by Scotland's own laws on this matter. There's also the recent Swiss banking to-do which basically gets UBS to disregard Swiss laws in favor of helping the US collect names of Americans who have funds at the Swiss bank UBS. Of course, we can't forget the incursion on Iraq's sovereignty in 2003 as well. Apparently, only the US has sovereign rights that deserve protection from outside influence. I had hoped that our method of relating to out nations would change after the election of Obama, but that hope is starting to wear thin.