Thursday, 8 September 2011


It is straight from the recent TV drama Page 8 by David Hare or from a John le Carré novel. 

News continues to emerge of meetings involving CIA and MI6 spies with secret service people in the Gaddafi regime in Tripoli (20 degrees North, 0 degrees East). 

Human Rights Watch has discovered documentary evidence. The Observer reported in December 2003 on a meeting at The Travellers' Club in London (51 degrees North, 0 degrees East) between MI6 spooks, Foreign Office officials and the now infamous Moussa Koussa, long-derided by Western powers as a broker of terrorist acts across the globe. 

The meeting led to the sharing of Libyan intelligence on people being  sought by western powers as part of the War on Terror and a softening of business import/export and other sanctions on Libya. Which, of course, meant more arms sales to the Gaddafi regime.

Dominic Behan wrote the song The Patriot Game about the IRA campaign of the late 1950s.

Come all you young rebels and list' while I sing
For love of one's land is a terrible thing   
It banishes fear with the speed of a flame    
And makes us all part of the patriot game 

The song offers a telling critique of the uses of patriotism and the duplicitous worlds the patriot enters. 

Drawing together the much-trumpeted links between the Gaddafi regime and the IRA and the more muted revelations about the regime's links with the CIA and MI6 – it's probably reasonable to assume the French and Italian secret services also pledged their troths in Tripoli in recent years – guides us into Samuel Johnson territory when he castigated 'false' patriotism with his oft-quoted 
Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

We hear echoes of the last verse of Behan's song 

And now as I lie with my body all holes      
I think of those traitors who bargained and sold
I'm sorry my rifle has not done the same
For the quislings who sold out the patriot game

Will the Libyan patriots, both Gaddafi loyalists and rebels, experience such disillusion as they grieve for their comrades, make safe their futures and, hopefully as soon as possible, lay down their arms?

It comes down to business in the end. Patriotism provides great cover for corporate perfidy and enables global business to proceed without trammel.

Matlock, the quintessential le Carré secret service pragmatist, asks

What's wrong, when you come down to it, with turning black money to white, at the end of the day?..... So where would you rather see that money? Black and out there? Or white, and sitting in London in the hands of civilised men, available for legitimate purpose and the public good.'

The colour coding here is not accidental. And joined with the term 'in the hands of civilised men', located in London, it is patriotic, duplicitous and racist.

Page 8; David Hare; TV drama; BBC Films; 2011
Our Kind of Traitor; John le Carré; novel; Faber and Faber; 2010
The Patriot's Game; Dominic Behan; song

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