MacAskill : Bush-Thatcher Infamous Phone Call

In his book, Kenny MacAskill writes (p 42):

« The US investigative columnist Jack Anderson had revealed in January 1990 that on the very day Channon was in the Garrick Club [March 16 1989], Margaret Thatcher took a call from President H. W. Bush, who asked her to ‘cool it’. »

This is however untrue. According to the source, it is Margaret Thatcher who called Bush!

In his piece, Jack Anderson wrote:

« Thatcher called Bush on the phone. In that conversation, they agreed that neither could stand the political heat of making the evidence public because both were impotent to retaliate. »

And this was the analysis made by Paul Foot:

A clue to Thatcher’s attitude at the time came in an article in the Washington Post the following January (1990) by the celebrated American columnist Jack Anderson and Dale Van Atta. The article started with the surprising revelation: “President Bush and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher secretly agreed last spring to play down the truth about who blew up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

‘After both leaders had intelligence reports pointing the finger at a terrorist hired by Ayatollah Khomeini, Thatcher called Bush. In that conversation they agreed that neither could stand the political heat of making the evidence public because both were impotent to retaliate.’

The article went on to reveal that in March 1989, just a few months after the bombing, intelligence in both the United States and Britain had discovered the culprits for the Lockerbie bombing. They were terrorists under the control of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) under the leadership of Ahmed Jibril. Anderson and Van Atta asserted that in July 1988, soon after the shooting down by a US warship of an Iranian airbus over the Persian Gulf, Jibril had gone to Iran and struck a deal with the authorities there to blow up an American plane in revenge.

The article continued: ‘When the intelligence reports began to leak last March, Thatcher called Bush to discuss their problem. Bush didn’t argue when Thatcher suggested that they low-key the findings’.

After the call, word was quickly passed to top officials conducting the Pan Am investigation that they were not to make any off-the-record remarks implicating Jibril or Iran in Britain.”

Jack Anderson’s contacts in high Washington politics were impeccable and it seems most unlikely that his report of the phone call was entirely wrong. What he may have missed was the relevance of the date of the call, which he gave as “mid-March” 1989 –precisely the time of the row in the press and the House of Commons about Mr. Channon and the Garrick lunch. If the top level call did take place at that time, it was most probably inspired by the headlines following the Channon lunch. No doubt poor Paul Channon was among the first to taste the fury of his Prime Minister about his indiscretions at the Garrick.

But there was something else about Anderson’s speculation which didn’t quite ring true: the notion that George Bush and Margaret Thatcher would agree a “low key” approach solely because they could not do anything to avenge themselves and the Lockerbie relatives on Iran. Just as likely was the fear in both their minds that the Lockerbie bombing had exposed a gaping hole in their intelligence services which would, if the matter was fully aired, be proved to have been incompetent to stop a murderous plot they knew about.

At any rate, the Anderson article provided some explanation for the curious official silence of both heads of state after March 1989.”

Incidentally, « The Clinton Tapes » revealed a very similar behavior of Bill Clinton following the TWA 800 tragedy.

« Iran wants war. If we acknowledge a missile attack, we will have to go to war. For national security purposes, we cannot let that happen. »

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4 Responses to MacAskill : Bush-Thatcher Infamous Phone Call

  1. Craig says:

    I think there was a mutual pact agreed due to and because of Iran but I’m sceptical of phone calls and the like to enforce this, particularly at this level. Don’t get me wrong I think the information was suppressed but I’m not convinced about telephone calls.

    The Glasgow Herald. February 3, 1989
    ‘Libya Link to Lockerbie’,668238&hl=en

    This story has got Vince Cannistrato written all over it.
    Within the article there is a sliver of truth which through multiple strands of misinformation is hidden.
    One of the issues I have with the article is the timing, early Feb 1989 for a press report to appear noting Libya !
    On what basis ?


  2. Craig says:,1174988&hl=en

    ‘Lord Advocate condemns Lockerbie speculation’
    4 February, 1989

    The headline would be respected at the time but rightly not in this day and age.


  3. George Thomson says:

    Dale Van Atta should appear in our next Lockerbie film on Al Jaz. I met him at his home where we filmed him, he is a very interesting guy and obviously had very good contacts. He confirms the Thatcher/Bush call and from the background information he was able to discuss with us in confidence I have no reason to doubt him.


  4. Scott says:

    google news link is very interesting Craig. Fraser quote – “Whether this is to mislead or dislocate the investigation or whether is is being done with a view to settling old scores very little related to the Lockerbie, tragedy I will not say”. He can’t be referring to Forth’s David Johnston or the CBS reporters referred to later in the article.


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