Sunday, April 09, 2006

Elephant in the room

Is not the elephant in the room the sale of BAe’s twenty per cent share in Airbus?
As a thought experiment we could consider that one of the biggest areas of organised crime in Britain is defence and the defence procurement industry. I don’t mean this metaphorically, I mean literally. I don’t have any evidence for this - well, beyond the BAe fraud case; the revolving doors between the military, the civil service and the arms manufacturers; the gift of export credit guarantees to arms traders; a succession of dodgy MOD procurement audits; millionaire British officers “advising” gulf state sultans on defence; that kind of thing. No evidence at all. It’s just it seems obvious that where you have a massive organisation, Defence Procurement, which is a bottomless pit for Treasury money exceedingly ill spent and is massively screened from the public gaze by the Official Secrets Act, then you are looking at the potential for organised crime on a gigantic scale. And it is almost like a law of physics that were there is the potential for organised crime, then criminals will fill it. And successive governments are so mired in complicity (to put it politely) with this organised crime that the very thought of democratic investigation gives them the vapours. Once you the Prime Minister, whoever you are, have presided over this level of corruption for a year or so, you are locked in.
And so I reckon it’s quite significant that BAe is selling its stake in Airbus, the most successful civilian aeroplane manufacturer in the world - sure civil airlines are big agents of global warming but I still reckon they’re better than the military industrial complex - and investing the £4.5 billion they hope to raise in weapons of destruction (I can’t remember how many have to be killed at one go before they become weapons of mass destruction) under the aegis of the Pentagon.
This will have the effect of binding the British Government even more tightly into the - cess pit? - the horizon to horizon polluted ocean of British-American military criminality (how many billions of dollars of Iraqi money given away to criminals by the Coalition of the Willing? - I can’t remember.) It will tie American dominance even more closely into the heart of the UK government, and hasten its journey - whichever grouping is in power - towards the secret, security dominated, summary justice wielding, Parliament neutering state of which the present Prime Minister dreams and, on occasion, dreams aloud.
As for guarantees that British employment will be secure, is EADS, a company owned by those “weaker economies” of Germany, France and Spain, really going to be all that worried about job losses in the land of the Bushmonkey?
OK - a hunch isn’t enough to go on. OK - there is nothing rotten in the state of British defence procurement. There is no elephant in the room. But I am puzzled. I have here a magazine which I bought in WH Smith in November 1994. It has a photo of the lovely Mark Thatcher on the front. In a long leading article Business Age announces that of the £200 million that Wafic Said received in offset oil for the Al-Yammamah (BAe) arms deal, around £40 million went to the Thatchers via Mark Thatcher’s offshore bank accounts, and £30 million went to the Conservative Party to fight the 1987 and 1992 elections. Business Age announces that in February 1993 Mark Thatcher had £41 million on deposit in three Swiss bank accounts; that the idea of oil instead of cash came from Sir Peter Levene, head of procurement in the Ministry of Defence. And that the audit that covered up the transfer of these considerable sums to the Thatchers and the Conservative Pary was conducted by the Auditor General, Sir John Bourn, who was a former defence official working for Levene... and - it goes on, it sounds hugely paranoid, what Curious Hamster would call tin foil helmet stuff.
Oh, and that Bourn’s final report was suppressed by the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, the (New before his time?) Labour MP Robert Sheldon, who did not even allow the other members of the committee to see the report.
Maybe Business Age made it all up, and that’s why it’s never mentioned. But I still think there’s an elephant in the room. And a government not as mired as its predescessors in defence corruption would stop the sale of Airbus wings until the Serious Fraud Office had finished with BAe.

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