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Good evening, a devastating and unprecedented attack on racism in Britain’s police forces was made today in the report into the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence.  The Inquiry into the way the Metropolitan Police handled its investigation slammed its professional incompetence and poor leadership.  It concluded that the country’s entire police service suffered from institutional racism and it condemned the treatment of the Lawrence family and the failure to arrest key suspects.  ITV News at Ten 

 

 

The Macpherson Inquiry would become the watershed moment in British race relations history.  It exposed the Met ... as institutionally racist.  Stephen Lawrence: Time for Justice, BBC 2011

 

 

Stephen Lawrence: watchdog to probe police ‘corruption’: Scotland Yard has called in the police watchdog following allegations that police corruption hampered the original investigation into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence.

 

The move comes after The Independent published police intelligence reports detailing extensive allegations of corruption against a detective, John Davidson.  Following the reports, the Metropolitan Police began a trawl of documents to discover if anything was held back from the 1998 Macpherson Inquiry.  Independent 12th May 2012

 

 

The meme for blind faith secures its own perpetuation by the simple unconscious expedient of discouraging rational inquiry.  Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene

 

 

And here is the point, about myself and my co-thinkers.  Our belief is not a belief.  Our principles are not a faith.  We do not rely solely upon science and reason, because these are necessary rather than sufficient factors, but we distrust anything that contradicts science or outrages reason.  We may differ on many things, but what we respect is free inquiry, openmindedness, and the pursuit of ideas for their own sake.  Christopher Hitchens, God is Not Great

 

 

There must be no barriers to freedom of inquiry ... There is no place for dogma in science.  The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors.  J Robert Oppenheimer

 

 

Scientific principles and laws do not lie on the surface of nature.  They are hidden, and must be wrested from nature by an active and elaborate technique of inquiry.  John Dewey, Reconstruction in Philosophy

 

 

I think it only makes sense to seek out and identify structures of authority, hierarchy, and domination in every aspect of life, and to challenge them; unless a justification for them can be given, they are illegitimate, and should be dismantled, to increase the scope of human freedom.  Noam Chomsky

 

 

Such people are in for a shock.  The first section of the Scott Report, which has been widely leaked, deals with the history of arms export control.  The judge, who gleefully sequestrated the funds of the South Wales NUM during the miners’ strike, is no socialist or rebel.  His attitude to government control of arms exports is that it has been far too strict.

 

He is disgusted that the government has used a short draconian measure passed during the wartime emergency of 1939, which effectively gave ministers complete power over all arms exports.  This, the Lord Justice thinks, is an appalling interference with the inalienable right of businessmen to export what they want, including the means of slaughter.  He believes that, if the government wants to control such commendable free enterprise, it must move cautiously with carefully constructed statutes which allow enormous leeway for free marketeers.  Paul Foot, article May 1995, ‘Arms Dealing: Will They Get Off Scot Free?’

  

The advantages of arms exports are obvious.  They produce a high return, and can be kept utterly secret from the public.  They are in constant demand all over the world.  Yet their disadvantages lead to equally obvious problems.  Arms are needed most where wars are being waged – wars which ‘responsible’ democratic governments such as the British government are usually trying (at any rate in public statements at the United Nations) to stop.

 

The big conflicts which are the real honeypot for the arms exporting industries are almost always subject to embargoes.  The Iran-Iraq war was no exception.  To keep up its wholly unjustified reputation as a peacekeeper, the British government had to be seen to be discouraging arms exports to either side.

 

Hence the notorious ‘guidelines’ to industry, announced in parliament in 1985, which banned the export of any ‘lethal equipment’ to the warring countries.  Against the guidelines were ranged all those who wanted to make money by killing Iranians or Iraqis.  These exporters had considerable support in the ministry of defence and the department of trade.  Alan Clark, a wild Thatcherite eccentric, served in both ministries from 1986 to 1992, and went on record as denouncing the guidelines.  If there was a war between two sets of foreigners a long way away, he argued, why not make some decent foreign exchange by selling both sides as many arms as they wanted?  ibid.

 

The Gulf War quickly tore the uneasy compromise apart.  The embargo had to be imposed more fiercely than ever.  All sorts of curious characters were caught up in the process.  Three British directors of Matrix Churchill, a Midlands firm owned by Iraqi government supporters which had been happily exporting machine tools for use in Saddam’s artillery factories, suddenly found themselves prosecuted.

 

Their defence was that the government and MI6 had supported them throughout.  When their defence was proved by documents wrung from a reactant civil service, the case collapsed – and the government nearly collapsed too.  Major survived only by setting up the Scott inquiry and giving it more powers to wrest the facts from the government machine than had ever been given to any public inquiry in British history.

 

As a result, Scott found himself beavering away in the cracks of the system.  Since the whole ‘solution’ to the arms for Iran-Iraq problem had been based on lying to parliament and the public, Scott was horrified to discover an enormous network of deceit.  There can be no doubt that his report will be a hideous embarrassment to government ministers, law officers and the civil service.

 

Even if, as seems likely, he lets the merchants of death off lightly, he cannot excuse, for instance, serial deception of parliament and blatant contempt for the most basic rules of fair play to defendants.  The shortcomings of the whole saga quickly fade beside the altogether exhilarating prospect of at least some official confirmation of what socialists have always propounded: that lying, cheating and double talk are not just incidental to the system.  They are essential to it.  ibid.

 

 

One of the reasons the ruling class in this society survive is because they keep from us what they do in spite of parliamentary institutions.  The ruling class have to protect themselves against democracy and that’s what this story is about.

 

The Scott inquiry is the most important public inquiry ever held in the history of British politics for this reason.

 

It was set up in a tremendous panic.  The government had their backs to the wall, and in order to convince people that it wasn’t just another whitewash they insisted all the old rules about previous inquiries would be dispensed with.  Paul Foot, lecture Marxism 95 conference & article What Have They Got to Hide? Tories, Arms & The Scott Report 19th August 1995

 

This difference between selling them arms and saying they were not selling lethal equipment went on until three politicians – Sir Richard Loose, Sir Adam Butler and Paul Channon – decided that something ought to be done about it.  These three had all – by complete coincidence – been at university together and they were the ministers of state at the foreign office, the defence ministry and the department of trade.

 

They drew up a series of guidelines.  The first was that we should maintain our consistent refusal to supply any lethal equipment to either side.  The second was that, subject to that overriding consideration, we will attempt to fulfil existing contracts and obligations.  Huge sighs of relief went through all the big companies which sell arms equipment.  The third added we should not in future approve orders for defence equipment which in our view would significantly enhance the capability of either side to prolong the conflict.

 

Then a curious thing happens.  Having decided on these guidelines, the three decide they are not going to publish them.  Why?

 

The guidelines went to the prime minister – Margaret Thatcher – and she said, ‘Hold on a minute.  I am negotiating the biggest arms deal in the history of the world with Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia are friendly with Iraq.’

 

They didn’t publish the guidelines for a whole year until Thatcher and Michael Heseltine – who declares himself completely clean on all these matters – signed the £20 billion contract.  ibid.

 

At The end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988 there was enthusiasm in the West because Saddam Hussein was building up a whole armoury in Iraq.  There was a tremendous opportunity to make money.

 

The problem was the guidelines.  So in December 1988 three ministers of state – Waldegrave at the foreign office, Alan Clark at the Ministry of Defence and Trefgarne at the department of trade – held a secret meeting to devise new guidelines.

 

They changed the rules so it was alright to send arms for defence.  As a result the amount of equipment that went to Iraq grew by ten times in the first year and by 100 times by the time the scandal came to light.

 

These three ministers decided not to publish the fact they had changed the guidelines.  ibid.

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