|Founded||15 February 1996|
The Scott Report (Report of the Inquiry into the Export of Defence Equipment and Dual-Use Goods to Iraq and Related Prosecutions) was a judicial inquiry commissioned in 1992 purportedly to investigate the Arms-to-Iraq affair. The lengthy inquiry was conducted by Sir Richard Scott, then a Lord Justice of Appeal, who published his report on 15 February 1996.
Following publication the then Shadow Foreign Secretary Robin Cook called for implementation of Scott's recommendations in full. However, since coming to power in May 1997, Tony Blair's Labour government failed to introduce the changes advised by the Scott Report:
- "The current legislation is appallingly outdated ... it allows export controls to be used for any purpose whatever the government desires to use them for" said Lord Scott in 2001.
- 1 Long-awaited inquiry report
- 2 Allegations upheld
- 3 Extended conflict
- 4 Oh! What a Lovely War
- 5 WMD
- 6 Howe Guidelines
- 7 US connection
- 8 End-user nations
- 9 Al Yamamah
- 10 Invading Kuwait
- 11 Sacrificial lamb
- 12 Public Interest Immunity Certificates
- 13 Last February's fish and chips
- 14 Related Documents
- 15 References
Long-awaited inquiry report
Three and a half years in the making, Sir Richard Scott’s long-awaited inquiry report thumped on to the desks of quivering crown ministers in February 1996. Scott was charged with investigating Britain’s own murky “Iraqgate”. Amongst other things he reveals how governments daily side-step domestic democratic controls in pursuit of reckless foreign policy. Also laid bare was the secret UK-USA policy to supply Iraq with anything that goes “bang” - from tanks, to chemical and nuclear weapons... even after Saddam invaded Kuwait!
There has been nothing like it in British history. Traditionally one of the most secretive and unaccountable democracies in the world, Britain’s elite were reported to be quailing in fear as it realised that Sir Richard Scott was a “loose canon.” Determined to get to the core of government culpability in a series of mega-explosive allegations, the independently-minded Sir Richard Scott laboured under a welter of evidence: 200,000 official documents, 88 days of oral testimony from scores of government ministers and their officials, dozens of unidentified operatives from within the security and intelligence community plus those shadowy businessmen whose trade is death.
At stake was the government's cynical and hypocritical mishandling of its ultra-secret weapons exports. Additional allegations focused on a government-led conspiracy to prejudice the outcome of a criminal prosecution against Matrix Churchill - a small Iraqi owned, British based and managed armaments manufacturer. Scott was also charged with investigating serious charges that the government had repeatedly “misled” Parliament, lied to the public, and undermined the 300-year-old constitution.
By any reading, Scott upholds all three allegations; adding a few of his own for good measure. Once sufficient to bring any accountable government tumbling to its scabbed knees, the carefully worded report was subjected to acrimonious debate in Parliament. Bruised, battered and reeling under incessant Parliamentary and media assault the government scraped a technical victory and by the slimmest of partisan votes - 320 against 319 - survived to export another day. Twenty four hours later, the whole affair - arguably the biggest political scandal in decades - disappeared as though tossed off the edge of the planet, stark testimony to the integrity of British journalism. If nothing else this inspiring media event confirmed Dr Samuel Johnson’s favourite 16th century homily:
- "Thank God you cannot bribe or twist, the honest English journalist, for seeing what he will do, for free, there is no occasion to.” (A witty and early pre-cursor to Noam Chomsky’s media propaganda model.)
The back-drop to Scott was the secret British and American policy to arm Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, whilst also carefully regulating weapons supplies to both combatants to prevent either side “from winning the war.” Deceitfully packaged - even to this day - as an honest desire to bring the conflict to an early halt, the reality behind weapons exports was more serpentine and a great deal more cynical. An extended conflict - eventually lasting eight years - was clearly recognised as an economic bonus to UK Ltd. The massive profits derived from weapons exports to both combatants was the singular “engine” that drove early British policy and, despite a later shift in emphasis, remained the central theme.
It was understood by government ministers’ that their promotion of the armaments manufacturers self interest - purposely fuelling a war then sitting back growing comfortably richer - would have been repugnant to the public. For this reason it was kept secret. Domestic anxiety over the continuing war led the government to deviously announce that it would adopt a “neutral, impartial and even-handed” stance in the conflict. Secure in the knowledge that it sat atop of a voraciously secret regime, it cunningly added it would only provide “non-lethal” defence equipment to both combatants. This moral “add on” went a long way to easing public disquiet. Secretly however, Ministers “had agreed that although lethal arms and ammunition would not be supplied to either side, every opportunity should be taken to exploit Iraq’s potentialities as a promising market for the sale of defence equipment; and to this end ‘lethal items’ should be interpreted in the narrowest possible sense, and the obligations of neutrality as flexibly as possible.”
Oh! What a Lovely War
This covert decision reflected wider geopolitical pressures. As early as 1981, Britain’s publicly stated position had run into increasing difficulties. Unable to reconcile its public posture to the longer-term interests of its closest allies and business partners, and following severe behind-the-scenes pressure from the US, and the Gulf states - in particular Saudi Arabia - the fig-leaf position of neutrality was secretly abandoned in favour of Iraq. This change was later outlined in the remarkably frank admission of Alan Clark (Minister of State for Defence 1989-92) during cross-examination in the 1992 Matrix Churchill trial. No longer a member of the government, Clark mischievously revealed that “the interests of the West were best served by Iran and Iraq fighting each other, and the longer the better.” Intentional Western prolongation of the war became de rigueur.
Clark, right-wing playboy son of Lord Clark, is a respected historian in his own right, was personally frustrated by what he viewed as government hypocrisy. Left to his own devices he would have exported far greater quantities of lethal materiel to both Iran and Iraq. Immensely rich, (occasionally resorting to selling an odd masterpiece or two, to keep the beast from the door - In 1984 it was the turn of a “Turner” painting sold for £7.4 million) he authored "The Donkeys" - paradoxically adapted by Sir Richard Attenborough for the antiwar movie "Oh! What a Lovely War". He is known as an outspoken maverick, as we shall see. However, it is clear from his comments that both combatants were to be horribly bled, economically and materially, into an endless stalemate from which it was hoped they would not easily recover: Iran for its dangerous fundamentalism that threatened “friendly” Gulf oil states plus some revenge for taking US hostages during Jimmy Carter’s Presidential watch. Iraq, the lesser evil empire of the two, because of Saddam Husssein’s recognised megalomania and expansionist tendencies that threatened Western interests in the Middle East.
By early 1984, the media disseminated widespread reports that Iraq had used chemical weapons. A UN report published in March 1994 confirmed the use of WW1 mustard gas and the far more sinister WW11 Nazi nerve gas Tabun. Iran too, came in for widespread criticism for its use of young children as front line infantry soldiers. Pressed in the House of Commons to confirm that chemical weapons would not be supplied to either combatant, Geoffrey Pattie (Minister for Defence Procurement) stated “we do not intend to authorise the supply of any item which might assist Iran or Iraq to wage chemical warfare during the current conflict.” The carefully drafted Parliamentary answer was wide open to abuse. In particular the words “intend,” “authorise,” “assist” and “current conflict” are noteworthy for their flexibility. For a public weaned on the concept that “what you mean is what you say”, the Scott affair has proved to be an eye opening journey through an Alice in Wonderland world of double-speak and hidden meaning. As we shall see chemical pre-cursors were, in fact, shipped to Iraq, destined for use in its chemical warfare programme. So too, were machine tool components vital for Saddam’s much desired nuclear weapons factories.
Disturbed at increasing public distaste for the war in the light of these revelations, the then Foreign Secretary, Geoffrey Howe, announced in 1985, a strict set of measures covering weapons exports to Iraq and Iran. Under bitter discussion for a year or more they would, henceforward be known as the “Howe Guidelines.” Not worth the paper the ink had just dried on, they were another shining example of flexible and deceptive wording. Nonetheless they were good PR and again stilled public unease. The guidelines are also a masterful example of careful drafting and demonstrate that government rarely means what it says, and never says what it means.
By some convoluted alien logic only understood by Whitehall Mandarins, their political bosses and senior executives from the armaments industry, the concept of “lethal” does not stretch to include artillery shells, Main Battle Tanks, Multiple Rocket Launchers, a truly massive gun-barrel (supergun) launch sites for Exocet anti-ship missiles, plus a whole host of other pyrotechnical devices and objects that go “bang.” “Non-lethal” on the other hand does, it appears, include highly sophisticated machine tools capable of producing upwards of 500,000 assorted artillery shells annually, as well as special lathes destined to develop nuclear warheads. Somewhere between a Dictionary’s heaven and hell is another Whitehall phrase: “Diversionary Routes.” When one has an official policy that precludes openly exporting sensitive “defence equipment” to a “restricted” destination, one doesn’t actually export it. No sir. It’s as crystal clear and as simple as that. Maybe.
What you do is cajole or bribe (or both) a friendly smaller nation to act as a “front.” For a percentage of the cost, they’ll sign the all important “end user” certificates promising not to on-ship weapons to the proscribed nation. That they will ship weapons onward is precisely the point. This is one reason why Jordan permitted Iraq to finance, build and staff a large section of its major seaport, Aqaba, from which an endless supply of western war materiel was trucked across land to bolster Saddam’s flagging soldiers. It is also a major reason why Britain “deliberately encouraged” Jordan to act as an end-user “front” for the sale of “twenty-nine ARV’s” (Armoured Reconnaissance Vehicles).” In a classified Security Service (MI5) note dated 26 May 1983, obtained by Scott, was the disclosure that “In view of the restrictions imposed on the sale of war material to Iraq and Iran, Iraq has been using Jordan as an intermediary.” Noticeably, the vaunted “Howe Guidelines” didn’t include Jordan as one of the proscribed destinations.
Shipped via Jordan in February 1985 were a number of Chieftain Main Battle Tank spares for use in captured British made Iranian tanks, earlier supplied by Her Majesty’s masters of deceit. Jordan, it turns out, didn’t have any Chieftain tanks. In July 1985 a supply of NBC (Nuclear, Biological & Chemical) “packs” for use in MBTs (Main Battle Tanks) were also shipped to Jordan despite serious reservations from a Ministry of Defence expert, Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Glazebrook. An honest man, Glazebrook was naïve enough to believe the existing export “Guidelines” were meant to be followed. 600 NBC respirators were treated in much the same way. Additional shipments of Chieftain tanks spares, NBC equipment and other materiel were sanctioned over Lt-Col Glazebrook’s objections.
Becoming a thorn in the side, Glazebrook was ultimately side-stepped and a welter of sensitive “export applications” were approved without his knowledge. By August 1990, following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait “40 wagon loads of tank spares and L64 APFS (armour piercing fin-stabilised) discarding sabot 115mm tank rounds” were approved - following a lunch between King Hussein of Jordan and Margaret Thatcher, then Prime Minister. Shipped aboard the Yugoslavian freighter Tara bound for Aqaba, the consignment reached Iraq, its real end-user. Sufficiently worried that Saddam may get hold of some really useful “kit” to use against allied soldiers, an undisclosed number of LAW anti tank missiles forming part of the original Tara cargo were temporarily withheld. However, these were given final approval in Autumn 1991, some months after Desert Storm had turned Iraq into a crater, extinguishing the lives of tens of thousands of Iraqi troops by dropping air-fuel explosives on them. These neat little bombs detonate above ground level spreading a wide vapour trail that is then ignited. The result is that oxygen is drawn out of the lungs of those below in a horrifying gush of combustion. They are equally effective against troops dug in below ground as they are against above ground personnel. Survivability is virtually zero.
Shipping weapons to the enemy in time of war is not a new phenomenon. The use by UK Ltd of Jordan to act as a “front” was likewise reflected in the USA. William Casey, DCI at the Central Intelligence Agency, saw Jordan as the “perfect front for covert US operations, whether they involved intelligence-sharing or arms.” Fred Haobsh, a Jordanian born US citizen, worked for the CIA as a contractor and skated around the middle east collecting intelligence for his employers. It was dangerous work. Meeting up with Saddam Hussein’s weapons procurement officer in Jordan, he received a shopping list of weapons and war materiel needed by Iraq’s greedy war machine. As with the UK, these included components for both CBW and nuclear weapons, particularly “Tungsten carbide cutting heads for computer controlled lathes… blocks of graphite of particular specifications and dimensions.” Haobsh returned to the US and met his CIA “handlers” in a Washington safe house for debriefing. Happy to work for Uncle Sam he began to worry as the meeting continued. The intelligence he had gathered seemed to be of little interest to his handlers. What they wanted, he concluded was “to sell weapons to Iraq.” By February 2 1991, Desert Storm's air war was in its fourteenth day. As hundreds of allied sorties continued to be flown in a round-the-clock air superiority and bombing campaign, Haobsh returned from a trip to Tunis with an urgent Iraqi request for a consignment of “Soviet-made shoulder-operated surface-to-air-missiles (SAMs).” Both his handlers were keen to help: “Great, now we’re going to sell Saddam some missiles,” one of them enthused. Now acutely worried, Haobsh asked for a letter confirming he was acting on behalf of the CIA, “in case I was prosecuted,” he later revealed. The request went unfulfilled and Haobsh, now desperately wanting out, refusing to take any more calls from the cool dudes at Langley Enterprises Inc.
Apart from Jordan, a number of other end-user nations acting as “fronts” were able to divert considerable quantities of materiel to Iraq. A Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS) minute dated 29 November 1984 notes “links between Egypt and Iraq in the CW field” and goes on to observe that evidence of those links is “quite conclusive.” No problemo’s, man! Despite this obvious intelligence an export licence by ISC Chemicals Ltd., to tranship a quantity of hydrogen fluoride (HF) to Egypt (destined for Iraq) was sanctioned. This approval followed a visit to Egypt by Trade Minister Tim Renton. Hydrogen fluoride is a known pre-cursor for the nerve gas Sarin, which formed one of the ingredients in the “cocktail” of chemicals dropped on the unsuspecting citizens of Halabja - “a brew of hydrogen cyanide, tabun, sarin and sulphuric mustard gas.” Interestingly, UK Ltd has a long and devious involvement with the Nazi nerve agents, Sarin, Tabun and Soman. In their book “Rat Lines”, authors Mark Aarons and John Loftus reveal that following WW11, British agents successfully negotiated with a Nazi war criminal to obtain the necessary formulae of these gases. Satisfied, they then aided in the Nazi’s flight from justice - to South America. The war criminal was none other than Dr Joseph Mengele - Auschwitz’s notorious “White Angel”, a monster guilty of the most vile medical experiments in the Hitler’s abominable death-camps. All in a day’s work for the boys who brought a wide-eyed world such thrilling media extravaganzas as: “Nuremberg Trials R US.”
Egyptian “end-user” certificates were available to anyone prepared to pay $25,000.00 according to oral testimony given Scott by two unnamed intelligence operatives. Egypt was also the “opaque” destination of over one million “Proximity” and “Point Detonating Fuses” produced between November 1986 and July 1987 by the Scottish based munitions manufacturer Allivane International Ltd. Fuses of this sort are an obvious and indispensable component of large brass tubes packed with cordite and other explosive chemicals that are propelled at great speed out of the nozzles of howitzers. They are thus, in the jargon, agreeably “non-lethal.” Naturally. The fuses ended up in Iraq.”
Other defence equipment including “missile spares” - camouflaged as “tractor spares” on the manifest - was freighted aboard a container ship bound, apparently, for Kuwait but diverted to Iraq. Saudi Arabia acted in a similar capacity diverting 15,000 rounds of 155mm ammunition to Iraq as part of another Allivane contract. Gerald James, former Chairman of the munitions firm, Astra Holdings, gave evidence to the Inquiry that an additional supply of artillery ammunition and a large percentage (up to 100) of Black Hawk Helicopter gunships sold to Saudi Arabia were destined for Iraq. They formed part of the massive £20 billion Al Yamamah arms deal negotiated by an exultant Margaret Thatcher - full-time senior salesman for UK Ltd, one-time, part-time Premier, and now a poorly-dentured Baroness-cum-harridan. To this day the Al Yamamah deal remains a “state secret”. James visited Saudi to negotiate the supply of weapons for the helicopters. His contact, an unnamed Saudi Prince, openly confirmed that a number of the gunships and ammunition would be “re-routed” to Iraq.
Scott, in reviewing this interesting piece of evidence concludes that this did not, in fact, occur. But here one must be extremely careful in sifting the facts. Scott goes into some detail regarding “reliable” evidence, the obvious inference being that James is less than reliable. Quite why or how he reached this conclusion is, to me, a mystery. It may have had a lot to do with his reliance on documentary evidence, all of which was provided by an ever obliging government bureaucracy. However, we do now know that the Al Yamamah contract included some very nasty and unusual items, which, presumably, Sir Richard Scott was not made privy to. A British Aerospace salesman secretly caught on film and broadcast during a TV documentary in January 1995 boasted that a consignment of 15,000 “electronic batons’ were exported to Saudi Arabia “hidden away” in the Al Yamamah deal. The “batons” capable of 40,000 volts (plus) are used for the most horrendous forms of torture. Britain’s role in providing torture equipment speaks volumes. “Leg Irons” - routinely applied to cause mind-wrenching and agonisingly painful lacerations - are manufactured by a British firm that boasts continuous production since the days of slavery. Nice touch of history! Cleverly scuttling around restrictive legislation (with government’s tacit agreement - a “nod and a wink”) the firm changed the name to “Leg Cuffs.” Thereafter the “irons” were shipped to the USA, where the two inch chain connecting the “cuffs” was extended to twelve inches and then re-shipped to the intended destination of torture. Usually Africa, the Middle and Far East.
Returning to the pyrotechnic trail: Austria and Portugal also come in for a cursory glance from Scott. Both nations re-routed large quantities of ammunition components to Iraq. Quite apart from the “diversionary” routes, UK Ltd., was happy to engage in other forms of neat business practice, presumably for a commission? Fortunate possessors of the much sought (and still unimaginable) “favoured trading status with Iraq” the British government was delighted to act as an international “clearing house” for other nations defence exports to Iraq. These particularly included pre-cursors for chemical weapons. This side-line, has not, unsurprisingly, come in for any real scrutiny by Scott, and as a consequence it is not possible to clearly identify which nations used British “services” in this regard. Nor is it possible to ascertain whether such nations were more concerned with circumventing their own domestic regulations than merely engaging in business “expediency.”
By August 1990, misinterpreting western signals, the heavily-moustached and armed Saddam Hussein ungraciously stomped into neighbouring Kuwait. A long time friend became an immediate and grizzly foe. Culpable British officials quietly collapsing in shock were hurriedly revived by fumes permeating out of large brandy glasses. Unless something was done pretty damn quickly, the covert arming of this one-time friend turned sudden monster, would become public knowledge and all the lies would be revealed. With this singular thought in mind, a myriad candle’s sputtered late into the night, casting long shadows across Whitehall’s inner sanctum. After frenzied discussion an age-old solution was found.
We shall never know the precise discussion but it would’ve probably been something like the following: “Prosecute the culprits!” one minister screamed, fearful that his promotional prospects and knighthood were diminishing in front of him. “We are the damn culprits!” another retorted, equally fazed and trembling. “Then let’s just prosecute anyone” said a pragmatic third - an attorney. “We’ve got to get the heat off us,” intoned a pliable fourth. The fifth sat smugly silent. Michael Heseltine, Minister of the Department of Trade and Industry would shrewdly take the necessary steps to insulate himself from the furore, a matter which does not really concern us in this re-telling.
Chosen as the sacrificial lamb was Paul Henderson and his two fellow directors. Henderson, the Managing Director of Matrix Churchill, a small, British based Iraqi owned manufacturer, was supplying a wide range of machine tools to Iraq with British government approval. Termed as “dual-use” (equally capable of producing weapons or innocent products) Henderson knew that the equipment he provided Iraq went straight into Saddam’s war factories; there was never a doubt in his mind, as he readily admits in his book “The Unlikely Spy.”
Likewise, the government had no doubts that the Matrix Churchill exports they had approved were destined for Iraq’s weapons network; numerous British intelligence reports, plus a 1989 CIA briefing note clearly identified Matrix Churchill as a weapons supplier to Iraq. Unfortunately, what government ministers did not know at that time, was that Henderson had been a Secret Intelligence Service (SIS/MI6) asset for the last twenty years. Regularly reporting to his “handler” before and after each visit to Iraq, he had provided a massive quantity of material on Saddam’s weapons development and procurement programme, including his own small contributions. He was in the words of his handler, John Balsom, “A very brave man”.
By October 1990, two months after Saddam’s foray into Kuwait, anxious Customs and Excise officials raided Matrix Churchill and arrested Henderson and others. A year later, in November 1991, committal proceedings against Henderson and two other directors commenced at the Old Bailey. By now, government ministers had become aware that Henderson was the “Unlikely spy.” His defence lawyer had made clear he would go for acquittal on the basis that Henderson had informed Her Majesty’s government’s intelligence community of the true state of affairs. However, central to Henderson’s defence were classified government documents confirming his spy status and prolonged assistance to SIS and MI5. Without these Henderson’s lawyer was not hopeful of proving the defence case. Found guilty all three would have almost certainly been imprisoned.
Public Interest Immunity Certificates
Once again a step ahead of the defence, five government ministers confidently signed so called “gagging orders” known as Public Interest Immunity Certificates (PIICs). With devilish cunning these sought to withhold the vital (culpable) government documents on the grounds of national security. PIICs generally consist of exhaustive legal and emotional argument to convince the presiding judge that dreadful damage would follow were he to permit the defence access to necessary evidence. In Henderson’s case, the arguments consisted on a mishmash of public spirited concerns. One argued that the lives of Intelligence agents would be put in jeopardy were documents released, citing that “unquantifiable damage” would result. Heady stuff. Later, it was discovered that the intelligence agent who’s life was at risk was Henderson himself. Clever huh? The Minister who signed this order, Tristan Garel-Jones was hauled in front of Scott and quizzed. In the light of the evidence surveyed, Scott asked Garel-Jones what he meant by “unquantifiable damage.” Presumably he meant unquantifiably large? “No,” Garel-Jones replied, stoically. Then, perhaps he meant unquantifiably small? Scott asked. Not that either. “Unquantifiably” Garel-Jones intoned, can mean “unquantifiably large or unquantifiably small.” So there you have it, a decisive dictionary definition designed to deport the defendants to a despicable dungeon - if my alliteration is any judge of the matter?
Bombarded by these gagging-orders, the trial Judge, unusually, demanded to read the documents and make his own judgement. They were delivered sealed in metal boxes under stringent security measures, with guards placed outside the judge’s chambers to ensure utmost secrecy - such was the magnitude of state secrecy attached to them. In the event the Judge, surprisingly, ruled in favour of the defence and ordered the documents turned over. Thereafter, the same documents were “biked” to the defence attorney via a solitary commercial dispatch rider - such was the magnitude of state secrecy attached to them. Now on fragile ground, the prosecution was dealt a final death blow by the Minister of State for Defence turned prosecution witness, Alan Clark. Under cross-examination Clark revealed that he had given a “nod and a wink” to Henderson and other Machine Tool manufacturers to export weapons to Iraq. With this incredible testimony the governments prosecution of Henderson and his co-defendants collapsed. Suddenly revealed was the government's cynical manoeuvring that directly led to the establishment of Sir Richard Scott’s inquiry, and the resulting hue and cry - now evaporated.
Last February's fish and chips
This sad tale of daring-do has an additional footnote that is well worth retelling. Alan Clark revealed to Paul Lennon, the Independent’s journalist that “The moment you announce an inquiry the thing’s dead. Who gives a toss about the findings? They are not yesterday's fish and chips but last February’s fish and chips.” Clark’s fifty-roomed country home, Saltwood Castle, Kent, is, incidentally, the place where 10th century assassin knights working for the crown, conspired to put an end to that “troublesome priest”, Thomas à Becket. Touché! We British have a long history in such matters of state.
|Document:In Defence of the Indefensible||article||1997||David Guyatt||A critique of the Scott Report on the illegal export of military equipment to Iraq through the 1980's|
|Document:Maggie's Guilty Secret||article||December 2013||John Hughes-Wilson||A brief resume of the "Arms to Iraq affair" by a former colonel on NATO's international political staff in Brussels. It revisits the abortive rescue of US diplomatic staff held hostage by Iran under President Carter, paving the way for the UK to supply arms to both sides in the soon-to-follow Iran-Iraq war in covert defiance of UN sanctions. The affair remains one of ultra-sensitivity to the UK Establishment which has been engaged in a monumental cover-up ever since.|