Sunday, 28 September 2014

Of honours and bombers

An old habit from my full time journo days has just paid off again. Before recycling I routinely check through old local papers and magazines for stories and tip-offs I might have missed. Today I found another to make me laugh, and to offer much more insight into the honours system.
Now, this piece of sycophantic claptrap (see ) really should have been the last time the nastiest RAF flyboy since Bomber Harris got a mention in a Manx newspaper.
Sadly, not so. Because on 12th August we learnt in the Manx press that he was “surprised” to receive a knighthood.
Not half as surprised as me.
For the benefit of those who take no interest in war crimes against civilians, Macfadyen was the RAF chief of staff during the first Gulf War, i.e. the one that stopped when the survivors amongst Hussein's untrained conscripts from the foreign labour force left a wealthy neighbouring country we do loads of business with and his full time army emerged from their British built nuclear bunkers to gas the Kurds.
The latter, apparently, was none of our business. It was also none of our business that the much famed and filmed carpet bombing of Iraq hit almost no military targets but did kill around 350,000 civilians. By contrast, I would hazard a guess that some reconstruction contracts also fell the way of UK businesses via a long chain of offshore middle parties - in the UAE for example.
So another thing that does not surprise me is that, when Macfadyen's part in both this and the early Al -Yamamah arms deals became too awkward for the RAF and he was offered the governorship of the Isle of Man instead, he notoriously admitted to having to look the place up on a map. Frankly, given his poor map-reading skills I'm more surprised he found it.
By the way, if you know little about Al-Yamamah this (see ) may help put things in context.
By chance, years ago, I was putting on an event in a Manx venue when Mrs M showed up with some American ladies. With a little sly probing I was able to find that El Guv was deep in hospitality with old US war chums, so the memsahibs had been sent out to see quaint local sights while the boys got down to business.
And it was nasty business too. Because with a little more sly probing I found that old US warhorses were regular guests at Dunbombin and interestingly, like him, their retirement interests revolved rather a lot around arms companies consultancies.
This was a period in UK business history when the OECD and FATF were causing a clean-up of the offshore finance industry, and organisations like Campaign Against the Arms Trade were taking so much interest in a civil service unit attached to the UK Department of International Development that it had to close down. The unit, in a nutshell, had for years employed around 100 civil servants to advise and assist the UK arms trade in efficient use of offshore entities in order to avoid public scrutiny, not to mention hassle with end user certificates (which by international treaty are required to prevent arms sales by “respectable” countries to the uglier type of dictatorship, such as the ones Lockheed and BAE might find very profitable).
This use of the governor's quarters (politically a bit of a grey area because not strictly under control of either Tynwald or Whitehall) for quiet chats about arms deals via cosy third country offshoots of major arms companies was, I feel sure, continued by Mcfadyen's successor and may not have tailed off until we got a civilian governor (though again one with extensive business experience of Africa).
Also note that (1) at least one former employee at the shadowy DID outfit went on to work in the Isle of Man public sector and that (2) a scheme which on paper helps Manx finance sector “experts” to help small nations develop more honest international trading practices and stamp out corruption (and was sold as such to FATF to help us clean up our own reputation) is substantially a creation of the Said Business School in Oxford and was originally based at the Isle of Man Business School.
That's the Said Business School started with a £23 Million donation from Saudi-Syrian businessman Wafic Said at around the time Blair & Co were shutting down a government enquiry into Al-Yamamah and the Isle of Man Business School which went belly-up because....... well, many wonder if the faculty and management knew much about basic business or accounting practices.
My wife sometime wonders why I laugh so much when I read Manx newspapers.

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