LETTER:Too much secrecy over arms exports

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The Independent Online
From Mr Richard Heller

Sir: You are right to describe the sale of arms to Iraq as a strategic blunder (leading article, 8 November).

By any standards, the virtual abandonment of controls in 1988 was one of the worst decisions made by any British government since the war. Servicemen and civilians paid for it with their lives.

Unfortunately, you are optimistic in your belief that the Scott inquiry will expose the origins of the decision. It has focused on the concealment and corruption that flowed from British policy but not on its incompetence.

Did any minister resist the decision on policy grounds rather than fear of exposure? Did any minister or official wonder what use Saddam might make of additional armaments when they were no longer needed for defence against Iran? Who, if anyone, in our diplomatic defence or intelligence services warned against the risk of the Kuwait invasion? What attention was paid to their warnings? What has happened to their careers - and to those of the officials or ministers who ignored them?

If these questions remain unanswered the British people will never know the full scandal of arms-for-Iraq, and they can have no assurance that it will not be repeated.

Yours faithfully,

Richard Heller

London, SW9

8 November