The buck stops at the top; that is the accepted chain of responsibility and accountability in organisations, institutions and in life.

Slobodan Milosevic,  David Duckenfield,  Ratko Mladic : what links these names is that all were indicted for unlawful killings which occurred while they were in command. As the  Duckenfield trial is ongoing and sub judice, I  will simply make the point that the Crown Prosecution Service  thought that he had a case to answer because he was in charge of police at the Hillsborough Disaster.  Many democrats would wish to see Bashar Al – Assad answer for the genocide in Syria because he was in supreme command.

Lord Saville spent 12 years with an expensive huddle of lawyers,  determining the causes of the deaths on Bloody Sunday and those who should be held responsible.  General Sir Robert Ford was exculpated because ‘ he did not know that his actions would result in soldiers firing unjustifiably’  and that decision was reached despite Ford’s admission that he had encouraged the Paras with the cry, ‘Go on Paras. Go and get them and good luck.’

Brigadier Frank Kitson  commanded 1st Para in Belfast where, in Ballymurphy, 11 civilians, including a priest, administering last rites to a parishioner , had been shot and killed. His name was frequently  linked to the murderous Military Reaction Force (MRF)  which had admitted abuses and killings of civilian suspects in collusion with Loyalist paramilitary gangs. A fellow officer reports that he upbraided Colonel Derek Wilford on Bloody Sunday for his failure to see the operation through; in other words, why did the Paras, regardless of casualties,  not fight and shoot their way into the Bogside and recapture the much hated no-go area

General Sir Mike Jackson , former GOC of Land Forces,   was a Captain on the ground during Bloody Sunday and,  immediately following the shootings,  compiled the notorious ‘shot list’, a proven,  totally fictitious account of the day’s events  which became the official  MOD narrative and the basis of the perjured evidence to Widgery.  Jackson was recalled  by Saville  when his handwritten note was introduced in evidence and which he had failed to mention in his original submission.   Jackson’s guilt is implicit in any objective reading  of the evidence but Saville bottled it in his final conclusion,  quite simply  because the indicting of the Army’s most senior officer was an appalling  vista and  unacceptable  to  the British establishment.  

Jackson and Kitson , archetypal  examples of the military upper caste,  are Brahmins of not merely the Forces  but grace the  upper echelons of the  British Establishment . They commanded and oversaw the unlawful killings by troops in the Six Counties. Their actions were condoned in Whitehall and Downing st. It is inconceivable to me that Edward Heath, Prime Minister and Lord Carrington, Defence Minister, were not fully briefed on the serious implications of sending armed Paras to police a Civil Rights March in Derry in January 1972 .

Sometime this week,  a decision will be made on whether to send a few aging soldiers, acting under orders,  to trial for some  of the murders on Bloody Sunday.

What about those who gave the commands?

  1. 100% Agree! Those who gave the commands should be held accountable!
    Great article.

    • Thanks, Liz. It’s not exactly the most demanding piece of logic. You and I have been managers for many years and rightly expected accountability to be intrinsic to the job spec. Doesn’t seem to count in the higher echelons of the Establishment as current parliamentary proceedings are a cogent reminder.

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