Sunday, November 15, 2015

Hugh John Simmonds, CBE: April 20, 1948 - November 15, 1988

More so than at any time since I first learned cursive writing (1962), the world we live in is shaped by violent conflict. And whatever impulses may be driving the desire for armed confrontation, its expression is fueled by arms sales.

Which brings me to the annual anniversary of the still unresolved and mysterious death of the man who is the subject of my recently-published book, Maggies’s Hammer, and the dichotomy at the heart of that book and its promotion.

I will this coming Friday conclude two and a half months of initial international radio interviews talking to all and sundry about my book, its subject matter and why it helps ordinary folk and experts alike better to understand just what the heck is going on in the world today.

But, here’s the thing. My primary angle, beyond attempting to find out why my good friend, mentor and Margaret Thatcher’s favorite speechwriter ended up dead in a peaceful woodland glade, thirty miles west of the British Parliament, is to expose the rampant and high-level corruption associated with the arms industry in the UK, and the UK’s special covert military arrangements with the US. And explain how they feed so much of today’s geopolitical agenda. Everything from the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Africa, to last Friday’s appalling tragedy in Paris.

And yet, while I am engaged on what some might see as this noble mission, the man at the heart of my investigations was, in fact, actively seeking to make money from that which I now seek to expose. The first of so many dichotomies that have become acutely visible to me in the course of some 30-40 radio interviews.

I want truth. And yet so many of those to whom I speak engage in lies. That’s what spies do. My aim is simple – find out what happened, so that Hugh’s family may know. Yet too many of my informants play with me, as if I am a part of their game. And I have to try to sort out the chaff from reality. My interviewers genuinely feel for my ambition. Yet, they constantly seek to move my commentary into areas that, frankly, have nothing to do with my book. As a consequence of which, I feel myself ever so gently, on occasion, losing sight of the essential narrative. While worrying that what I see as my primary need (the opening of the relevant government files in the UK) becomes less likely the more I speak on radio programs that might affect my credibility.

Dichotomies abundant.

But, there is one constant which never changes. As awkward and as outrĂ© as it might seem in an age of yes she did, no he didn’t, instant ADD social media gratification. In 1989, I held the hands of an eleven year old girl. Whose face was vacant, her eyes haunted. And promised that I would find out why her father had died, without explanation for her. I will fulfill that promise.

And so, today, a few days after the western world engaged in its annual ritual of remembering those who died on our behalf. In military conflicts around the world. Conflicts they and we had no hand in designing. As we attempt to absorb the horror of one of those conflicts acting out in what we had assumed were our safe neighborhoods. As, hopefully, we might once again want to reconsider the importance to our economic way of life of arms sales. And the toxic influence they have on our body politic through associated arms kickbacks. I remember that twenty-seven years ago, on this day, my best friend died in the service of his Prime Minister. A fact which, as we remember so much else, very few will feel constrained to remember. Something I genuinely believe, now that my book has so very kindly been published by Kris Millegan, a man who has yet even to meet me, something I believe may finally change in this coming year.

RIP Hugh. Love to Janet, Karen, Juliet, Tanya and Paul.