Labyrinthine ways

As the parliamentary committee is about to wrap up its investigation into the controversial arms procurements signed by the previous Socialist government, it is time for a sober political assessment. Regardless of the decision to be made by Parliament’s plenary session, whether the wrongdoers are indicted, and the veracity of the various allegations of fraud, negligence or incompetence, the heart of the issue remains intact: The parliamentary probe has shed light – insofar as this was possible – on one of the darkest and most contentious areas of public life, that of arms procurements. Great sums from state coffers are spent on that sector and, most importantly, for an indisputable, sacred end: national security. Greece has the historic misfortune of having to share borders with an aggressive neighbor, a fact that means it has to spend a disproportionately large share of funds on security – more than any other European Union state. The burden grows further if one considers that these funds do not bolster growth, that defense systems lose their value after a relatively short period of time, and that, in any case, the money to pay for them has to be siphoned from other needy sectors. Proper management of the weapons budget is a crucial issue in a democracy and, at the same time, is a sine qua non for consolidating the public’s sense of justice. Unfortunately, recent developments vindicate those who decided to set up an investigatory committee. The testimonies by senior military and political officials, the ambiguities and contradictions, the oscillations and the systematic losses of offsets, and, above all, revelations about money laundering all raise legitimate doubts over the managers’ moral integrity. This kind of management of public money, with huge sums being transferred between different accounts and offshore companies, does not constitute mere blunder or negligence; rather it is a scourge that has a deleterious effect on the body politic and society in general. Political parties should assume their political responsibilities in the face of public opinion. They ought to know that their evaluations and conclusions are judged on the basis of people’s sense of justice. They should finally realize that the public is aware that the parliamentary committee was not set up without good reason. Most importantly, they want to see it drill to the marrow of the issue and put the blame on those who are responsible. It would be a catastrophe if the unfolding tragicomedy and the labyrinthine ways of money laundering are allowed to go unpunished. There is much more to this than mere negligence or folly.