Category Archives: war

Belfast mother appeals to Iraqi Government

From the Pat Finucane Centre:

Following the decision  of the Iraqi government to expel private security company Blackwater*from the country Belfast mother Jean Mc Bride has appealed to the Iraqis to ‘also show the door’ to British company Aegis Defence Services.   The CEO of Aegis is former Scots Guards officer and mercenary Tim Spicer. Soldiers under Spicer’s command murdered 18 year old Peter Mc Bride in Belfast in 1992 yet Spicer refused to accept that his soldiers did wrong in shooting an unarmed teenager in the back in broad daylight.

Spicer’s private security/mercenary company Aegis has been embroiled in controversary since winning a major security contract in Iraq. In 2005 an ex employee posted a video on the internet which showed an Aegis security team opening fire at random on civilian vehicles in Baghdad.

Speaking today Mrs Mc Bride said,

“The Iraqis have revoked Blackwater’s license to work in Iraq after it emerged that employees opened fire and killed civilians. I would urge the Iraqi Government to also show the door to Aegis and revoke its license. Its employees have been filmed shooting at civilians and neither the company nor the Pentagon bothered to carry out a proper investigation. The CEO of Aegis, Tim Spicer, is on public record as saying that the soldiers who were convicted in a court of law of shooting my son should not even have been charged. I have said repeatedly that Tim Spicer is not fit to be in charge of armed men in a conflict situation. I have now written to Dr. Salah Al-Shaikhly, the Iraqi  Ambassador to Britain and Ireland to make this point and I would appeal to those who have supported my family to date including Gerry Adams MP, Mark Durkan MP and the Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern TD to raise this with the Iraqi Ambassador.

Mrs Mc Bride has also welcomed the announcement that the US Congress is to hold hearings into the use of private security/mercenary companies in Iraq. Earlier this week Henry Waxman, the Democratic chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said, “The controversy over Blackwater is an unfortunate demonstration of the perils of excessive reliance on private security contractors”. He said his committee would hold hearings on the issue. A number of prominent lawmakers in the US including Barack Obama have called for an inquiry into Aegis following representations on behalf of Mrs Mc Bride.

For info contact the Pat Finucane Centre at 02871 268846

see http://www.patfinucanecentre.org for extensive background on Aegis and the Peter Mc Bride case

· Blackwater was ordered to leave Iraq following an incident earlier this week when, according to Iraq’s interior ministry, “eight civilians were killed and 13 wounded when Blackwater contractors opened fire on civilians in the predominantly Sunni neighbourhood of Mansour in western Baghdad after mortar rounds landed near their convoy.” The US has promised an investigation however most commentators would be sceptical of any ‘investigation’. Similar allegations into the conduct of Aegis employees were brought to the attention of the US Consul in Belfast, Howard Dean Pitman and the US Special Envoy to Ireland, Mitchel Reiss in meetings with Jean Mc Bride. Neither diplomat honoured commitments made to Jean Mc Bride at the time.

Lobby for US Senate/Congressional Hearings into the Aegis contract. In 2004, Spicer’s new mercenary firm Aegis won a major security in Iraq. What role did two former British officers working for the Coalition Provisonal Authority, Brigadier General Anthony Hunter-Choat and Brigadier General James Ellery, play in the award of the contract to Aegis?

Ellery went on to head the Baghdad office of Aegis, which was later heavily criticised by US Government auditors who found the company could not prove that its armed employees received proper weapons training or that it had vetted Iraqi employees.

Contact Details

Contact Congressman Henry Waxman who intends to hold hearings on the use of private security/mercenary companies.http://www.house.gov/waxman/

To find a Senator visit: http://www.senate.gov Telephone numbers for Senators can be found at: http://www.senate.gov/general/resources/pdf/senators_ph…t.pdf List of mailing addresses for all Senators: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senat…m.cfm To find your Members of Congress visit: http://www.house.gov Telephone Numbers of all offices: http://clerk.house.gov/members/ttd_109.pdf Mailing labels/list of addresses to send letters to each Member of Congress in MicroSoft Word format: http://clerk.house.gov/members/wordmemberlabels.doc Websites of U.S. Embassies, Consulates, and Diplomatic Missions: http://usembassy.state.gov/

Contact Derry office info@patfinucanecentre.org or Newry office newry@patfinucanecentre.org  Please delete all other PFC emails. Website http://www.patfinucanecentre.org

6 Comments

Filed under aegis defence services, belfast, human rights, Iraq, ireland, middle east, Pat Finucane Centre, Peter McBride, private military contractors, tim spicer, war

Qana, Derry: The Dead Lie in Familiar Shapes

Article by Eamon McCann originally printed on Counterpunch:

It was the sudden eruption at the back of the room upstairs at Sandino’s which brought us eventually to the burial ground at Qana.

At the edge of the village, pictures of each of the 28 victims were displayed on a wall around the canopied space where the graves are laid out in precise, neat pattern by the place where the building which they were crushed under once stood.

Qana Mayor Mohammed Atiya made a formal speech of welcome while relatives of the dead stood sentinel by the graves. Shane Cullen, who had designed the memorial plaque we’d brought over, explained that it had been hewn from Irish blue limestone because we wanted “to leave a little bit of Ireland here in Qana, as a sign of our sorrow.” I talked of how we’d heard of the massacre and why we’d occupied the Raytheon plant in Derry in response. Goretti Horgan sang a Gaelic lament. Jimmy Kelly played the tin whistle.

Afterwards, we were invited into the homes of some of the victims where we sat around awkwardly and sipped the glasses of sweet tea that were offered to us everywhere in Lebanon.

Our hearts grieve with yours, I told Maryam Shaloub, who had moved into the home of her sister to look after what was left of the family. Five had been among the 28 who’d perished in the basement when a Raytheon bunker-buster brought the house where they’d sought shelter tumbling down. Some were squashed to death, some choked on dirt and debris. Most were children.

She bustled around, affecting crossness with two teenage survivors for being tardy with the tea, then beaming with pride at how well they are doing in school. We grieve for our loneliness that those we loved are not here, she said with a determined smile of seeming serenity. But we do not grieve that they are dead. We are joyful to know they are in paradise. They are martyrs now.

But there was no semblance of joy from Hala, who had lost her husband, her two children, her mother and father; sitting on the sofa alongside me, she was stiff, immobile, unspeaking, impenetrable, her face a mask of frozen pain.

Although we’d had little appreciation at the time of the depth of the anguish which had hollowed happiness out from the families of Qana, this was the reason we’d trashed the Raytheon plant.The meeting at Sandino’s pub had been called by the Derry Anti-War Coalition (DAWC) on August 2 last year to hear from Joshua Casteel, a former US Army interrogator at Abu Ghraib, and Iraqi lawyer Hani Lazim. But the focus of discussion turned quickly to Lebanon and Qana. For two days, television bulletins and newspapers had featured pictures of children being carried in dripping bundles from the crumpled ruin. “We have to do something,” came the angry roar from the rear. “Raytheon’s down the road. Derry’s a total disgrace.”

The meeting voted to protest at the Raytheon premises, and scheduled a gathering five days later to decide on the detail of what would be done.

US company Raytheon is one of the world’s biggest arms manufacturers, with 73,000 employees in 45 countries and 2006 sales of $20.3 billion. It specialises in electronic guidance and control systems for weapons, including the Patriot, the Sidewinder, the Sea Sparrow, the Tomahawk, the Maverick, and the bunker-buster Paveway used at Qana, which carries 945 pounds of explosive tritonal, about 80 percent TNT, 20 percent aluminum. In April this year, Israel ordered 2,000 more units to replenish stores depleted in last year’s bombing of Lebanon.

The arrival of Raytheon in Derry, announced in August 1999 by John Hume and David Trimble on the steps of the Guildhall in their first joint appearance after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, was widely hailed as a down-payment on the “peace dividend” arising from the Belfast Agreement. Sinn Fein and the DUP quickly joined the peace laureates’ parties in praising the company for creating new jobs. None of the parties has flinched from this position since. Everyone at Sandino’s knew it very likely that Raytheon soft-ware had guided the Qana bomb (proof, in the form of the code-numbers on fuselage fragments, was soon to come to hand), and knew also that it would be futile to appeal to the political mainstream to speak against the company’s role.

And so we did what we believed we had to, entering the plant and barricading ourselves inside. Nine of us were arrested after eight hours inside the plant, during which we hurled computers from the windows, used fire extinguishers to put the mainframe out of action and destroyed any paperwork and computer discs we could find: we next appear in court on September 3rd. The DAWC thought it appropriate to send a delegation to Qana on the anniversary of the massacre to lay a memorial stone.

The inscription on the stone, in Arabic and English, comprised two lines from the narrative of Bloody Sunday in the Museum of Free Derry and two lines from Patti Smith’s poem, “Qana”.

Qana, Derry,
The dead lie in familiar shapes.
No-one who yearns for justice is a stranger,
No-one who dies for justice is forgotten.
Derry, Qana,
The miracle is love.

The 28 who’d perished came from two extended families, the Hashems and the Shaloubs. They’d been sheltering in a three-storey building at the edge of the village, because it was relatively new and built in the lee of a hill ­ and they reasoned that it offered better protection than their less sturdy homes. Villages in a strip along the Israeli border had been shelled and attacked by Israeli aircraft for more than two weeks. Qana had been repeatedly hit. But the two families were among many who had been too frightened to flee to the nearest town, Tyre. The seven-mile highway was a junkyard of houses in rubble and burnt-out cars.

On streets around the Imam Ali mosque today, chunks of concrete and mortar still dangle precariously from crooked iron rods jutting out from rubble and dust. But much of the village ­ the location, many believe, of a miracle when Jesus turned water into wine for a wedding feast ­ has either been rebuilt or resembles a construction site. On every roof, it seems, young men are hauling buckets of cement and cinder blocks up by pulley. They look mildly curious when our group straggles into view, smile and return thumbs-up signs.

The assault on Lebanon had begun on July 12th, when Hezbollah fighters crossed the border, killed three Israeli soldiers and captured two others. They claimed they intended to bargain the captured men for some of the hundreds of Lebanese Muslims held without charge in Israeli jails. Israel responded by launching a land, sea and air bombardment against the Muslim areas of southern Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley and south Beirut, and against the infrastructure of Lebanon generally ­ roads, bridges, ports, power stations, fuel stores, Beirut airport, factories. Nowhere was remote from the targets. Nowhere was safe.

Lebanon is smaller than Northern Ireland, a mere 135 miles by 50; hemmed in by Israel, Syria, and the Mediterranean Sea, it has a population of four million. In the course of the 34-day conflict, Hezbollah was to fire 3,900 rockets into Israel, according to the Israeli government killing 44 civilians and 106 soldiers; the Israeli air-force, meanwhile, flew 12,000 combat missions and its army fired 100,000 shells, killing 1,200 Lebanese, including 250 fighters, according to Hezbollah, 530 according to Israel. Villages along the southern border were attacked with particular ferocity—Tiri, Kafra, Zebquin, Aita El Shaab, Bint Jbiel, Tebnin, etc., etc. But Qana struck a particular chord.

Ten years previously, more than 106 Qana people, 41 of them under 16, had been killed in an Israeli attack on the UN compound where they’d sought refuge. There had been a chorus of protest across the world, although neither the UN (because of the certainty of a US veto) nor any western country issued a formal condemnation. Now the death storm of Israel had swirled across the border again.

At around one in the morning in the house where the two families huddled, as two of the men were making tea, a bomb slammed into the structure. Perhaps five minutes later, as local people rushed towards the scene and adults inside scrambled amid the smoke and screams to find who’d survived, a second bomb gouged into the earth alongside and exploded. It seems almost certain it was this second bomb that toppled the building.

The Israelis claimed their target had been Hezbollah positions nearby from which rockets had earlier been launched.

Muhammad Mahmud Shalhub, a farmer, 61, in the house when it happened, recalls: “When the first strike hit, the whole house lifted…I was sitting by the door. It got very dusty and smoky. We were all in shock…I started pushing people out ­ whomever I could find.

“Five minutes later, another air strike came…We could barely breathe and we couldn’t see anything. There were three rooms in the house where people were hiding. After the first strike, a lot of earth was pushed up into the rooms. Then the house and all the earth dropped down onto us.”

Ghazi Udaybi rushed to the house when it was hit. He says he and others pulled a number of people clear after the first strike, but could do little after the second bomb struck. He’s scornful of the Israeli explanation. “If Hezbollah was firing near the house, would a family of over 50 people just sit there?”

Another man recalls voices calling from inside the debris, “Don’t die, Don’t die!” or crying for fathers, mothers, brothers, “Ali! Mohammed! Mama!”

Sanna Shalhoub, 18, round face, bright brown eyes, a smile of instant friendship to greet us, who lost her mother, father, older sister and two younger brothers, readily recites her story for us, and for an Al Jazeera crew covering the anniversary: “I was scared, but normally when I’m scared I cry out for my mother or father. I stood up and shouted ‘Mum, Dad’. I said, ‘If you can hear me, answer me’. I screamed and screamed but no one answered…

“Before my parents died, it wasn’t like this. We were all together. But after I lost them, my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, there was no love anymore. There are times when I don’t just feel alone in the house or the village, I feel alone in the whole world. If I could have just one moment from the time when my mother and father were alive, for them to talk to me or just call my name, I would feel the luckiest person alive.

“Although the place has been knocked down and is just land, I like to go there and sit thinking that this is the place I was sleeping. Here, my brother and I used to eat. Here, my father and mother and I used to sleep. There are still some of their clothes by the side of the road. I look at them and remember how we used to live here.

“Everyone says that we should change these thoughts in our heads and that we must forget, especially the day of the massacre. Before the war, I didn’t believe that there was an enemy watching our every move. I didn’t know there was an enemy that was so desperate to destroy Hezbollah. Now, all my thoughts are political. I wonder if the day will come when I will seek revenge against the Americans and the Israelis. Could it happen that the tables will turn and I will see myself avenging my parents’ death with my own hands? Inshallah, God willing, it will happen like this.

“When I am lonely, I feel I must change this feeling, so I go to the graveyard. I read the Quran for my parents, talk to my brothers and sister. It makes me feel happier.”

It was 6.30 am before ambulances and rescue crews made it through from Tyre, having been turned back three times by continuing bombing. Bodies dragged from the devastation lay waiting to be loaded into a refrigerated truck. There was a flurry of hope when a baby, Abbas Ahmad Hashim, was cradled out by a medic, tongue protruding from a mouth filled with dirt, but he couldn’t be revived.

By evening, the bodies had been tagged and bagged in plastic and laid out on a floor at the hospital in Tyre. They were: Ahmad Mahmud Shalhub, 55; Ibrahim Hashim, 65; Hasna Hashim, 75; Ali Ahmad Hashim, 3; Abbas Ahmad Hashim, 9 months; Hura Muhammad Qassim Shalhub, 12; Mahdi Mahmud Hashim, 68; Zahra Muhammad Qassim Shalhub, 12; Ibrahim Ahmad Hashim, 7; Jafar Mahmud Hashim, 10; Lina Muhammad Mahmud Shalhub, 30; Nabila Ali Amin Shalhub, 40; Ula Ahmad Mahmud Shalhub, 25; Khadija Ali Yusif, 31; Taysir Ali Shalhub, 39; Zaynab Muhammad Ali Amin Shalhub, 6; Fatima Muhammad Hashim, 4; Ali Ahmad Mahmud Shalhub, 17; Maryam Hassan Muhsin, 30; Afaf al-Zabad, 45; Yahya Muhammad Qassim Shalhub, 9; Ali Muhammad Kassim Shalhub, 10; Yusif Ahmad Mahmud Shalhub, 6; Qassim Samih Shalhub, 9; Hussain Ahmad Hashim, 12; Qassim Muhammad Shalhub, 7; Raqiyya Mahmud Shalhub, 7; Raqiyya Muhammad Hashim, unknown.

The women shrouded in black who sat by the grave stones in the gathering dusk as we left, murmuring prayers from the Quran, glanced up and nodded as we presumptuously took pictures and faintly acknowledged our goodbyes. Children scampering at the edge of the burial place waved and smiled. A man whose back had been broken in the blast and was sitting in a wheelchair, waved and pointed to his lapel to show he was wearing the Black Shamrock badge we’d given him earlier.

As our minibus lurched out onto what passes for a main road, we all swivelled round to look back until the village of Qana had passed out of sight. “I’ll tell you,” volunteered Kieran Gallagher, “Fucking up Raytheon was the best thing I ever did in my life.”

Me, too.

Eamon McCann lives in Ireland and can be reached at: Eamonderry@aol.com

1 Comment

Filed under Bloody Sunday, Derry, DUP, Eamon McCann, human rights, ireland, Irish peace process, Israel, Lebanon, middle east, Qana, Raytheon, Sinn Féin, war

“Have gun, will fight for paycheck”

The Mercenary Revolution by Jeremy Scahill exposes the corruption behind the use of private military contractors in Iraq (the US has deployed almost 200,000 to date!). Normally I like to repost articles in their entirety, but this is a bit long. In any case, it’s a fascinating read, and you can be sure that I had my eyes open for any mention of the infamous Tim Spicer and Aegis Defence Services (see my earlier post about Spicer and the fight for justice for Peter McBride). Sure enough, there he was in the (lucky number) thirteenth paragraph:

The single largest U.S. contract for private security in Iraq was a $293 million payment to the British firm Aegis Defence Services, headed by retired British Lt. Col. Tim Spicer, who has been dogged by accusations that he is a mercenary because of his private involvement in African conflicts.

Granted, this article is about the slew of private contractors our tax dollars are paying for, so this was the only mention (and I did not expect any reference to Peter McBride). It’s nice to know that people are still paying attention to this enormous scandal.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the outsourcing of traditional military responsibilities (again, your tax dollars at work), please read this article. The use of these private military companies (like DynCorp, Blackwater USA, Triple Canopy, Erinys, ArmorGroup and Aegis) has actually doubled the size of the US occupation of Iraq–there are more contractors than troops at this point.

A little background from Scahill:

“I think it’s extraordinarily dangerous when a nation begins to outsource its monopoly on the use of force and the use of violence in support of its foreign policy or national security objectives,” says veteran U.S. Diplomat Joe Wilson, who served as the last U.S. ambassador to Iraq before the 1991 Gulf War.

The billions of dollars being doled out to these companies, Wilson argues, “makes of them a very powerful interest group within the American body politic and an interest group that is in fact armed. And the question will arise at some time: to whom do they owe their loyalty?”

Precise data on the extent of U.S. spending on mercenary services is nearly impossible to
obtain – by both journalists and elected officials-but some in Congress estimate that up to 40 cents of every tax dollar spent on the war goes to corporate war contractors. At present, the United States spends about $2 billion a week on its Iraq operations.

While much has been made of the Bush administration’s “failure” to build international consensus for the invasion of Iraq, perhaps that was never the intention. When U.S. tanks rolled into Iraq in March 2003, they brought with them the largest army of “private contractors” ever deployed in a war. The White House substituted international diplomacy with lucrative war contracts and a coalition of willing nations who provided token forces with a coalition of billing corporations that supplied the brigades of contractors.

It gets worse. Many private military companies recruit their employees from impoverished countries (many of which are opposed to the war), luring them to work for a paycheck that is oftentimes more than they would earn back home serving in their own militaries. Scahill continues:

“This externalization of services or outsourcing attempts to lower costs – third world mercenaries are paid less than their counterparts from the developed world – and maximize benefits. In other words, let others fight the war for the Americans. In either case, the Iraqi people do not matter at all.”

The Iraq war has ushered in a new system. Wealthy nations can recruit the world’s poor, from countries that have no direct stake in the conflict, and use them as cannon fodder to conquer weaker nations. This allows the conquering power to hold down domestic casualties – the single-greatest impediment to waging wars like the one in Iraq. Indeed, in Iraq, more than 1,000 contractors working for the U.S. occupation have been killed with another 13,000 wounded. Most are not American citizens, and these numbers are not counted in the official death toll at a time when Americans are increasingly disturbed by casualties.

In Iraq, many companies are run by Americans or Britons and have well-trained forces drawn from elite military units for use in sensitive actions or operations. But down the ranks, these forces are filled by Iraqis and third-country nationals. Indeed, some 118,000 of the estimated 180,000 contractors are Iraqis, and many mercenaries are reportedly ill-paid, poorly equipped and barely trained Iraqi nationals.

2 Comments

Filed under aegis defence services, human rights, Iraq, Pat Finucane Centre, Peter McBride, private military contractors, tim spicer, war

Withdrawal? What withdrawal?

An editorial from Father Des Wilson in the Andersonstown News:

The British government’s change of military tactics in Ireland has been hailed – unfortunately – as a withdrawal.
It is not a withdrawal, the British garrisons are still there to try to hold the northeast of Ireland militarily and economically. And they have been given new extra oppressive powers to do it.
In 1969 extra troops flooded in not to protect Catholics or Protestants but to uphold the Stormont regime which was toppling – it could not co-exist with justice. As time went on the reason for their coming was explained in different ways. First it was to protect Catholics, then to protect Protestants against republicans, then to save Britain from terrorism, then as a bulwark against international terrorism. One explanation followed another, all to convince the world that flooding Ireland with British troops was a good thing. The final claim about international terrorism was directed to the American administration which was not interested in protecting Catholics or Protestants or British people but was interested in developing a doctrine of international terrorism.
London’s strategy was to turn a peaceful civil rights campaign into an armed conflict, because it believed it could win an armed conflict whereas it could not win against a united people’s demands for fair government. It had then to make a choice, either attack the unionist establishment and its supporters or attack the Catholics. It made a deliberate decision to attack the Catholics. Its agents said that if ever Catholics and Protestant were fighting them on two sides they would have to withdraw. John McKeague was one of their friends who passed on the message. To prevent this, they attacked one side and armed the other.
They believed that in an armed conflict the London army must win. This went against many examples in the history of the dissolution of the London empire, the Irish example included; but militarist governments do not accept lessons, even to their own advantage. They needed to control the economy in Ireland and military bases. If anyone thinks the London administration spent generous amounts of money on Ireland’s northeast, they should consider how much they would have to spend, and did spend, maintaining military bases in other parts of the world. London got a military bargain in Ireland. They still owe us a lot of money and life. And they took as much care of us as they would of any military base, no more and no less. Nearly everybody in the northeast suffered as a result of such primitive caretaking – and still suffers.
A new campaign of recruitment to the London army in Ireland has already begun. Can we hope that no Irish body will support it? That no school will admit recruiters to seduce yet another generation of children?
Remembering that London sends teenagers to fight its wars for it, not only in Ireland but in many parts of the world, one wonders at the irresponsibility of anyone who admits the gun-toters and armed aeroplane leapers into their classrooms – no contraceptives, please, only rifles, we’re Christians.
Elected representatives have things to do. One is to tell the truth about continuing military occupation and what it is costing us. Another is to make sure recruiting cannon-fodder is ended. Another is to take all oppressive powers off soldiers. And to get rid of those garrisons, in the interests of Irish unionists, nationalists and republicans, and of peaceful people all over the world who should be sick to life of the culture of death with which London has burdened us all.
Time to disarm and go. For good and all.

3 Comments

Filed under British army, British government, Father Des Wilson, human rights, ireland, war

The wrong force in the wrong place

“As the army left this week, with hardly a muffled drum to lead them out, the magnitude of the wastage of it all was overwhelming.”  So writes Tom McGurk in today’s Sunday Business Post , reflecting on the legacy of the last 38 years in the north of Ireland.  I’ve already posted about the army’s exit a few times, and I’m going to continue to do so–mostly because there is so much misinformation out there about the roots of the conflict and the “role of the British” in it all.

This article focuses on how things didn’t have to end up the way they did–that due to the political mistakes made by Westminster, the presence of the army actually escalated the emerging conflict in the north in the late ’60s/early ’70s, that their behavior became a recruiting agent for the IRA and so forth.  No surprises there.

Whatever about the ideology of Republicanism, after their mother’s door was smashed in or they were batoned down the street, local youths began to drift into the IRA.

By the summer of 1970, only months after their deployment, the army was regularly using CS gas and rubber bullets.

Their political honeymoon was over and the essential elements and components in the guerrilla war that was soon to erupt with huge ferocity were already evolving.

Next came the infamous Falls Road curfew, when the army forced thousands indoors and drove unionist ministers and the press around in lorries to view what seemed like their ‘occupied town’.

The original fatal flaw as to who had direct responsibility for the army -Westminster or Stormont – was soon to culminate in the disaster of internment in 1971.Astonishingly, a mere 24months from arriving to cups of tea and a huge welcome from the Catholic population, the British army was now dragging the same people from their beds in the middle of the night and locking them up in prison camps without trial or habeas corpus.

Perhaps what then followed after internment – Bloody Sunday and the rest – had all that sense of historical inevitability about it, but in the months just after the army was first deployed in the North in August 1969, there was a unique opportunity, tragically not to be seen again for almost 40 years.

Leave a comment

Filed under British army, ireland, war

Few tears shed

From the Ulster Herald: No misty eyes about ‘Banner’

Few tears will be shed for Operation Banner, the British army’s 38-year involvement in the conflict here. Despite nostalgic footage of housewives treating squaddies to cups of tea, this military adventure should be remembered for some of the most destructive events of the Troubles. British military policy fanned the flames of communal strife and brought us to the brink many times.

Ostensibly sent over to help the police “keep the peace,” Britain’s army was soon immersed in a draconian onslaught against those who opposed or even questioned the state. It began with the Falls Road ‘Curfew’ and quickly moved to internment and Bloody Sunday. If anyone had illusions about the “peace” credentials of the troops who poured onto our streets in 1969, they were soon shattered in partisan application of military might.

…the entire military operation rested on the notion that Catholics and Protestants here somehow just fell out. Promulgated around the world, the carefully fostered pretext for thousands of troops even took root here. It meant brushing under the carpet not only decades of misrule in the North, but also Britain’s obdurate refusal to do anything before the dams burst in violent denial of civil rights.

The fact that the army’s initial welcome was short-lived bears out the fact that it was never here to bring peace.

Its role actually turned civil unrest into civil war.

Leave a comment

Filed under belfast, Bloody Sunday, British army, collusion, Falls Road, ireland, policing, war

more on the end of the british terrorist campaign

From the North Belfast News:

A brutal truth

Like all armies, the British army loves its codenames. Operation Banner is the innocuous moniker that it imposed on what it described as its operation to support the local police here. That’s code for the latest attempt to subdue the natives – the one that began in 1969 and which comes to an end on July 31, 2007.
We report this week on the reaction of a number of people affected by the conflict on the end of Operation Banner, a significant event, even if the fact that British troops will remain in situ here makes it a largely symbolic affair – kind of like the British army saying, as the IRA has already done, that its war is over.

Much has been said and written in recent days and weeks about whether Operation Banner has been a success or a failure. It’s all so much bluster and waffle. The fact of the matter is that once the British government decided to put heavily armed troops on the streets of Belfast, that was an admission of failure in itself. London had nearly fifty years to correct the grotesque excesses of the Stormont regime and decided that the best course of action was to do nothing – for that crime of omission is it was equally, if not more, culpable than the hardline unionist despots who ran the six counties as their own private Protestant fiefdom simply because they could.

History willl relate that the British troops were put on the streets of Belfast initially to protect beleaguered Catholics. History should also relate that the troops were there to protect beleaguered Catholics who were under threat from a ragtag paramilitary militia which was part of a rotten, sectarian regime which the British government encouraged and condoned for half a century.

Just as Tony Blair’s legacy will forever be the obscenity that is Iraq, so the British army’s legacy of this most recent phase of the conflict will be the murderous reality of its collusion with loyalist paramilitaries. All sides have indulged in the most appalling atrocities and crimes, but the brutal truth is that the arming and directing of loyalist killer gangs whose sole raison d’etre was to target Catholics was not something carried out by rogue agents, rather it was sanctioned at the highest level. Don’t ask us if that’s the case, ask John Stevens. Nowhere was the bloody British army/UDA/UVF pogrom against Catholics carried out with more ferocity than in North Belfast.

While they sound their trumpets and hand out the medals and pat themselves on the back as Operation Banner comes to an end, North Belfast Catholics will remember its many innocent victims.

And From the Balcony:

That’s Fascism!

It was like throwing a snowball at a juggernaut today trying to bring some balance to the British salute to their boys and their Operation Banner.

Still, in and out of studios most of the day to state that the British military occupation of nationalist areas left almost every nationalist working class family traumatised at some stage or other over the period of the 35-year war. The ghosts of Majella O’Hare, Leo Norney, Kidso Reilly and many others were entitled to that much: that someone throw cant about ‘mistakes’ back in the face of the righteous British Army spokespersons (and their apologists) who were wheeled out today.

My favourite account of the day came from Liam Stone who recalled how he and his father looked out their Ballymurphy window at hundreds of British soldiers with Saracens and armoured vehicles making their way up the Whiterock Road in the first major riots of Easter 1970. Liam recalled how his father, who had served with the British Army and was a prisoner of war in Danzig, seethed as he saw the heavily-armed forces advance against a civilian population. “He fought Nazism so he knew what facism was and that’s what he called that display that day, fascism.” (I paraphrase, you can hear Liam, he’s almost the very last speaker on today’s Talkback.)

Apparently the BBC  needs a little help with their technology, because when you download the Talkback highlights from the Whiterock Community Center, it is only a minute and a half long, with the last part of the news and about fifteen seconds of the introduction to the bit (and no interviews). Bastards!  I really wanted to hear Liam Stone, in part because I interviewed him for my thesis, and he gave me the most amazing quote for my paper…he basically stated my thesis in his own words during the interview.  It was beautiful.  And maybe one day I will finish it and you can all read it…

Leave a comment

Filed under belfast, British army, collusion, human rights, ireland, Irish peace process, policing, RUC, shoot to kill policy, war