|The Real Bad Guys|
There is a dangerous moral quivalence that emerges over the Saville Report. It suggests that whatever terrible acts were committed by British troops on Bloody Sunday, IRA atrocities were worse, and that this observation in some way mitigates or even justifies the killing of unarmed civilians, some of them teenagers.
This attitude is well represented by an outburst on BBC radio in 1999 by Colonel Wilford, who commanded 1 Para that day: “I have to ask what about Bloody Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and every day of the week? What about Bloody Omagh? What about Bloody Warrenpoint, Enniskillen, Hyde Park, or Bloody Aldershot and
Brighton— bloody everything the IRA have ever touched.”
In some quarters, this is described as “a good question”. It is not. The British Army represents our parliamentary democracy and defends our freedoms. We are entitled to expect better of it than terrorists. Its actions must be entirely professional and accountable. Furthermore, to kill civilians is more morally reprehensible for our soldiers and degrades their moral integrity to a level lower than the actions of IRA terrorists, because that is what we expect of terrorists – it is not what we expect of the British Army.
Whether, after this passage of time, there is a public interest in prosecuting the perpetrators of these vile acts is an entirely separate question. But those soldiers stand condemned today by the people they served and those of them who survive today should feel utterly shamed and humiliated. They are objects of contempt. They acted not as British soldiers, but as hysterical thugs and panicking cowards. End of.
This nonsense was written by a professional writer (of sorts) over on the Telegraph blogs today.
I’ve tried to stay away from the whole Bloody Sunday/Saville inquiry thing over the past few, very busy, exam-filled days because I had thought that my limited knowledge of the affair (I only studied it as part of my first degree and knew someone who was there, after all) would hardly be worth sharing and would add very little to the debate. However, I’ve just read something so utterly ignorant, and by a member of the clergy no less, that I figured what the hell, if The Rev George Pilchard, or whatever his name is, can spout a load of codswallop on something about which he clearly knows nothing, then what I say can hardly do any more damage, can it?
First of all, soldiers. They are certainly “thugs”, as Pitcher says, especially (but not exclusively) the rank and file, uneducated but disciplined and usually in their late teens as they are. But “hysterical” and “panicking cowards” are not the words I would use to describe the chap I knew who was there on those
Londonderry streets that fateful day. Given, he was no wet-behind-the-ears rookie looking for a firefight. He was a marksman; a dead shot and a ruthless one at that. Yes, he was an army sniper and given the order, his sole aim would be to kill.
What emerged from the ridiculously long Saville inquiry, to me, was that that order had been given, or at least a broad definition of it. "Take back
soil from a rebel force" was effectively the command. At that point, unless someone intervened and until the objective was achieved, the Bogside effectively became a free fire zone, within limits. Remember, these men were soldiers not riot police. They are (or were) not schooled in the delicate art of crowd control, they are fighters extensively trained to smash things up and kill people (and, , die in the process if necessary). George Pitcher doesn't understand such indelicate realities, however. UK
Unfortunately, the reason why this was not such a good policy on that day in
was that, as far as I am concerned, the Communist-sympathising, revolutionary Provisional IRA had set the whole thing up from start to bloody finish. It fits perfectly with their propaganda campaign style at the time, trying, as they were, to get the Catholic community to turn on the British troops as quickly as possible so they could launch their colossal campaign of terror with no internal opposition. They were ably aided in this pursuit by the pig-ignorant, pointy-headed Protestant majority, whose persecution of Catholics brought the British Army there in the first place. Lest men like the fool Pitcher forget, the soldiers went in in the late 60s to protect the Catholics! Northern Ireland
The point is, and this view is supported by a number of academics, although I hesitate to name the one I studied under here, everyone, almost from the start of the British intervention, played straight into the
’ Cuba-esque ‘revolutionary’ arms. And then their leadership had the excuse they needed to use violent intimidation against the community they pretended to be protecting but were, in fact, hiding behind while they prosecuted their revolutionary campaign. Provos
Bloody Sunday partly symbolises, partly embodies, the situation at that stage of the Troubles. A flat-footed, slow-on-the-uptake British government, with the Army an almost perfect expression of that government, combined with the wholesale bigotry, sectarian hatred and viciousness of the Protestant majority meets a long-oppressed Catholic minority whose civil rights cause was on the verge of being co-opted by a ruthless, cunning and utterly dishonest political movement, complete with its own propaganda wing. Into this brew was thrown left-wing public opinion in
, which naturally – and with typical, total stupidity – identified with what it saw as an ideologically justifiable, armed struggle against, in this case, British imperialist history! Thus, when the troops opened-fire against the IRA’s sacrificial Catholic lambs at Bogside that day the outcry against the loss of life was gigantic, torrential and game-changing. Britain
Suffice to say, after nearly £200 million, a staggering, totally disproportionate sum, and 11 years, all the Saville enquiry has really revealed is that the killings were unjustified and unlawful and that a few young Paras, intimidated and encouraged in equal measure at the time by the military police, massaged the truth to protect each other from legal retribution.
The killings were always unjustified and unlawful because the victims were unarmed and, in some cases, had little or nothing to do with the civil rights protests (with which I still sympathise in some ways) anyway. But never forget that the Provisional IRA was there, its members heavily armed. They wanted this thing to happen, so they kicked it off. What the hell does Pitcher, in all his clerical wisdom, think Martin “Bloody Sunday” McGuinness was doing there with a sub-machine gun? Protecting people? You see, to me, the establishment still hasn’t learnt. Possibly they never will and the IRA – or Sinn Fein as it now is, all respectable and besuited in government, pretending to be reformed – will continue to run rings around it.
This will sound callous but the killings were not just unjustified, even unlawful, (although once the British decided that a part of British soil had fallen under rebel control, I can’t see what other outcome there could have been), but they were also utterly, utterly stupid. What people like Pitcher will never be able to comprehend is that the British soldiers at work there were just instruments of war doing what they do best. But there were other, more menacing forces at work there on that day. They were scheming, political, revolutionary forces, represented by people like McGuinness and they would stop at nothing to get their war, even if it meant a massacre of their ‘own’ (revolutionary ideology is morally self-justifying, remember. Pitcher doesn’t get that).
They were the real cowards, not the British soldiers. But, as others have written, when will they face their inquiry for their role in these events? Where is the moral outrage, voiced by fools like Pitcher, against people like
’s Deputy First Minister? Not on Pitcher’s blog that’s for sure because it's an issue that is clearly far too complex and nuanced for the good vicar to contemplate. Northern Ireland
And that's all you need to know about him. End of.