Monday, June 05, 2006


The Iraq template

Monbiot on new Ken Loach film Reprisals by members of the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Auxiliary division are documented by historians of all political stripes. During the period the film covers (1920-21), policemen visited homes in places such as Thurles, Cork, Upperchurch and Galway and shot or bayoneted their unarmed inhabitants. Nor does any historian deny that they fired into crowds or threw grenades or beat people up in the streets or set fire to homes and businesses in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Bantry, Kilmallock, Balbriggan, Miltown Malbay, Lahinch, Ennistymon, Trim and other towns. Nor can the fact that the constabulary tortured and killed some of its prisoners be seriously disputed.... Loach's hero, Damien, as many Irishmen were, is radicalised by a raid by the Black and Tans, who were members of the constabulary recruited from outside Ireland. As the film shows, they were responsible for much of the police brutality. ... There is no question that the IRA also killed ruthlessly - not just police and soldiers but also people they deemed to be informers and collaborators. But Loach shows this too. (I have seen the film.) The press hates him because he admits that the people who committed these acts were not evil automata, but human beings capable of grief, anger, love and pity. So too, of course, were the British forces.... Does it matter what people say about a conflict that took place 85 years ago? It does. For the same one-sided story is being told about the occupation of Iraq.
A wonderful novel by Mogue Doyle titled Down a Road All Rebels Run is the perfect complement to The Troubles by Tim Pat Coogan. While they, too, illustrate human frailty in exacting vengeance in pursuit of freedom, they don't equivocate self-defense run amok with the oppression that generated it.

In other words, to stop terrorism we have to stop denying people the right to self-determination.
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