Collusion with terrorists
April 16, 2003 3:49 AM   Subscribe

How to kill terrorists without anyone knowing. An enquiry into collusion between the British army and both loyalist and republican paramilitaries in Northern Ireland has revealed that undercover agents may have been responsible for several assassinations, including lawyer Pat Finucane. By creating army units immune from the usual checks and balances, the government kept its hands clean. This is an account from someone who was involved.
posted by Summer (17 comments total)
why would you want to kill a terrorist when you can be one yourself and overthrow an evil goverment? oh sorry, i think they mean "freedom fighter." guess it depends on whether or not you are with us or against us.
posted by memnock at 4:22 AM on April 16, 2003

memnock - I agree, but that's probably at least a partial derail. ;)

The headline is kind of misleading - These are people that the IRA killed, it just happens that it was an Army bod who made the kill. These were people who were going to be killed anyway, the matter of who actually pulled the trigger is kind of irrelevant to me.

If it was a case of Army bods manipulating the target list to take out people who they wanted to lose then that's a completely different story - and one I thought the FFP was suggesting.

But then again, my perspectives may be different to yours - especially as both my grandfather and (I believe) my father were on IRA hitlists for a good long while.
posted by twine42 at 4:59 AM on April 16, 2003

These were people who were going to be killed anyway, the matter of who actually pulled the trigger is kind of irrelevant to me.

Wow. Good to know. Of course, we're all going to die someday, so why not extend that logic?
posted by yerfatma at 6:06 AM on April 16, 2003

I'm serious. They had been targetted by an IRA cell. What does it matter which member of the cell committed the crime? The victim was going to die anyway.

At least this way we knew what was going on in the IRA, and the soldier has the oportunity to either wing the victim and let him escape, or go for a clean kill rather than some of the hideous shit the IRA got up to.
posted by twine42 at 6:37 AM on April 16, 2003

Amazing. (Or maybe not so much.) Long story short:

The twisted maze of British "Intelligence" not only facilitated Loyalist terrorists committing murder, but also allowed its double-agent moles in the IRA to commit murder in the process of being "blooded."

At least, those are the allegations and potential conclusions of the report. Accurate summation?
posted by Shane at 6:43 AM on April 16, 2003

twine42, I understand what you're saying, but as Shane says, there's more to it than that. It wasn't simply about agents infiltrating the IRA, it was about enabling the loyalists to carry out murder as well. So, in other words that's aiding terrorists to murder their enemies, who weren't necessarily terrorists. Well, we shall see later this week. I hope it all comes out. It's time to put the double dealing in Northern Ireland behind us.
posted by Summer at 7:05 AM on April 16, 2003

I see what you are saying too, but i guess it depends on if the infiltrators made it possible for the IRA to kill someone that they couldn't have killed without them...
posted by twine42 at 7:14 AM on April 16, 2003

I hope the peace process is successful someday. If you look at the roots of the conflict going back even just a few hundred years (heh--recent history!), it's easy to sympathize with the natives and with things like John Lennon said:

"Keep Ireland for the Irish
Put the English back to sea

But the situation isn't so simple now. The Protestants can't be expected to return to Scotland and England. They're Irish people now, too. Neither can the Catholics be expected to live at a political or social disadvantage.

What other solution is there now but for everyone to live together?

They need something like mandatory integrated card game nights at the local rec centers (now there's a use for Brits with Armalites: They could watch and enforce peaceful behavior and no cheating). After six weeks of playing bridge they'd be bored out of their skulls and would have no choice but to converse.

Seriously, the bloody past can't be forgotten or healed overnight, but if people got to know each other as people there might be hope.

Sorry for the sermon, but what I'm admitting is: I am one of the people who feels the seductive pull of the old songs, and of the romanticized history of the White-Boys and Ribbonmen that preceded the IRA, and of the stories of people who fled the famine to the sweatshops and the docks in New York and Boston (stories that you won't always find in books) . . . But now is not the time for that. Cliches are counterproductive. Now is a time to find common ground, not cling to polarizing stereotypes. There's no other way to go forward.
posted by Shane at 7:58 AM on April 16, 2003

As a general point of info, parts of army special ops in Northern Ireland were set up by General Frank Kitson. Based on his experience in fighting anti-colonial insurgencies in Malaysia, Cyprus, and Kenya, Kitson wrote a book called "Low Intensity Operations: Subversion, Insurgency, and Peacekeeping", in which he explains that orthodox counter-insurgency methods may fail, and so what is required is deviousness, patience, and determination to outwit the opponents by stealth and fraud.

At the end of the 80s I once worked with a bloke who claimed to be ex-Army, and also ex-special ops. Among his duties (he said) was driving around Northern Ireland in unmarked cars with guns under the seats, 'escorting' various paramilitary members and secret service officials to various meetings. Initially he was under the impression that this was some kind of attempt to put together a peace settlement, but he later suspected that the loyalist and paramilitary guys (many of whom were essentially crime bosses using violence to run organised rackets own their own turf) were being hit for protection money from rogue elements within the British army. Those who didn't pay up could be targeted for assassination. So he said, anyway.
posted by carter at 8:31 AM on April 16, 2003

Military solutions to cultural/political problems don't work, doesn't matter how you do it. NI's best hope is some kind of economic regeneration and the secularising influence of wealth.
posted by Summer at 8:40 AM on April 16, 2003

Twine - I see what you're getting at - it would be comforting to think that Provo scumbags would kill each other off and save everyone else the bother - but there isn't a whole lot of evidence to suggest that that was what was happening. As Summer mentioned, there's much, much more to this issue than the aspects you raise. It does seem likely that the British security services turned a blind eye to the occassional 'blooding' of double agents in IRA cells - as they would have to, in order to guarantee the safety of their moles. Also, the Stalker Inquiry of the early 1990's (never published in full, as far as I know), gave credence to only two separate instances where moles fed the IRA targetting information - one being the case of a loyalist paramilitary who was regarded as a liability by his own outfit, and the other a non-aligned community worker whom the FIU suspected was an IRA informer (turns out he wasn't, because the provos killed him on the understanding that he was an RUC informer!)

However, the substantive concern of the Stalker and Stephens Inquiries and the Cory Investigation has been the very-widely alleged culture of collusion between some RUC units, Army 'black-ops' units and loyalist paramilitaries, the most high-profile examples being the killings of Pat Finucane, Robert Hamill and Rosemary Nelson. These allegations range from the rescheduling of patrols to allow paramilitary gangs to make contact with a target, to the provision of targetting information, to tampering with evidence, to simply turning a blind eye to assaults - and, in the case of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings, to the provision of car-bombs to loyalists by MI6. Some comparable allegations have been made by Unionist politicians about the Gardaí, however apart from the Breen and Buchanon case (in the second link above, which resulted in prosecutions) I don't know how much credence was assigned to them at the time, as I've never heard of follow-up action being taken (although that might now change with the somewhat bizarre Morris Tribunal which is being held in Donegal).

Anyway, as usual in the frustrating world of Ulster politics (yawn...)and history, nothing is ever straightforward, and if it wasn't murky and convoluted......well, it just wouldn't be Ulster politics, would it?
posted by Doozer at 8:40 AM on April 16, 2003

Ah the hilarious world of Northern Irish politics, affectionately known as 'the troubles'. Shane, I suggest you modify your world view, an Irish Catholic currently around 3 miles from Belfast city centre, I can say with some certainty that the only freedom most of these groups (Irish Republician Army,Continuity Irish Republician Army,Real Irish Republician Army ,Direct Action Against Drugs,Ulster Volunteer Force,Loyalist Volunteer Force,Ulster Defence Army, Red Hand Defenders, Red Hand Commandos, Peoples Front of Judea etc) are fighting for is the freedom to sell drugs, and the control of the more shady parts of the city, what you Americians may call 'projects'. More Tony Soprano than Che Guevara. Its frankly embarassing the amount of coverage this ridiculous little place gets.
posted by Damienmce at 9:01 AM on April 16, 2003

Military solutions to cultural/political problems don't work, doesn't matter how you do it. NI's best hope is some kind of economic regeneration and the secularising influence of wealth.

I absolutely disagree with your first statement, and absolutely agree with your second. MOST of history's culturo-political conflicts have been solved at the point of gun/bayonet/sword/pike/club/shinbone. At the same time, the secularizing (and ultimately STABILIZING) influence of wealth and concomitant comforts is the most underestimated force in the world for peace.
posted by UncleFes at 9:10 AM on April 16, 2003

Military solutions to cultural/political problems don't work,

Perhaps, rather than suggesting that it is impossible to blunt force a conflict into submission, it's more accurate to say it's not often cost effective in terms of blood/lives lost... rather inhumane.
posted by namespan at 9:27 AM on April 16, 2003

Damienmce: You mean it's not "the good fight" anymore? More like exploitation of the situation by groups on both sides, at the expense of the general populace? Do tell ; )

I'll leave you all now to solve the Irish Situation, as I have a lunch situation to solve myself ; )
posted by Shane at 9:39 AM on April 16, 2003

Are these the same British troops who are using the sensitivity and diplomacy they learned in NI to great effect in Iraq? If this is what the genteel British are like...
The things that I take home from this are:
1) my money has been used by my government to murder civilians in Ireland who had commited no crime other than not supporting the British occupation of NI.
2) counter-insurgency/military intelligence is a waste of time, aiding criminals, scam merchants, murderers, paranioacs and other idiots, whilst damaging democracy.
posted by asok at 1:57 PM on April 16, 2003

Asok, surprisingly there's a difference between the way soldiers conduct patrols and the way military intelligence collude with people you wouldn't necessarily invite to lunch on a different day.
posted by vbfg at 2:16 PM on April 16, 2003

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