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11 September 2008 Edition

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Bloodlust in The Irish Times

Bloodlust in The Irish Times

IT IS beyond my slender literary talent to adequately describe the depths of hypocrisy and war mongering to which The Irish Times has degenerated in recent months. The paper’s coverage of the recent death of what it calls an “Irish soldier” fighting with the British Army in the US/NATO-led war in Afghanistan highlights this moral duplicity.
For months, the Times has carried weekly articles from Lieutenant Paddy Bury, serving with the British Army’s Royal Irish Regiment in Afghanistan. Readers were treated to exhilarating tales of British soldiers’ escape from dangerous terrorists and sneaky natives who, for some reason or other, were collaborating with the Taliban’s fight against the benign efforts of British squaddies to, well, kill them.
Apart from shameless glorification of the imperialist war in Afghanistan, there is an even more cynical exercise at play here. That is the military crisis facing Britain, the world's oldest colonial power, in persuading enough of its own young men to volunteer for its wars abroad. The British Army openly admits to a personnel crisis. It has mounted a recruitment drive in Ireland to supplement its dwindling army at a time when Irish unemployment is rising. Into this breach have stepped the loyal cheerleaders of The Irish Times with its publication of Bury’s sickening diary, replete with the whiff of cordite and anecdotes of battle and references to the “craic” and fighting spirit of “Irish soldiers”.



LAST weekend saw Bury complete his tour of duty and he had two articles in two days. The second was flagged as a response to his critics in the Times’ s letters pages. The first was Bury’s departing diary from the front and he vented outrage at local villagers who co-operated with the Taliban in a land mine ambush against his soldiers.
With searing insight, Bury pieces it together. “Locals... These people had to know it was there - it was in their field.” Yes, Paddy, “their field”, in their country. But the irony and blindingly obvious truth of his own conclusion escape this member of the elite British officer corps.
Bury returns to quiz those cunning peasants who must have known and describes their disingenuous response. “We know nothing. Usual response.” Bury concludes: “Bitter, I leave.” ‘Bloody natives,’ you can almost hear him mutter.
But Bury goes on to recount how his soldiers evened up the score (although there were allegedly no casualties in the land mine ambush) when he describes his platoon’s heroic accomplishments in a fire-fight with the Taliban a day later. Describing his men’s situation, Bury writes:
“Bullets zip at their feet, over their heads, into the walls behind them. Amazingly, none find their target.”
And the Brit killing machine - sorry, ‘peace-keeping Irish soldiers’ - fight back. “By now, mortars, rockets and grenade launchers are smashing the Taliban positions.” After the cowardly locals flee, Bury’s heroes move in and he describes how “we find blood-spattered firing points” (well, yipadeedoo!). “We turn for base, content that we have destroyed many IEDs [improvised explosive devices] and that we have killed our enemy.” Oh, what fun! And this from a newspaper that has lectured generations of Irish nationalists about the evils of political violence.



THE next day’s Irish Times had another report from Bury justifying the occupation of Afghanistan by claiming it as a fight against terrorists and drugs barons - both of which claims are specious and downright untruthful. But most of Bury’s article is a series of nauseating comments about the camaraderie and craic enjoyed by “Irish soldiers” whose “bravery is a credit to our island of Ireland”.
The fly in the ointment of this recruitment pitch from The Irish Times was the simultaneous announcement that day of the death of another British soldier, serving under Bury in the same area where the Taliban’s blood had been spattered with such joyous abandon by Bury and his troops in their Boys’ Own adventures.
The Irish Times rose to the occasion with a series of tributes to the dead “Irish soldier” who was born in the United States, served in the US Navy and then joined the British Army because he “missed military life”. But the most revealing article of all in this series of bloodthirsty propaganda recruitment pitches for the British Army was that penned by the paper’s security correspondent, Conor Lally.
Lally wrote how the “lure of combat” draws Irish men to join the British Army but also explains how many such men are refused entry into the 26 County Defence Forces which will not accept people under 18 years of age - unlike the British Army, which takes in 16-year-olds. According to Lally, many young Irish men are able to persuade their parents to allow them leave school at an early age to join the British Army. One wonders what the ever-so-concerned and progressive contributors to The Irish Times’s education supplement think of this disposal of Irish children.
Best of all was Lally’s “interesting insight into the challenges they can face” and he describes a sequence of the glorious exploits of Lance-Sergeant Gavin O’Neill. This brave “Irish” soldier fought various Iraqi insurgents to a standstill in a three-day period with his British Army in Basra last year, climaxing with his courageous effort in “killing two insurgents in the process”. More punching the air in theIrish Times newsroom, one presumes.
Always remember The Irish Times’s scale of values: Irish rebels fighting for the freedom of their country are murderers and terrorists; Irish children as young as 16 are heroes when they are dragooned into fighting in the British Army, “killing insurgents”. 

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