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12 July 2007 Edition

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British army report displays profoundly colonial mindset

The past week saw the exposure of an internal report examining the British army’s role in the Six Counties over a period of almost four decades that concluded it did not and could not defeat the IRA.
The report covers a period from 1968 to 2005. British troops were deployed on the streets of the Six Counties in August 1969.
The 98-page analysis of Operation Banner, the British army’s code name for its military activities in the North displays a profoundly colonial mindset and is riddled with contradictions and with insensitivity towards the civilian population.
The report describes the IRA as “professional, dedicated, highly skilled and resilient”. The British officers also acknowledged the scope, as well as the duration of the military campaign fought by the IRA which in its own establishment language it terms as one of the most effective “terrorist” organisations in history.
It also mentions the effectiveness of republican information campaigns pointing to the ability of republicans and republican press such as An Phoblacht in thwarting British censorship and propaganda.
The report, commissioned by then British army chief of staff, General Sir Mike Jackson, admits that the introduction of internment in the early 1970s was a “major mistake” which had a huge impact on popular opinion across Ireland, in Europe and the US.
Around 1,000 people were killed and many more injured by unionist paramilitaries during the British army’s Operation Banner, yet there is barely a reference to the UVF or UDA, exposing the classic British colonial approach to national liberation struggles the world over. The nationalist community in the North and the IRA were the only enemies.
While it describes unionist paramilitaries as little more than a “collection of gangsters” it makes no mention of British army collusion with such groups. This week, families in the North whose relatives were killed by unionist paramilitaries, with the help of the British military and RUC, rejected a claim in the report that they died in an “IRA/UVF feud”, pointing out that their loved ones died because of the machinations of British military intelligence.
Incredibly on the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry in 1972, where 14 peaceful civil rights marchers were shot dead by British soldiers, the analysis merely concludes that the so-called “arrest operation” by “using vehicles to approach the crowd” was with hindsight “heavy-handed”.
The report’s admission that a greater effort to find political solutions was needed in the North is further evidence of the validity of the long-standing republican argument that the British could not defeat republican demands militarily.
The tragedy is that the British took so long to learn from the lessons of history and the examples of conflict resolution elsewhere and had to be dragged kicking and screaming into meaningful and inclusive political negotiations that could end the war.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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