Bloody Sunday Inquiry
Yesterday the Saville Inquiry published its report on Bloody Sunday and this morning that venerable keeper of the public mores, Sir Max Hastings, has damned it on every front in the Daily Mail (what’s up with Max Hastings these days - Daily Mail, I ask you, it’s now his rag of choice).
Hastings thinks the Inquiry is an exercise in excavating the past and worries that they have taken statements from witnesses too old and distant from events to be reliable (he refused). Although I suspect that Lord Saville is probably wise enough to draw conclusions that take account of time lapse – his stock in trade, I would say. Hastings goes on: that the14 deaths of Bloody Sunday are an insignificant number within the context of the 3500 odd killings of the “Troubles”, that it is all grist to the mill of Irish Republican grievance and propaganda (my word not his), and that “Tony Blair and Lord Saville betrayed their responsibilities almost as grievously as those who fired the fatal shots”. Which is a piece of hyperbolic crassness that one would not expect from a journalist of such integrity and discernment. But there’s more – Hastings recognizes that there was a deplorable breakdown in discipline but he fails to address the matter of whether people who commit crimes – even if in uniform, especially in uniform – should be prosecuted. Does he feel that some sort of informal statute of limitations should operate, because not to even pause over this factor seems an omission of significance.
As an ex infantryman (with airborne experience), I take some small exception to Max’s assertion that the Paras are a “fighting regiment….unsuited to peacekeeping” used as an excuse. Although I know what he’s driving at here, it is too superficial to be informative, infact it is misleading. It insults other regiments who are also fighting regiments, and it insults the Paras whose training and discipline make them well suited to all operations. But he has, as I intimate, a small point – occasionally the leash on a para needs to be tighter; no problem with good officers, and especially with excellent NCOs, which they are – second to none. It all started with Montgomery's paean to the paras as "men apart". They knew that already in 1944. Since then the winged youngsters have ridden that reputation hard and in 1972 it was just an excuse to "be apart" whenever opportunity presented itself whether outside the Ram public house in Tidworth or on the streets of Derry.... ho hum - looks like I've argued myself into a standstill.... Bollocks – no I haven’t. In 1972 the Paras were trained as were we all and to blame a breakdown in discipline on some perceived culture of killing elitism is simply rubbish.
But back to Max and the Daily Mail. Inserted into his apologia for the old establishment, and turning a blind eye, he talks of the Statesman Cameron’s “fine combination of honesty, dignity, and regret” when commenting on the findings. Max Hastings is the Statesman of “Fleet Street” and does not need to toady up to a 43 year old Prime Minister who hasn’t been in the job long enough to see out his political honeymoon, let alone acquire “statesman-like” accolades.
But there is a much, much more important point to be made here and it transcends our national boundaries and also time. That Saville has addressed a microcosm of the 10% of deaths caused by security force action, and the 60% of deaths caused by the IRA did not feature, is – within this wider context – irrelevant. Men and nations are morally bound to keep their own houses in order irrespective of the evil perpetrated against them and irrespective of the lack of proportion. That Bloody Sunday has been turned into a rallying cry and is iconic is not madness, it is what men do to events. Bloody Sunday encapsulates a much bigger story – albeit one side’s story - and it is precisely because Bloody Sunday is exactly all of that, that it needed to be addressed. Or do we just leave it to the historians? Perhaps we do, but I don’t think honest (and righteous – or is that too self-aggrandizing?) men have the luxury of reaching that conclusion within each lifetime. To do so cannot help but smell of cover-up and cowardice, and just because those flaws have existed for the last 38 years is no reason to perpetuate the shame.
We now suffer an interesting parallel. America faces the same conundrum today. She harbours the Cheney/Bush cabal who have all committed crimes for which they should be held accountable – not just starting a war which was illegal and based on a lie, but everything we now know about US State-sanctioned torture (unless you accept the pre-event justification argument, that actually should only be offered as a post-event defence, given by Anderson, Bybee, and Yoo et al). Every day that passes, irrespective of intractable political considerations, without those responsible for that moral abyss facing a court is another day in which the hopes and aspirations of the Founding Fathers lie in tatters on the rocks of rage, expediency, revenge, duplicity, mendacity etc etc etc etc etc etc.
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