Thursday, February 2, 2012

Variations on a Theme

--Brian Shivers could play his ownself in the film

Give Ireland Back To The Irish
Don't Make Them Have To Take It Away

Give Ireland Back To The Irish

Make Ireland Irish Today

--Give Ireland Back to the Irish,

Paul McCartney and Wings

So hold on to your rifles boys and don't give up your dream
Of a Republic for the workin' class economic liberty
Then Jem yelled out "Oh Citizens this system is a curse

An English boss is a monster an Irish one even worse"

--James Connolly
, Black 47

So you saved your shillings and your last six pence

Cause in God's name they built a barbed wire fence

Be glad you sailed for a better day

But don't forget there'll be hell to pay

--Rebels of the Sacred Heart,

Flogging Molly


Brian Shivers was convicted two weeks ago of the murder of two soldiers during a Real IRA gun attack on Massereene Army base in
Northern Ireland three years ago. The Guardian, The Telegraph, GlobalPost and MSNBC call him a "dissident"; Reuters calls him a "nationalist". Ten years after the events of 9.11.01, we still use the terms interchangeably, though they are not commensurate.

The answer as to Mr. Shivers' correct label depends upon which side of the fence you live. In 1975, an armed Irish Republican Army member killing an armed British soldier would have been declared simple terrorism, but everything is pumped up today. Terrorism mutates according to the needs of the political climate.

History lessons are in order: Ireland was the first British colony, and though we often view it as integral part of the British empire, not all the Irish see it that way. Technically, Ireland's colonial existence is in violation of the World War II Atlantic Charter that set the elimination of colonialism as a war goal. Britons are on board with this, except in the case of Ireland. (Yes, Ranger actually wore orange into an Irish pub on St. Patrick's Day, but he did not know why he was getting the evil eye, being a Slovak and all.)

In this sense, the IRA may be seen as a legitimate "separatist" movement, or an insurgency or guerrilla war. It could also be seen as an unconventional war since it fits within the parameters of all of those events. The IRA and the ETA are the only two Euroterror groups that share the distinction of having a possible validity behind their violence (as seen from their perspective.)

However, the questions remain the same: How do we define terrorists, dissidents, insurgents and militants? What are their differences, and where do they overlap? Without correct terminology, how can they be appropriately dealt with? Our definitions are often vague and in accordance with political expediencies, but if something is legally vague, that usually equates to unconstitutionality.

An example of the expediency angle is a recent 60 Minutes episode featuring the Emir of Qatar which marveled over his game plan for improving life within his little sandbox. However, the Emir is also a big contributor to Hamas and Hizbollah; Hamas is recognized by the EU and many others as a terrorist organization, and the Council on Foreign Relations states the U.S. recognizes Hizbollah as terrorist, as well.

So why does the U.S. Department of Justice bust pathetic little pawns in the terror game while the big machers like the Emir continue to play their hand, untouched by U.S. sanctions? When Iran supports such groups the U.S. goes ballistic, yet the Emir openly provides material support to two Middle Eastern terrorist organizations. We step on the ants while the elephant sits in the middle of the room.

In addition to proper definition, we need to enact the proper responses. The British, French, Italian, Spanish and German governments neutered and countered domestic terror by applying the rule of law to the issue. There is nothing that a terror group can do that is not against the existing laws of all civilized societies (with the exception of propaganda and some financial aspects, but U.S. law covers these with "material support" and "conspiracy" charges.) Kidnapping, murder, extortion and bomb-making all violate national laws.

The terror threats faced by Europe in the 1970's and '80's are different than those faced by the U.S. today, but the concept remains the same. All terrorists are criminals, bottom line, and laws are on the books to deal with criminals.

Unless we treat them as such we will lose the war that we claim is against terrorism. When we ignore the reality of our legal system, we lose our legitimacy.

[cross-posted @ RangerAgainstWar]


  1. Well Jim, I agree with yiur basic concept here about the Rule of Law being the way to go against terrorists.

    Ulster may be a special case. Back in the day the police and courts were targeted by the terrorists and many of the police either became terrorists themselves or overreacted horrendously. So much for the rule of law there!

    I do not believe this is about colonialism. Ireland has been free for over 90 years. And Northern Ireland has been as much an equal part of the UK as London or Liverpool for the last 90 years also, and that by the will of the majority of Northern Irish. They have representation in Parliament proportional to their population. I believe this brouha is more about a perverted sense of honor - on both sides. We chuckle about the Balkans, but they are not that far ahead of the clan hatreds of the Irish. The weird thing to me is that the troubles in Ulster started back hundreds of years ago by continental Euro power plays - William of Orange, a Dutchman, with mostly Dutch troops with a few northern Irish auxiliaries fought Louis XIV, a Frenchman. So in my mind I wonder why the IRA and the UDF didn't bomb Rotterdam and Rouen instead of Belfast, Derry and London.

  2. Mike,
    a good analysis.
    using your logic, and i do ,then ww1 and ww2 were just continuations of a 600 years jostling for position by euro ethnic groups.where was the us horse in those races??!?
    the only reason that i ever mention the ira/ireland is b/c of the template.even accepting your cmt. they can still be seen as separatists and they did imo rise to the level of lic and/or insurgents. just look at their name! unlike raf and red brigades these guys actually formed military wasn't just a name.same for the ruc under ground army supported by the british or british intelligence.
    the rb and raf were never mil grps and were never gonna overthrow or share power, but the ira felt that they had a chance.
    well here we are in 012 and it is what it is.
    remember - terror is usually the weapon of the desperate and disenfranchised and marginalized of a society.
    i'm not an expert on the ira and simply ,like you, try to put it all in a perspective that i can understand. but in my mind northern ireland is a colony as surely as was anyplace in africa had been. the english, back then, considered the irish as white niggers and so opined on the floors of parliament.
    btw- irish men have been awarded more us moh's than any other ethnic group.just a little known fact.
    thanks for your input.

  3. "just look at their name! unlike raf and red brigades these guys actually formed military wasn't just a name."

    Jim -

    Well wasn't the IRA originally a real Army back 90 years ago? I thought that when they were formed 1916 or 1919 or so, they were mostly vets of the British Army in the trenches in France and Belgium, and formed army units. (Although Wiki says that the term originated with Irish-American Fenians in their raids on British Canada in the 19th century)

    And then when Ireland gained independence, a faction was unhappy with the peace and declared war against their former comrades in the new Irish Republic - didn't they recently make a movie about that with Liam Neeson?

    Later, 1969(?), they got mad at the Derry Boys and the Boyne Parade and started the Troubles in the North - they kept the name but in my feeble mind they were no longer formed in military units, just terror cells. Now I think there are a dozen different splinter groups all claiming to be the real IRA, including one officially named the Real IRA (RIRA) - go figure????

  4. Jim

    Please forgive my kibitzing on side issues, I still think your basic premise that the way to deal with terrorism is through the police and the law courts.

  5. jim-

    Agree terrorism should be treated as a crime, but there's a problem with that. Most terror is carried out by states, and it has always been so.

    Which indicates to me that it isn't so much a question of the proper response, but of the political context.

    Wife and I saw "J Edger" at the picture show last night. Seems that Hoover got his start with the 1919 bombings and simply went from there. The acts themselves were the work of probably one organization of very limited appeal and this was known by the Wilson administration at the time, but the opportunity to roll up the entire radical movement in the US was simply too much to pass up. This is implied in the film, but at the same time left ambiguous since no context of the bombings is provided. Thus limited, but coordinated acts of terror carried out by a single radical group are met with a massive and opportunistic government response with quite different goals, but essentially using the same methods . . .

  6. Mike,
    all of your comments are relevant and on target.the real problem is that it's all so mixed up. as Seydlitz points out most terror is state sponsored. (read my post at raw yesterday.)
    if the people in fallujah were insurgents then i say the ira in dublin were also. there's a transition point in all groups where they move up on the spectrum of conflict, which is a now ignored fact.this used to be us lic doctrine. we NEVER hear that concept expressed by the army gurus and consultants.the euro groups were all state sponsored to some degree, think stasi and bulgaria . bulgaria gave the soviets a cut out and plausible denial for their programs. think the pope getting popped by a turkish grey wolf.
    the ira always cross fertilized and cooperated with other internatn'l groups. they were armed with mg's left behind by the us in rvn. i remember seeing proof of this, so what does that tell you.?
    yes we are in theory in agreement, but the borders of this topic are so squishy that endless wars are the order of the day.
    istm that a little thinking is better than what we are now doing.
    my main point is that terrorism , when used as an individual tactic is always an act of desperation.NO NATION STATE HAS EVER BEEN DEFEATED BY A TERROR GROUP, and it'll remain that way regardless of what we do.only failed states are in danger, and who cares about them?? really??!
    terrorists are terrorists b/c that's all they can do.

  7. "NO NATION STATE HAS EVER BEEN DEFEATED BY A TERROR GROUP, and it'll remain that way regardless of what we do.only failed states are in danger, ..."

    True Jim. But who is to say when a nation crosses the threshold to become a failed state? Especially when their are toxic political opportunists within that state?

    Seydlitz - And in addition to state sponsored terrorism we also have petro-millionaire sponsored terrorism. This leads to the strange phenomenon where you and I and Joe Lunchpail are the ones that are financing the same terrorists that we are spending trillions to bring down.

    The film J Edgar sounds interesting. But I am leery, the man was a piece of work and should have been retired in 1945. But I disbelieve the uncorroborated stories of cross-dressing. It was a political hatchet job that ended up being amplified by the media. Not that there is anything wrong with that - the man played hardball and should not have been surprised that the other side could play hardball also. So, should I spend the ticket price at the box office, or should I wait for it to be released in DVD, or should I ignore it completely? As far as films I am currently trying to fight off the wife and kids attempts to get me to take the grand-kids to see War Horse. I may bite the bullet, but only to see the Duke of Wellington's estate where I understand some of the filming was done, and it does have some nominations for great cinematography.

  8. @seydlitz

    Well, it entirely depends on one's definition of terrorism and of "carrying out" whether "Most terror is carried out by states, and it has always been so."

    That a lot of states are aiding and abetting terrorist groups is evident, but does that mean they are carrying it out or does it mean they are being opportunistic about it? A terrorist group will just as much see what support they can get.
    That some governments are using means that could likewise be qualified as "acts of terrorism", through their military or their secret services is likewise granted. But then again, when push comes to shove, I'd say the larger part of terrorism - as I would define it - happens on the part of groups more in the first vein: Independent of any existing state, though possibly trying to create one, while bargaining for support from others on either an ideological closeness or a "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" level.

    But do we have a solidly defined definition at all? If we look just on a level of what they do, a lot of the actions of the drug cartels in Mexico could be deemed "terrorism" - they're certainly meant to strike terror into the public and influence political action.

    As for the Stasi and state-sponsored terrorim, as I said, it depends on what your definition of "state-sponsored" is. They were certainly training RAF members in use of weapons and explosives and hiding them once they retired. The goal of this, however, was far from "sponsorship", far from pushing them to intensify their activities, but rather to gain their trust and as a consequence be able to observe, understand and control them in such a fashion that a spreading of their activites into the GDR could be prevented. These activities were thus less "sponsoring" and more "limiting" in that they limited the activites to the FRG.

    I would bet that a lot of other sponsorships of terrorist organisations fall into the same vein: Less an effort to promote their actions but more an effort to being able to enact a limited form of control on them to avoid being on the receiving end. Most terrorist organisations, after all, are highly ideologised and do not take lightly to whatever divergence of the "true faith (etc.)" the pragmatism necessary for a real-world government mandates. While terrorist organisations DO offer a certain degree of deniability, they are not special forces willing to carry out orders by non-members.

  9. Claus,
    i do not consider the mexican drug cartels to be terrorists. they are simply violent criminals. i see the tactic , but not the core that would designate them terrorist. of course atf /hrc et al like to call them terrorists. it's all so convenient.
    using your take on the stasi limiting the groups i can easily accept, but it's not the only reason.Saudi arabia would fit this template nicely.
    Mike, chomsky states that the us of a is a failed state , and his arguments are cogent.
    i saw j edgar, and it was GARBAGE.

  10. "A total of 28 mayors of Mexican towns have been assassinated all across the country since the start of the drug war; over 120 additional mayors have been threatened, too. In addition, a candidate for governor of Tamaulipas and 1 congressman has also been killed."

    Yes Jim they are violent criminals but they are using terror as a coercion tool. There is not a black and white distinction here. Are they terrorists or violent criminals is not the question. There are shades of gray as you know where a group could be both. Just having a political or religious motive is not the only criteria for terrorism.

  11. mike,555,
    forget the group. focus on the gov't and society.
    how can a terror grp do what they are doing WITHOUT A LARGE ACTIVE AND PASSIVE support net work. it's easy to say that the drug $'s we send south provide that support. now the gov't- it's corrupt and is approaching , if not at failed state status.
    what are the goals of the druggies? do they want to over throw the gov't and install a new drug oriented substitute. I REALLY DON'T KNOW, but i doubt it. criminals want money. pretty simple.
    if they want to over throw the gov't then it's clear that they are way beyond terror since their violence is real and palpable.if this is their agenda then they have moved up the scale and can be seen as insurgents.
    here's a novel idea-CHARGE ALL DRUG BUYERS WITH SUPPORT OF A TERROR ORG. after all isn't that what doing drugs amounts to?
    if we legalized marijuana in calif. and taxed it and allowed us's to smoke then wouldn't this short circuit the flow of $ material support going south.
    i'm saying our policies enable this violence. also it keeps our only growth industry full of new daily prisoners.

  12. Jim,

    plenty of terrorist organizations in south America have turned the whole thing around and developed from terrorist organizations to basically drug running businesses. They still use terrorist means, but they have largely given up on overthrowing the government. Do the mexican drug cartels want to overthrow the government? No. But they threaten it nonetheless, by creating a state-within-a-state, striving to operate without any oversight or control. Of course they don't want to overthrow a government that holds no power over them anyway. But that latter is their goal, and it's as threatening to a nation as an all-out overthrowing of the government, in my eyes.

  13. Claus,
    i'm sorry, but i just wrote a long reply and it disappeared.
    i'm too tired to do it again.
    i'll reply tomorrow.

  14. Clase,
    since we like to use old books here at milpub let's refer to Sir F. Hackers -CRIMINALS, CRAZIES, AND CRUSADERS.
    terror grps have all of these indiv. in their ranks.
    the 70's saw ideological mercenaries in their ranks. these guys were equivalent to our contractors since they saw the money to be made from the conflict. think Carlos the Jackal.
    think UBL, b/c i'm sure he had a positive cash flow on his books.
    the mexican cartel solution is north of the border and not south of it. if we legalized US grown product, and taxed it this would remove the cash incentive to the narco groups.or they'd move north and then they'd be in a kill zone.