|'Peace' In Ulster: The Pathetic Delusion||John Tyndall|
To Blair & Co. the Northern Ireland Executive is a welcome piece of 'spin', useful for boosting popularity ratings; to Sinn Fein/IRA, it is a significant milestone achievement in a long and consistently fought war to destroy British rule.
As the 21st century dawns, the death-throes of liberalism are clearly visible everywhere. Nevertheless, on the surface liberal mores continue to determine the allowed parameters of political debate. Soft, cosy and pleasant-sounding sentiments, no matter how far at odds with the facts of the real world, remain the preferred guidelines for policy - at least in that policy's presentational form; whether behind the scenes there is a different objective, that must not be permitted to spoil the party.
So we are supposed to herald the new Northern Ireland Executive as a great victory for 'peace', 'reason', 'compromise' and 'conciliation'. The bitter enemies of yesterday are sitting around a table as the colleagues of today, giving benign smiles as they pass the sugar bowls from one to another - making everyone wonder exactly what the conflicts of the century just gone were all about.
But of course all this is pure make-believe - the children's fantasy world which serves as the screen behind which true policy is carried out. I attempted to draw some picture of that world in an article in these columns in July 1998, written not long after the Good Friday Agreement of that year, saying:-
And the reality of the situation in Northern Ireland is that there are differences of allegiance and objective between the two sides, unionist and republican, that are utterly and permanently irreconcilable. One wants to retain the province as a part of the United Kingdom, while the other is determined to sever it from the UK and incorporate it in a United Ireland. This issue does not disappear by virtue of the parties agreeing to form common council and govern Northern Ireland together; it only gets transferred under the table as a measure of temporary convenience in order to allow each side, and the Government in Westminster, to posture before the media and before the world as men and women of 'reason' and 'goodwill'. As a practical solution to the conflict, it achieves nothing.
Thought for the month
We are now at the crux of it all, the most important feature of Blair's psychology, the mental trick that has made him such a towering figure in modern politics. A lie, classically defined, is a witting statement of falsehood. In other words, you not only have to say something that is not true, but you have to know it is not true. Blair, as Bruce Anderson hinted last week, has perfected a kind of De Niroesque technique of political method acting, so that at the moment he declares some great whopper, with his chin clamped and his eyes blazing, the lobes of his brain go into a kind of spasm from which the real world is excluded, and in that instant he believes he is telling the truth, conviction radiates from him, and indeed, on any proper definition, therefore, he is not guilty of lying. It is that aura of belief that is so powerful. Blair has discovered a truth, which has been exploited for good or ill by all manner of saints and sickos down the ages, that instead of working out whether something is true or false, human beings will tend to believe in that which is strongly believed in. (BORIS JOHNSON, The Spectator, 4.12.99.)
As part of this pretence, Unionist leader David Trimble has declared that the republicans, whom he euphemistically and misleadingly refers to as 'nationalists', have a right "to pursue their political objective of a United Ireland" by peaceful means.
In its essence, this is a quite ridiculous statement for any Ulster Unionist to make. It is tantamount to saying that the enemies of one's country have a right to destroy that country - at least in the form one has always known it, been loyal to it and served it. Whether such destruction is accomplished by violent or non-violent methods is hardly the point. Just presuming (as some would dispute) that Hitler's intention in 1940 was to subjugate Britain and incorporate it into his German Reich, how would we have viewed someone who said he had a right to do this by means of the political process though not by armed force? Yet that is precisely the logic of Mr. Trimble's thinking - if we are to take his words at face value. Moreover, what the Unionist leader has to say on this matter is fairly accurately representative of opinion throughout the political mainstream in Britain.
When a nation has reached the point at which it is legitimate to speak and work for the handing over of all or any part, however small, of its territory and people to a foreign power, such a nation must be deemed to be in deep trouble. Indeed, rational observers around the world would most probably judge that that nation was out of its mind.
Tactics flexible, objective constant
But even were we to accept Mr. Trimble's basic position on this matter, does he really believe that Sinn Fein/IRA are prepared to "pursue their political objective of a United Ireland" by peaceful means? The truth is that they will do so for just as long as the British Government continues make concession after concession to them - as it has done throughout the whole lamentable saga of the 'peace process'. Every such concession is, of course, seen as a stepping stone to the ultimate objective of destroying British sovereignty in Ulster and incorporating the province in a United Irish Republic. The moment that there is any sign that this agenda is not being followed to the satisfaction of Sinn Fein/IRA, the latter has the option of resorting to terrorism once again, as it most certainly will do. And at this very moment it stands in the very favourable position of not having surrendered a single weapon in its armoury - and having its active ranks swelled every week by fresh releases of its gangster members from jail.
Just how is it that throughout the current phase of negotiations towards a Northern Ireland settlement Sinn Fein/IRA have again and again made rings round the British Government and Ulster Unionists - despite the fact that amongst the latter there are very clearly deep misgivings about where the process is all leading? Perhaps some clue may lie in an analysis of the deeply contrasting types of political animal to be found on the respective sides. Donald Martin, writing in the newsletter On Target (9th & 23rd October 1999) attempted such an analysis under the sub-heading 'The Ideology of Revolution: it's all in the Mind'. He went on to say:-
To the dedicated Marxist-Leninist, political objectives - whatever they may be at any particular time or place - are clear and concise, and things to be pursued over a lifetime of struggle in which methods may vary according to circumstances but final goals - never. On the other hand, in the vast majority of cases, Mr. Martin calls 'non-communist perspectives' are the perspectives of folk conditioned to essentially bourgeois values of peace, security and comfort. To such people, lives given to the pursuit of long-range political goals, to be achieved if necessary through bitter struggle, represent a strange and alien concept, seldom to be understood.
In the Marxist-Leninist handbook - which, as Mr. Martin has explained, provides the key to Sinn Fein/IRA thinking - violence and non-violence are not evaluated from any ethical standpoint but are solely tactical expedients to be employed interchangeably in pursuit of the same unaltering revolutionary ends. The violent phase terrifies the target society, and particularly its rulers, creating a desperate yearning for its suspension. It is calculated that, if pursued with sufficiently unrelenting ruthlessness, the violence will reduce the society and rulers to a state of being prepared to make almost any concession short of absolute surrender just to obtain relief from it.
Here we see an enactment of the familiar technique employed by communists in the interrogation cell. Physical torture is carried out to the point at which the victim longs frantically for it to stop. When it is felt that his resistance is almost exhausted, his interrogators change tactics. There is the soft voice, the cigarette and the cup of tea. Here the victim is at his most vulnerable, for the obvious contrast between his previous experience and the relative peace and comfort of his new situation inclines him to do or say almost anything to avoid a reversion to the status quo ante. His torturers know that he may still be reluctant to give them all they are seeking from him, and so they modify their immediate demands, being content with perhaps 50 per cent of it - and presented in such a way that it may appear to him as if he is giving them nothing substantial at all. Bit by bit, the sought-after surrender is squeezed out of the victim through a combination of intimidation and sweet persuasion, practised alternately - to the point at which the interrogators have got most of what they require, while their victim is left feeling that he has retained some honour and self-respect by not yielding 100 per cent.
Then of course, after some interval of time during which the victim is able to reflect upon his experience, the interrogators raise their demands. Now they want yet more. The victim is persuaded by much the same process as before to give them part, though not all, of what they are now seeking - which amounts to the whole of, and possibly even more than, they were demanding on the previous occasion!
It is precisely by these methods that Sinn Fein/IRA have extracted concession after concession from British Government. The alternating tactics of violence and non-violence are classically communist. They can be resisted only by people with a hard ideological backbone equal to that of communists, and moreover who fully understand the underlying strategy their adversaries are pursuing. Both these elements are wholly lacking in the people with whom Sinn Fein/IRA have been dealing, whether they represent Ulster Unionism or British Government. The former of course constitute a much sturdier type, politically speaking, than the latter; and unlike the latter they are people whose intentions are for the most part basically patriotic. But they remain people whose mindset is essentially conservative and coloured by bourgeois ideals. It is the hardest thing imaginable for them to contemplate a scenario, let alone give voice to it before their electorate, in which there is no hope of peace in Ulster except by fighting the terrorists to a finish and destroying them utterly. That is seen as the course of pessimism, though in fact it is the only realistic course on offer other than ultimate surrender. The Ulster Unionist therefore, rather like the detainee in the KGB interrogation cell, opts for the policy of living to fight another day - that is to say one day at a time - while his adversary remains fixated on the long-term goal from which he has never deviated.
In fairness to the Ulster Unionists, it must be acknowledged that they have been left very little room for manoeuvre by British Government. In this situation it would demand a leader of Carson-like stature to stand up and proclaim: "Thus far and no further!" Such a leader the Unionists do not possess; they are stuck with Trimble, whose name is appropriate because he is by nature a trimmer and compromiser, a clever negotiator because tactically astute while strategically blind as a bat. If he has an inkling of where the present 'peace' process is bound to lead, his temperament consigns such thoughts to the back-burner while today's problems receive priority.
Terrorist options unlimited
Trimble, after expressing his and his fellow Unionists' grave reservations about agreeing to join the Northern Ireland Executive without any undertaking by Sinn Fein/IRA to disarm, have now done precisely that - under enormous pressure from Westminster and the media of course. Trimble announced his decision saying to Gerry Adams: "We've jumped. You follow." So will Adams follow? The answer to that question depends entirely on the way the term is interpreted. Does it mean show definite steps towards the decommissioning of the IRA's arsenal of terror? And how do we define 'definite'? The mere handover of so many weapons is meaningless as a measure of how many remain in readiness for use. Or does 'follow' simply mean no more actual acts of terror by the IRA? This question leads us into a quagmire of uncertainty. The Omagh bombing in 1998 followed the Good Friday Agreement under which Sinn Fein/IRA had given a pledge to suspend terrorism. It was explained as the work of a breakaway group which had no authorisation from the IRA itself. What is to stop further Omaghs at any time it suits the republicans to enact them? Gerry Adams could claim: "Nothing to do with us, Guv!" and who could prove him wrong? All this means that there still exists, intact, organised and armed, an apparatus of terror that can go into action at any time while Sinn Fein can maintain at the conference table that nothing has been done to violate the cease-fire agreement for which it, or its allies, could be held responsible. And this in turn means that, whilst the cease-fire agreement has achieved huge strides forward for Sinn Fein/ IRA, from the British standpoint it has achieved nothing. By means of further terrorist outrages, Westminster can still be intimidated into making yet more concessions at any time the republicans care to demand them. Yet Sinn Fein/IRA can keep their hands clean of the whole business and maintain that they are still holding to their part of the deal.
The Unionist position is that its representatives will walk away from the Executive and bring it to a halt if decommissioning of weapons by the IRA does not occur or if terror breaks out again. We have seen how decommissioning can be given validity within the agreement merely if a few token weapons are handed over from time to time whilst making only minimal difference to the IRA's terror capability. And we have seen how terror can anyway be unleashed at any time with Sinn Fein disclaiming involvement in it. So where does that leave us? It leaves us in a position in which the options open to the terrorists remain virtually unlimited - for all the pious talk about the 'peace' that is supposed now to be in prospect.
It is not difficult to foresee the next scenario. An explosion goes off somewhere, perhaps in Northern Ireland, perhaps on the mainland, and people are killed. The Unionists proclaim that the agreement has been violated and walk out of the Executive. Sinn Fein insists that the outrage has been committed by a breakaway group. British Government officials run back and forth like headless chickens desperately trying to patch up their shattered project. A few days pass and Gerry Adams announces that he has carried out thorough investigations into the outrage and is quite sure that it was the work of a breakaway republican group, as he had believed. The Government, as ever, feels that it has to take Adams' word on the matter because it cannot prove he is not speaking the truth. There are frantic discussions with Unionists in which the latter are once again urged to rejoin the Executive. They do so on certain conditions, laid down more as a sop to their own rank and file than in any serious belief that the conditions will be adhered to with any permanence. There are pious speeches, pompous leader articles in the press, perhaps a TV address by the Prime Minister and yet more denunciations by The Rev. Ian Paisley (to whom no-one listens anyway because he is an 'extremist' and a 'bigot'). And then somewhere buried among the small print of a fresh 'agreement' will be found some further concession to the republicans. The stage is set for a few months more of talk, and then the next explosion.
IRA boy makes good
In the meantime, do not Sinn Fein/IRA have a great deal to celebrate? Only last month it was announced that the IRA's former Chief of Staff, Martin McGuinness, was to be Northern Ireland's Minister of Education! With the job will go a £45,000-a-year salary plus £15,000-a-year expenses. McGuinness will get a smart new Ford Mondeo, complete with chauffeur and cellular 'phone. The car is also fitted with a number of extras: an under-car bomb-detecting device; protective film on the windows; wheels that can run on flat tyres; a fire extinguisher; and a first aid kit. Added to all this, of course, will be security men to ensure the Minister's safety at all times - and everything financed by the taxpayers of the nation to which he, McGuinness, proclaims no allegiance. Yes, those who dwell in this nation - the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland - really are these days inhabiting a madhouse, whose inmates have taken over and are directing affairs!
And Mr. Minister McGuinness, having been appointed to his job, lost little time in rubbing in the dirt the nose of the nation which allowed it all. He quickly announced that one of his first policies will be to have the children in all the schools of Northern Ireland, protestant as well as catholic, made to learn Gaelic - the language of Irish Nationalism. Only someone who had been encouraged by experience to have utter contempt for the Brits who will be paying him would have made such a declaration so early in the day.
Needless to say, this language policy will be merely a part, albeit a prominent and symbolic one, part, of the republican agenda to which the new Northern Ireland Executive will be committed.
In virtually any other age of British history, these developments would be seen for what they are: a treasonable surrender of a part of our kingdom to a hostile foreign enemy. But in today's demented fin de siècle they are able somehow to masquerade as acts of mature statesmanship, with their enactors portrayed as the heroes of the moment. David Trimble's preparedness to commit his party to participation in the new Executive is hailed as a gesture of 'courage' and 'common sense'. He is undoubtedly the 'good guy' of the piece, along with Premier Blair, who is praised in much the same way. In the meantime, the Rev. Paisley is marginalised as the voice of 'unreason' and made the subject of numerous newspaper and TV caricatures - though in fact his own interpretation of what is happening is far closer to reality.
What drives Tony Blair?
I find it a sometimes fascinating exercise to try and get into the mind of a person like Blair as he presides over a national debacle like the one unfolding in Ulster. Here is endless food for speculation on the part of the conspiracy theorist. Blair has attended Bilderberg conferences. Are his policies over Northern Ireland, as over Europe, carried out in accordance with an agenda laid down at those conferences or at some other highly secret gatherings of globalists and nation-destroyers? Is he simply translating the minutes of these tête-à-têtes into action as if in robotic compliance with his masters' orders? As an unapologetic conspiracy theorist myself, I find it tempting to embrace that simplistic explanation.
The reality, though, is probably rather more complex. To get a clue as to what it is, we ought to start by understanding that Tony Blair is, politically speaking, very much a creature of his time. Like John Major before him, he is a person almost wholly lacking in any firm principles or convictions. He does not have what the Germans would call a weltanschaung. Politics are to him one huge game - as is indicated by the almost perpetually vacuous schoolboy grin he carries with him everywhere. Like the players in every game, he wants to be a winner; and the winner's prize in British politics is the prime ministership. Tony has got himself that prize and he loves the role in which it has cast him. In the modern game of politics, prime ministers, presidents, or whatever titles they may serve under, do not lead; they merely adapt. Tony learned long ago that adaptation, where the Ulster Question is concerned, means going with the flow towards a United Irish Republic - which is just a part of the agenda devoted to the break-up of the United Kingdom which followed that of the break-up of its Empire. The only 'decisions' which fall within Tony's orbit concern the timing and presentation of this agenda. And presentation is where Tony excels; indeed it is about the only thing at which he excels. By some clever sleight of hand, the sell-out of Ulster is being presented as a victory for 'peace', instead of being what it really is - a victory for violence and terror.
Does Tony really believe in this presentation? Quite likely, he does - in the sense that his own shallow political horizons prohibit any contact with the tough, harsh world of war, rivalry, struggle and suffering that determine the rise and fall of nations; those horizons permit only the vision of that Santa Claus world in which children go to bed at night sure in the belief that nice things will await them when they wake up in the morning - if only they say their prayers and be good. Liberal ideals of eternal peace and conciliation constitute this children's fantasy translated into an adult political scenario. The wish becomes father to the thought. So obsessive is the desire for the happy ending that self-hypnosis takes over and establishes it as truth.
But do the Tonys of this world really understand where the ending lies? To them it is usually to be found in tomorrow's news headlines - or, at the most, in the result of the next election. History? That is only important in respect of its verdict upon themselves. And since all acceptable history in our times hands bouquets only to the liberal, the conciliatory and the politically correct, these virtues are the passport to the pantheon.
It is through the persons of these butterflies, these eternal seekers after applause and expediency, these folk without conviction or core, that historical disasters are visited upon us. Just such a disaster is breaking in Northern Ireland, yet the mood of the times dictates that we hail it as the dawn!
The only true way to peace
Lest the likes of Tony Blair and the members of his Government think otherwise, they are not the only ones who want an end to the killing and the suffering in Northern Ireland. They are not the monopolists of the 'peace' ideal.
But peace, however desirable, is not the first priority. The first priority is the defence of Northern Ireland against its - and Britain's - enemies. And these enemies are of a kind who can never be appeased, never be 'bought off', never be induced to sit round a table with their adversaries except as part of a quite cynical tactical manoeuvre - to be sustained just for as long as expediency dictates, and then to be abandoned when no longer useful.
They are enemies who have given their lives to the aim of destroying British Ulster - by any means necessary. They have come a long way towards the achievement of that aim, and in the process have learned that terrorism pays - at least when its target is the jellyfish nation that Britain has been allowed to become by a succession of jellyfish governments.
Does anyone in his right mind imagine that these enemies, having learned this lesson, and now seeing their prize so nearly within their grasp, are going to abandon the bombing and killing that have brought them so far?
Yet it is upon this fairytale supposition that the whole of the 'peace' deal in Northern Ireland has been based.
I have said that where Northern Ireland is concerned peace is not the first priority; victory is - the victory for which, as General Douglas MacArthur famously said, there is no substitute.
But that is not all. There are certain conflicts in which, once peace is allowed to assume a higher priority than victory, there is all the more certainty that peace will not be achieved.
When the gangster and the bully are on the loose, for as long as 'peace' is the highest aim of their victims the more certain it is that those victims will never know peace.
In those circumstances, peace is only possible, in any durable sense, through the gangster and the bully being put of out of action - permanently.
This simply means that, where Northern Ireland is concerned, the way to peace is not by sitting down with Adams and McGuinness at the negotiating table, but by locking them and their cohorts up and throwing away the key.