Monday, February 13, 2006


Remember the Lessons

When I first heard about the use of chemical warfare and riotous behavior of US troops toward unarmed women and children in the assault on Fallujah last year, I remember recalling the berserk conduct of US troops in the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War, and I wondered if this generation of teenagers had also succumbed to the patriotic/military brainwashing, demoralization, fatigue, and inevitable indulgence in mind-altering drugs. As it turns out, they had.

In his book The Freedom, Christian Parenti recounts his time spent as a reporter accompanying these young, impressionable boys--almost completely ignorant of history, geography, or politics--who'd joined for the money or adventure, and were now ingesting massive doses of steroids before going out on missions, and chilling out afterward with handfuls of valium.

Thirty-four years ago, January 30, 1972, a couple hundred British paratroopers were sent into the North of Ireland city of Derry. Located on the western border of the British-occupied territory, citizens of Derry that day were holding a massive, peaceful march for civil rights in protest of unwarranted, uncharged internment of innocent civilians. Similar to the civil rights marches held in the South of the US, their message was a demand for freedom, equality, and rule of law. Both Catholics and Protestants participated in their Sunday best, the elderly, women, and children present in large numbers.

What the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association had not counted on, though, was that the crack troops known as Paras had been brainwashed in advance of their arrival with bogus reports of widespread violence, including the completely fabricated claim by an officer that 100 of their comrades had already been killed. The General who covertly assumed command on what would come to be known as Bloody Sunday, actually instructed these terrified boys that "we want some kills."

Reading the statements of survivors and witnesses in Bloody Sunday by Don Mullan, the one thing that stands out is that the 20,000 peaceful marchers were completely bewildered by the sudden and ruthless violence, in which over a course of half an hour 13 were murdered and 13 wounded by Paras firing point blank into crowds running away in terror, as well as by soldiers performing execution style killings of others holding their hands in the air or up against the walls of Derry. Several eyewitnesses from clergy and red cross volunteers observed that the Paras were wild-eyed and laughing while they beat the heads of senior citizens and little girls with their rifle butts.

A decade earlier in Mississippi Freedom Summer, when SNCC was mobilizing black voter-registration drives, their organizers as well as local participants were regularly threatened and assaulted by the Klan and other armed, white supremacy thugs, including local and state police. Yet, as author Stokely Carmichael reported in his book Ready for Revolution, SNCC continued to hold meetings, conduct schools, and hold civil rights marches across the former Confederacy. But one difference with the human rights demonstrations against mass-incarceration in Fallujah and the civil rights marches against mass-internment in Derry that SNCC was eventually able to employ, was the use of intelligence, forewarning them of organized campaigns of terror, which in turn enabled them to post armed black army veterans around isolated black communities as a means of defense.

Today, here in the US, as another apartheid regime--empowered by the use of psychological warfare against the gullible and disgruntled--attempts to pit the privileged against the scapegoated, we would do well to remember the lessons from Ireland and Iraq, as well as Dixie, about the value of opposition research in protecting both ourselves and our movement for equality.


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