The Anthropology of Complex Societies - Gilbert Kushner
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In the s, after his release from jail, Nelson rejoined the UDA at the behest of British intelligence, working closely with his MI5 handlers. He became UDA Director of Intelligence and was responsible for selecting targets for and rearming the death squads. He had unlimited access to Security Forces intelligence documents on Nationalists and Republicans, and organized the largest-ever shipment of Loyalist arms, obtained from South Africa and other countries, with the full backing of his British intelligence handlers who directed the reorganization and rearming of the UDA, until he was arrested again in Adams ; Sinn Fein a, b; Saoirse ; Friel b.
In the six years before the arrival of the Nelson arms shipment from January to December , Loyalist paramilitaries killed 71 people of whom 49 were sectarian that is, innocent civilians. In the six years following from January to September 1, , Loyalists killed people of whom were sectarian Relatives for Justice During this period the death squads continued to attack pubs in Catholic areas, and also began to attack betting offices.
On November 14, , they shot dead three men in an attack on James Murray bookmakers on the Oldpark Road, also in Belfast. The killers shouted "trick or treat" just before they sprayed the bar with gunfire. On June 18, the UVF was responsible for the last major atrocity prior to the ceasefires - the Loughinisland massacre where a death squad shot six people dead in a pub as they watched the Republic of Ireland World Cup game.
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There is usually overlap in membership and various forms of collusion - including the provision of weapons and intelligence - between the death squads and the security forces. The fact is that the Loyalist paramilitaries fit the definition to a tee, and the death squads in Northern Ireland bear striking similarities with those found all over world.
One of the main tools employed by oppressive regimes and cultures of terror around the world to intimidate and control people who hold legitimate aspirations for political change is the use of death squads. While the media has called world attention to the use of such state terror in many contemporary Third World countries, when it comes to Northern Ireland the same perception of collaboration between government and terror groups does not exist.
This is because the British government has established a sophisticated system of direct control, through its military and intelligence services MI5 and MI6 , of the Loyalist paramilitaries who direct the war of attrition against the civilian population in Catholic-Nationalist areas, which has been effective in maintaining a respectable distance between the government at the top and the people who do the killing at the bottom.
The RUC informed some of the victims that their personal details, contained in official British Intelligence files, were in the hands of Loyalist paramilitaries. Some victims were killed by Loyalist gangs with members of the Security Forces in their ranks. Some were killed by weapons reportedly stolen from members of the Security Forces.
Some received death threats from members of the Security Forces before their deaths. Some were killed by weaponry acquired by Loyalist paramilitaries with the assistance of a number of British Intelligence agents, Brian Nelson being the best known of these Relatives for Justice This is typical of death squad activity around the world.
Collusion has always been complex, but structured and widespread. A large number of human rights organizations have consistently documented British state involvement in and management of the Loyalist death squads. For example, Amnesty International, in a statement following the release of people charged with possession of leaked files in October , concluded that it is obvious from all the evidence that collusion remains a fact of life and that the Government is not prepared to confront it.
In a major report in , they again highlighted mounting evidence of collusion between government forces and groups like the UDA, exposing the Catholic minority to random attack from Loyalist death squads:. Such collusion has existed at the level of the security forces and services, made possible by the apparent complacency, and complicity in this, of government officials.
This element of apparent complicity has been seen, for example, in the failure of the authorities to take effective measures to stop collusion, to bring appropriate sanctions against people who colluded, or to deploy resources with equal vigour against both Republican and Loyalist armed groups that pursue campaigns of political murder Amnesty International The direct involvement of British intelligence in directing and supplying information to the Loyalist death squads has been repeatedly documented, and hundreds of members of the British army and RUC have been charged with supplying weapons and intelligence about Catholics to the UDA and UVF.
Over 3, security-intelligence files on Nationalists and Republicans - including their personal details and movements - have been passed on to the UDA and UVF since Clergy for Justice , and they have used these to plan their attacks. Over members have been convicted of offenses against Catholics, including murder, maimings, kidnappings, serious assault, and passing information to Loyalist paramilitaries.
Hundreds of other members have been purged from the regiment - most of them suspected of having links with Loyalist paramilitary groups see Sinn Fein It implies that the British government has no responsibility or control over the killing of Irish Catholics. In other countries where similar relationships exist between official state forces and unofficial forces who support the state, and where nothing is done to end such relationships, the governments of those countries are accused of using death squads.
But in Ireland, as in other colonies where the British military have allowed and assisted death squads to terrorize the population, successive British governments have always been able to wash their hands of the blood spilled by their agents. No matter how horrifying Loyalist violence is, it is neither mindless nor pointless: It is a direct result of British state policy and military practice.
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It is as old as British colonialism in Ireland,  and, while the Loyalists have their own agenda, their attacks fit in with British counterinsurgency strategy. The Loyalist death squads have been armed and resourced by British military intelligence, and act as unofficial auxiliaries to the British forces. Their objective is to prevent any forward political movement which would undermine the current constitutional status quo.
They seek to terrorize and subdue the entire Catholic-Nationalist population by killing uninvolved civilians and selective assassinations of political opponents of the state, as a way of ending resistance, getting them to accept any settlement that stops the killing, and undermining support for and ultimately defeating the IRA and INLA.
As in similar situations in Latin America, non-involved civilians, families, women and children are intended targets. The aim is to terrorise as many Catholics as possible and make all perceived opponents of Unionism feel that they could be the next victim.
This is why there has always been collusion both at an unofficial or personal level and at an official level. Both of these characterisations fly in the face of the historical and contemporary record. They are propaganda or psychological warfare myths which ultimately emanate from the British government and its military apparatus in Northern Ireland.
This is a classic "blaming the victim" tactic Ryan , the purpose of which is to lay the responsibility for the slaughter of Catholic-Nationalist civilians at the door of the very community which is being targeted. Specifically, it is intended to blame the IRA for all the deaths - particularly the ones done by Loyalists. Loyalist violence is reactive, not to the actions of the Republican guerrillas, but to any sign of resistance by or forward political movement for Catholic-Nationalists, and has never operated on a tit-for-tat basis.
With regard to British propaganda and media characterisations of the conflict as "a grim cycle of tit-for-tat sectarian violence," the authorities have made strenuous efforts to encourage the media to portray both sides as being equally involved in sectarian killings, and to not state the religion of the victims of sectarian attacks in order to conceal the fact that they are overwhelmingly Catholic Burke et al Popular tactics of disinformation employed by the RUC include:.
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Kelly The truth is that almost all of the sectarian killing in Northern Ireland has been one-sided. Unlike Loyalist ideology, a cornerstone of Republican ideology is anti-sectarianism, and the IRA do not select targets on the basis of religion. Sectarian killings - that is, killing people simply because of their religion - is the hallmark only of the Loyalist death squads. In June , a Northern Ireland-based human rights monitoring group slammed "tit-for-tat" reporting in the media.
He claimed Loyalist violence was "reactive," and implied that if the IRA ceased their campaign, the Loyalists paramilitaries would cease theirs. He also complimented the Loyalist paramilitaries for maintaining the ceasefire they declared in in response to the IRA ceasefire and emergence of the Northern Ireland peace process. But he also commented that "If they were pushed back into violence, and they have been very severely pushed up to now, then one would have to imagine attacks on the Republic of Ireland and throughout Northern Ireland" Reuter, 22 October As far back as , an editorial in the Irish News the major Catholic daily in Northern Ireland responded to similar comments Annesley made then, arguing that he was wrong and:.
Sooner or later, the police force, which purports to protect all members of the community, is going to have to recognise that those most at risk in Northern Ireland are innocent Catholic civilians. Mr Annesley and his colleagues will have to accept that between and , the first 20 years of the troubles, uninvolved Catholics were killed. Over the same period uninvolved Protestant civilians were killed. When you take into account the fact that there are more Protestants than Catholics, the danger to Catholics shows up as being all the greater.
Catholics civilians are in graver danger than members of the Security Forces and yet very few resources are deployed to help protect them. Security policy in Belfast remains overwhelmingly geared towards combating the IRA - that is, counterinsurgency - rather than "peacekeeping" or protecting people from or preventing sectarian violence. Despite the fact that Loyalist gunmen pose a greater threat, Catholic districts are policed more intensively and aggressively than Protestant districts.
British government security policy indicates that they do not regard the protection of Catholic civilians as being very high on their list of priorities. Republican violence in Northern Ireland must be understood in the context of a reaction to political oppression and continuing state supported violence Clergy for Justice What emerges here is something I have stressed before, the basic contradiction in state repression as a means of social and political control. The primary function of the IRA in Northern Ireland has always been primarily community defense and protection of the Catholic minority from state and Loyalist attacks, and the national liberation struggle is secondary to that.
Like the Phoenix they adopted as their symbol, the Provisional IRA re-emerged from the ashes of the Catholic homes and streets burned down by Loyalist mobs and Protestant policemen in August Hence, Loyalist death squad activity in Northern Ireland is not only brutal and sectarian, it is totally counterproductive. In the complex dialectic between repression and resistance, the Loyalist death squads produce the very conditions for the existence of what they fear most - armed resistance by the oppressed Catholic-Nationalist minority.
This is true despite the apparent contradiction that the IRA and INLA are, in fact, unable to adequately protect Catholics from assassination, as the following words of an Ardoyne north Belfast woman expresses:. Loyalist violence always seems to flare up when they think the British are going to concede something to the "Taigs" or when they think the IRA are on the run. Besides, it suits the Brits to portray us as mad murdering bastards and themselves as the neutral go-between.
The truth of the matter is that the Brits are here to back up the Loyalists and their interests. Why else have they allowed them to stockpile thousands of weapons which are used to murder innocent Catholics simply because they are Catholics? Why else do they let Paisley stomp around the country inciting Protestants to hate us? It was the Brits who made the country what it is, by allowing a Unionist government to do what it wanted to the Catholic population for over 50 years.
We all know who is going to go out and put their necks on the line.