Monday, March 28, 2011

Peter King, Muslims, Torture, and N. Ireland

(I am NOT Bernadette Devlin-McAliskey NOR am I connected to her in any way. I discuss naming it after her in the "notes" post) 

I should have done this post about a week ago. I'm not sure how many people may have already figured this out, but I would be surprised if it were a large number.

Peter King, a GOP US Representative from New York, has been a big supporter of Irish Republicanism and specifically Sinn Fein and NORAID, an American group suspected in the past of supporting the IRA, although it might be a lot more accurate to say that they supported and today support SF. He is very conservative and has expressed support for the use (in the War on Terror, in Iraq, and Afghanistan) of interrogation techniques that are torture (for example, see this and this). He has also spear-headed congressional hearings on the alleged radicalization of American Muslims (see this, this and this)

In the 2nd link from the bottom of the above paragraph, is a post on the blog of the Southern Poverty Law Center. In the discussion I spent a lot of time explaining that the IRA was/is not a terrorist organization- people thought King was a bigoted hypocrite because he supported the IRA’s campaign but is hostile to groups like Al-Qaeda which a lot of people think are comparable to the IRA. Although this doesn’t have anything to do with the question of terrorism, in another way it’s relevant to point out that there are many things indicating that the IRA over the last 30 years or so has been more or less left-wing (it's probably safe to assume that, for example, if a majority of SF members are anti-homophobic, a similar majority of IRA members are anti-homophobic) (for some examples of that see some of this and most of the first half of this).

***

UPDATE 11/10/11 These two paragraphs are replacing three poorly written paragraphs that said roughly what I'm saying now.

In the SPLC discussion I forgot a few things that I need to mention here. First, there were unsucesful attempts at killing civilians- well, the odds are that something like .05% of the IRA’s operations were in that category. The % for intentionally killing civilians is somewhere around .25%. That would mean that 80% of the time they were trying to kill civilians, they did. This makes sense because for a skilled group like the IRA, killing civilians would have been very easy. I should also mention that I have heard of two operations where they were only trying to spread terror- that sort of thing is probably something like .05% of their operations.

When the IRA were bombing commercial property, they always (or at least almost always something like 99% of the time) planned on issuing a warning. Something like 99% of the time the warning was issued, the target was evacuated and no one was killed. The goal of such operations was at least partly to inflict financial damage on the business community who, it was hoped, would then pressure the British government to withdraw from Ireland. They were probably also often aimed at demonstrating that the IRA was not beaten when the British would often claim that. Bombings of non-military government property were aimed at disrupting government operations, and putting pressure directly on the government (warnings were always or almost always issued and civilians were evacuated). The issuing of warnings in these two categories, and the tiny % of the time that they intentionally killed civilians and the fact that somewhere around 2/3 of their operations were aimed at the security forces, all indicate that some very large % of IRA members and leaders were not into terrorizing civilians. (the content of this paragraph is what I forgot when, in the SPLC blog discussion, I conceded that the IRA had tried to terrorize a couple of tiny parts of the UK population (very senior political and government figures and the business communites, both unionist and British)

***

I can understand people wanting to expose King as the bigoted hypocrite he is, but doing so by calling the IRA terrorists is just not accurate or helpful. What would be a great approach would be to focus on the issue of torture- torture used by the US or it’s allies in recent years, and the torture used by the British in the early 1970s in N. Ireland. King LOVES water-boarding and in general approves of the torture techniques used by the US. I know that some methods have been used in both situations. I’m not as familiar with the details as I could be and I’m not capable right now of engaging in an off-line discussions with journalists, or debate with supporters of King. But I figure some of you, or someone that one of you knows will want to have the information ready to attack King over his bigoted hypocrisy. The thing is, you can find a lot of info about the Irish part of this in a book that is (mostly) available on-line here. Although the author was very partisan as a republican, his book seems to be well respected as the web-site it’s on is very neutral and academic, and about 1/3 of the information the site offers on the subject of internment in the early 1970s was written by him.

UPDATE 5/31/11 I'm still not feeling like reading the book linked to right above to refresh my memory and learn some new details. But while reading another very good source, I found a brief description of the "sensory deprivation" techniques used on eleven of the internees during seven days. According to Michael Farrell's "Northern Ireland: The Orange State" (page 283) they were hooded the entire time; they were completely isolated, and didn't know where they were; they were severely beaten; they were forced to stand spread-eagled against walls until they collapsed; they were given hardly any food; they were subjected to "white noise;" they were prevented from sleeping. The book also refers to another torture technique used on the internees in general (apparently not the 11 I just referred to). That was taking hooded internees up in helicopters, and then, when the helicopter comes back down to a few feet above the ground, the internee is pushed out, thinking that he's much higher up than he is. Sounds like water-boarding.

If King’s bigoted hypocrisy is highlighted and becomes an issue in America, that will make it very likely that Sinn Fein will tell him to go away. If they do that publicly, it will, to some small degree, probably affect how much support he has. Also, it will probably result in Sinn Fein changing their approach to generating support in America (in a way that both SF and the American left will benefit from).

In any case, I hope this was worth your time to read- I really think that King can be hammered on this. And maybe you or someone you know will be able to use the information about torture in N. Ireland.

Tom

UPDATE 10/8/12 Apparently there was some use of waterboarding by the security forces in N. Ireland. See this and this.

No comments: