Northern Ireland’s British-Made ‘Troubles’
Late at night on 31st July 1975, about 7 miles from the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, a minibus carrying members of a music band, The Miami Showband, was stopped by what appeared to be a group of British soldiers. The five members of the band – lead singer Fran O’Toole, trumpeter Brian McCoy, guitarist Tony Geraghty, bassist Stephen Travers and saxophone player Des McAlea – were told to exit the bus and stand by the roadside while two of the soldiers searched their bus. At least some of the soldiers were members of the Ulster Defense Regiment (UDR) – an infantry regiment of the British Army recruited from Northern Ireland – but they were also members of the UVF, a loyalist paramilitary group responsible for many indiscriminate murders of innocent Northern Irish Catholics in Northern Ireland’s brewing sectarian conflict.
While a soldier asked each of the band members for their names and addresses, a car pulled up and another uniformed man appeared. He was wearing a beret that was noticeably different from those worn by the others and, according to two of the band members, spoke with a “crisp, clipped English accent.” He immediately took charge of proceedings, instructing the other soldiers to ask for the names and dates of birth of the band members rather than their addresses.
While this apparently routine procedure was under way, two of the
soldiers who were ostensibly ‘searching the minibus’ were in fact
attempting to place a bomb in a suitcase under the front seat. The plan
was for the band members to be allowed to continue their journey south
towards Dublin and, once they had crossed the nearby border with the Irish Republic, the bomb would detonate,
killing all on board. The plausible narrative that the band members
were either members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), or carrying a
bomb for the IRA, would then ‘naturally’ develop, blackening their names
and putting pressure on the Irish government to increase controls on
IRA movement across the border.
As the bomb was being placed however, clumsy soldering on the clock used as a timer caused the bomb to explode prematurely. The two soldiers/UVF members were killed instantly. To eliminate witnesses to the bogus checkpoint and subsequent bombing, the gunmen opened fire on the band members, who had all been blown down into the field below the level of the road from the force of the blast.
Brian McCoy was hit in the back and neck by nine rounds from a 9mm Luger pistol in the initial volley of gunfire. Stephen Travers was seriously wounded by a dum-dum bullet but survived by playing dead. Tony Geraghty and Fran O’Toole attempted to flee but were quickly chased down by the gunmen. O’Toole was machine-gunned 22 times, mostly in the face, while Geraghty was shot twice in the back of his head and a number of times in the back. Des McAlea, who had been standing closest to the minibus, was hit by its door when it was blown off in the explosion, but was not badly wounded. He lay hidden in thick undergrowth, face down, undetected by the gunmen. Travers later recalled hearing one of the departing gunmen tell his comrade who had kicked McCoy’s body to make sure he was not alive: “Come on, those bastards are dead. I got them with dum-dums.”
Recently released British Ministry of Defense documents have revealed that the man with the “crisp, clipped English accent” was Captain Robert Nairac of the Special Reconnaissance Unit, a division within the British Army Intelligence Corps involved in plain-clothes operations in Northern Ireland from the 1970s onward. The redacted documents also show that Nairac was responsible for the planning and execution of the attack on the Miami Showband.
Less than 6 months later, on January 5th 1976, another mass shooting
took place near the village of Whitecross about 10 miles from where the Miami Showband
attack took place. Gunmen stopped a minibus carrying eleven Protestant
workmen, lined them up alongside it and shot them. Only one victim
survived, despite having been shot 18 times. That survivor, Alan Black, testified
that he heard one of those involved speaking with an English accent,
which has fueled speculation that either Nairac or one of his ilk was
again involved. The man who first arrived on the scene, Gerald Byrne, said that a close friend who had direct contact with Nairac said that Nairac was the one who stopped the minibus.
Nairac and his cohorts in the Special Reconnaissance Unit are suspected of running the ‘Glenanne Gang‘, a group comprising members of loyalist paramilitary death squads, the UDR and serving members of the Northern Ireland police force (RUC – Royal Ulster Constabulary). In 2007, it was revealed that this group had planned a ‘reprisal’ attack for the Whitecross massacre that involved murdering 30 children at a primary school in the small village of Belleeks. The plan was called off because members of the group suspected that the man who suggested carrying out the attack was working for British military intelligence and that his intent was to provoke a civil war.
The Glenanne Gang has been directly linked to the murder of at least 120 innocent Catholics in Northern Ireland over the course of ‘the Troubles’. They were also responsible for a series of bomb attacks in Dublin and Monaghan in the Republic of Ireland on May 17th 1974 that killed 33 civilians and injured 500. The Cassel Report investigated 76 killings attributed to the group and found evidence that British soldiers and police officers were involved in 74 of those.
On July 7th 1993, Yorkshire Television broadcast the documentary Hidden Hand: The Forgotten Massacre, that investigated the bombings and named the loyalist paramilitaries who carried out the bombings. The documentary makers presented evidence that, at the time, the paramilitaries were working for British Intelligence. Evidence was also presented that Nairac was involved in the attacks, the narrator said:
“We have evidence from police, military and loyalist sources which confirms […] that in May 1974, Nairac was meeting with these terrorists, supplying them with arms and helping them plan acts of terrorism.”
According to Scottish investigative journalist Eamonn O’Neill, government authorities in Dublin have secret papers that point to British military involvement in the bombings. A Dublin solicitor told O’Neill that British correspondence from the time suggested that “the Dublin and Monaghan bombings had been connected to a group known as the ‘Protestant Reaction Force’ (aka Glenanne Gang) which was controlled by a ‘special duties’ team from the British army HQ in Lisburn. It has been known for some time that a special British army unit operated in Armagh in 1974 under the title of ‘4 Field Survey Group’.” Nairac was in that group.
Retired British military-intelligence officer Fred Holroyd is one of several former members of British forces who exposed a policy of assassinations and collusion between the British Army Intelligence Corps and loyalist paramilitaries in Northern Ireland. Interviewed by O’Neill, Holroyd said that he met Nairac in 1974 and knew he was working for a special unit. Holroyd linked Nairac with the Portadown loyalist paramilitary group, the UDA, and claims Nairac was “with them on planning sessions for terrorist outrages.” Holroyd alleges that Nairac was following orders, possibly from MI5 or another section of the British intelligence community. “I think there were hidden agendas in his being deployed in Ireland,” he said. Holroyd believes that Nairac was being run directly by someone back in England, someone with enough power to also control the Northern Ireland SAS (Special Air Service – British military special forces) if they became too curious about Nairac’s secret missions and overall agenda.
Holroyd also claimed that Nairac teamed up with another SAS man attached to 14 Int, Julian “Tony” Ball.
“I know from the information and evidence I have received that Robert Nairac and Tony Ball were working together and that certain officers of the British Army complained to a commanding officer that he [Nairac] was going out with Ball in the evenings – shooting Catholics one night and Protestants the next. They were using an unmarked car and were dressed in plain clothes, but they were carrying sub-machine guns and pistols.”
By day Nairac would walk the streets in patrol uniform, occasionally adding a cowboy hat, trainers or extra pieces of non-issue gear such as a shoulder holster or pump-action shotgun. By night he would go “undercover” to local bars known to be frequented by IRA members. On the night of May 14th 1977, Nairac drove, for the third time, to the Tree Steps, a bar in the small village of Dromintee in South Armagh. He reportedly told locals his name was Danny McErlaine, a motor mechanic and member of the official IRA. The real McErlaine had been on the run since 1974 and was later killed by the Provisional IRA in June 1978 for stealing arms from the organisation. Witnesses say that Nairac got up and sang a rebel song, The Broad Black Brimmer, with the band who were playing that night. At around 11.45 pm, he was abducted, following a struggle in the pub’s car park, and taken across the border into the Republic of Ireland, to a field in the Ravensdale Woods, where he was shot dead. The location of his body has never been revealed.
In 1979, Nairac was posthumously awarded the George Cross, the second highest award of the United Kingdom honors system, awarded “for acts of the greatest heroism or for most conspicuous courage in circumstance of extreme danger.”
The above is but a small sample of a large volume of evidence that has come to light in recent years that proves, beyond any reasonable doubt, that far from acting as a ‘peace-keeper’ during the conflict in Northern Ireland, the British state pursued a military strategy that actively sought to inflame sectarian divisions through the covert targeted killing of civilians on both sides of the religious divide. That strategy was, however, by no means limited to Northern Ireland, or to the British military high command.
Iraq’s ‘Civil War’ Problem
In March 2013, the UK Guardian newspaper published the results of a 15-month investigation by the Guardian and BBC Arabic. Euphemistically titled ‘James Steele: America’s mystery man in Iraq‘, the investigation presents damning evidence that, in the immediate aftermath of the US invasion of Iraq, the US government and military began to assemble a 10,000 strong ‘Shia militia’ that, under US command, would be used to do three things:
- Kidnap, torture, murder and maim members of the Iraq resistance and those members of the Iraqi population that supported them.
- Plants bombs that alternately targeted Sunni and Shia areas in an effort to divide the population and thereby any unified resistance to the US occupation.
- Create the impression of a ‘civil war’ in Iraq that could be used by the US and allied governments and militaries to justify the continued occupation of Iraq for ‘peace-keeping’ purposes.
While the 50-minute documentary is proof enough that Rumsfeld, Cheney, General Petraeus, and all the other NeoCon warhawks and CIA monsters, consciously employed the services of former US Army Colonel James Steele in the organisation of death squads against the Iraqi grassroots resistance (a tactic that he, Steele, had used against resistance movements in South America in the 1970s and 90s), it panders to the official narrative that ‘sectarianism’ in Iraq was the root cause of the carnage that unfolded.
The so-called ‘Shia militia’ used by the American government (with the help and advice of British and Israeli counter-insurgency ‘experts’) were recruited directly by people like James Steele to carry out extrajudicial murders of anyone they could loosely identify as ‘resistance’. In order to cloak this strategy, indiscriminate attacks on Iraqi civilians, Shia and Sunni alike, were carried out on a massive scale. Some of these individuals, in another setting, would be called ‘al-Qaeda’ or ‘ISIS’. Their usefulness in the employ of US warhawks in the Pentagon was doubly valuable because they justified continued US occupation and provided ‘proof’ for the American War on Terror mythology, ex post facto, that the US was at war with the perpetrators of 9/11.
The Guardian‘s investigation into the activities of Steele and his side-kick James H. Coffman in Iraq leaves little doubt about the nature of these men who were the personal confidants of Rumsfeld and Cheney:
Steele’s commandos used the most brutal methods to make detainees talk. There is no evidence that Steele or Coffman took part in these torture sessions, but General Muntadher al Samari, a former general in the Iraqi army, who worked after the invasion with the US to rebuild the police force, claims that they knew exactly what was going on and were supplying the commandos with lists of people they wanted brought in. He says he tried to stop the torture, but failed and fled the country.
“We were having lunch. Col Steele, Col Coffman, and the door opened and Captain Jabr was there torturing a prisoner. He [the victim] was hanging upside down and Steele got up and just closed the door, he didn’t say anything – it was just normal for him.”
In a March 2013 Deutche Press article, General Muntadher al-Samari, Iraqi interior ministry commander from 2003 to 2005, revealed the US role in torture carried out by the Special Commandos’ interrogation units, claiming that Steele and his colleague Col. Coffman knew exactly what was being done. Al-Samari described “the ugliest sorts of torture” he had ever seen, which included the severe beating and hanging of detainees, as well the pulling off of their fingernails. The Guardian report also claimed that the US backing of sectarian paramilitary units helped create conditions that led to sectarian civil war.
With their experience in Northern Ireland, British forces were also front and center in the abuse, torture and murder of Iraqi civilians throughout the occupation of the country. For one of many examples, Iraqi civilian Baha Mousa was beaten to death in a British military interrogation facility in Basra in September 2003. He had 93 sites of injury all over his body. An inquiry into his death heard that his [British] military interrogators were using the so-called ‘five techniques’ that were first developed and used by the British on Catholic civilians at internment camps in Northern Ireland. The interrogators said they “answered to London” (the MoD) and not the usual chain of command. Seven British soldiers were eventually charged in connection with the case. Six were found not guilty. Corporal Donald Payne pleaded guilty to inhumane treatment of a prisoner and was jailed for a year and dismissed from the Army.
On September 19th 2005, two
undercover British SAS soldiers disguised in Arab civilian garments and
headdresses opened fire on Iraqi police officers after they were
stopped at a roadblock. Iraqi police found explosives in the British
soldiers’ vehicle. Two Iraqi officers were shot, at least one
of whom died. The two British men were arrested and taken to the Al
Jameat police station and then moved to a house nearby. Later that day
the police station and house were attacked by British forces using tanks
and helicopters and the two soldiers retrieved.
In an October 14th 2005 Iranian news agency report, an Iraqi army officer said that the British military personnel and security forces were involved in acts of terrorism in Iraq. The Iraqi officer, who introduced himself to IRNA as Fayyadh Mas’ud, said:
“The evidence at our disposal cannot be denied. Investigations show that the British Army’s explosives and equipment were used in several instances of bomb blasts in Baghdad.”
‘Projecting’ Terror Globally
In the wake of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that brought a definitive end to Northern Ireland’s ‘Troubles’, researchers at the Boston College Center for Irish Programs began an ‘Oral History Project‘ that conducted and archived interviews with former members of the IRA and the UVF on the condition that the transcripts would not be released until after the death of those interviewed.
The transcript of interviews with former high-ranking member of the UVF, David Ervine, were released after his death in 2007 and have been compiled into a book by Irish journalist Ed Moloney. One particular statement made by Ervine in those interviews (with comments by Moloney) is relevant here.
In the transcript, Ervine talks about his first trip to America in 1994 as part of the burgeoning Northern Ireland peace process that was being facilitated by the Clinton administration.
Moloney: “The expedition was a revelation to David Ervine, not least because of the insight he gained into how America’s self-interest shaped foreign policy. Bill Clinton’s interest in the peace process may have been shaped by the prospect of Irish-American votes, but as far as the Mandarins of Washington were concerned, it was about fighting its own wars.Peace in Northern Ireland would free up British military resources for use against the United States’ new, emerging enemy: militant Islam.”
Ervine: “[…] the Loyalist ceasefire was declared on 14 October 1994, and less than a month later we were invited to speak to people in the United States, in three cities – New York, Boston and Washington – and that was interesting; certainly, as one of the delegates, it was extremely interesting and very pleasurable. I had never been in America before, I had never been on a flight that length of time, I had never never been picked up in a limousine and driven around, and I have no doubt people believed that we were being seduced, but leaving that element of it aside, it was vital.
We were able to talk to the State Department, to the United Kingdom desk officer and when we simplistically accused the United States administration of being pro-Provo [pro-IRA], he [the UK desk officer] said, ‘Well, you know the Provisional IRA don’t have Buccaneer bombers, they don’t have aircraft carriers, and we need to help sew up the British exchequer so that we can take on the next big battle in the world.’ And we all looked at him, and he said, ‘Islamic fundamentalism.’ That was November 1994, and I was not alone, there are witnesses.”
Ed Moloney – Voices from the Grave, p. 450
There are several things to note here.
1) Already in 1994, elements of the US and British governments had a plan for a ‘global war on Islamic terror’.
2) That plan was already developed to the extent that the British and US governments had effectively made the decision to end the conflict in Northern Ireland for the express purpose of redirecting British military resources that had been used in Northern Ireland towards the Middle East.
3) The fact that the British government could essentially ‘pull the plug’ on the conflict in Northern Ireland validates the argument that it played a major part in perpetuating it for the previous 30 years, primarily, as we have seen, through the use of its own regular forces and proxy paramilitary forces to foment a slow-burning ‘civil war’ in its Irish province.
4) The plan to invade the Middle East and Central Asia to ‘fight Islamic terrorism’ was, therefore, not forced upon the US and British governments as a result of the 9/11 attacks. It was planned at least 7 years previously, within a few years of the collapse of the Soviet Union that ended the ‘Cold War’ that had provided justification for US and British imperial conquests (or ‘management’ of existing colonies and dependencies) during the latter half of the 20th century. The 9/11 attacks were, therefore, simply the necessary justification for a plan that was long in the making.