September 25, 2005
IRA Disarming... Well, Maybe
If this Associated Press story is remotely accurate, this could be a very good first step indeed:
International weapons inspectors have supervised the full disarmament of the outlawed Irish Republican Army, a long-sought goal of Northern Ireland's peace process, an aide to the process' monitor said Sunday.
The IRA permitted two independent witnesses, including a Methodist minister and a Roman Catholic priest close to Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, to view the secret disarmament work conducted by officials from Canada, Finland and the United States, the aide to retired Canadian Gen. John de Chastelain said on condition of anonymity.
The office of de Chastelain, who in recent weeks has been in secret locations overseeing the weapons destruction, scheduled a Monday news conference in Belfast.
The aide told The Associated Press that the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning news conference would detail the scrapping of many tons of IRA weaponry this month at a confidential location in the Republic of Ireland. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
Alas, it's a bit hard to verify. Libya's dictator Muammar Qadhafi sold the IRA many tons of weapons in the 1980s, and international arms inspectors have the inventory of this sale, which they likely got from the United States, who probably (I don't know this for sure) obtained it from Qadhafi himself, after he dismantled his own nuclear programs, in response to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, and began cooperating with the United States on fighting terrorism. But of course, the IRA has other sources of weaponry and munitions besides Libya; it will be very hard ever to verify whether they have fully disarmed, certainly not to the satisfaction of the Paisleyites.
But frankly, I don't think it matters: the mere fact that the IRA are now destroying weapons, instead of simply claiming with appropriate vagueness that they have "decommissioned" them (which means what, exactly?), will, I believe, go a long way towards convincing Brits that the terrorist group is serious about renouncing its bloody campaign.
And I believe we have George W. Bush to thank for this sudden turnabout. Read on!
Ian Paisley's response is predictable, of course; he is Adams' mirror-image and just as evil:
The Rev. Ian Paisley, whose uncompromising Democratic Unionist Party represents most Protestants today, has dismissed the coming IRA moves as inadequate. Paisley insists on photographs, a detailed record and a Paisley-approved Protestant clergyman to serve as an independent witness.
A senior Democratic Unionist, Jeffrey Donaldson, said the IRA's apparent refusal to provide any photos and its refusal to use a Protestant minister nominated by his party as a witness meant that many Protestants would not fully believe the IRA moves.
"I don't think we're going to get that level of transparency tomorrow, and I think that's most unfortunate," Donaldson said. "People want to see what has happened ...
"The witnesses have been appointed by the IRA," he said. "It does diminish the credibility of whatever is going to happen tomorrow."
Actually, this statement only diminishes the Unionists -- who are every bit as terroristic, and who have not themselves invited any independent witnesses (let alone witnesses appointed by the IRA or Sinn Fein) to observe international arms controllers destroying all the Orangemen's weapons; in fact, they have not even offered to disarm.
At one point, during the days of the Irish Revolution (from 1916 to 1921), the Irish Republican Army was more or less an actual army; an army of insurgency, of course, but insurgency in its proper meaning: a native uprising against an oppressive government, in this case the occupation government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The war -- fought against the backdrop of World War I and the collapse of the British Empire -- led to the founding of the Irish Republic.
The current multiple terrorist organizations that confusingly use the name Irish Republican Army are the remnants of the split in the Irish nationalists from 1969 through 1998. The nationalist movement became Socialist in politics (possibly reacting to student leftist movements in the United States) under the leadership of Cathal Goulding. The IRA then split into two warring pieces: the Official IRA, which was the Marxist branch led by Goulding, and the Provisional IRA, also called "Provos" or "Provies," the hard-core warriors.
The Official IRA quickly faded from the field of armed conflict; while it still probably exists on paper, it's moribund. The Provos, however, led by Seán Mac Stíofáin -- an Englishman of some Irish ancestory born John Stephenson -- began a campaign of horrific terrorist violence against the Unionists in Northern Ireland; the Ulster Defence Association (sort of a terrorist holding company for the loyalist militias) responded with attacks on civilians in the Republic of Ireland, and Mac Stíofáin retaliated with attacks on civilians in England.
The Provos themselves split in 1986, when the more-radical Continuity IRA peeled off; and again in 1998, following the Good Friday Agreement with the UK, when the likewise radical Real IRA (which opposed the cease fire) declared itself.
It's likely that this disarmament and weapons destruction covers only the Provisional IRA, now led by Gerry Adams (who long maintained he was only involved in the Provisional Sinn Fein, the political branch, but who was outed recently as one of the military commanders as well); I speculate that the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA, which consider the Provos to be traitors to the cause, are not parties to the disarmament; they will continue operations and probably even step up their terrorist bombings, just to prove that they're still relevant. It could end up as an all-Irish version what Captain Ed calls the "Palestinian Three-Step," only with two groups instead of three.
If so, they have doomed themselves to extinction: the world has changed from the 1990s, as Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrate.
What truly matters, however, is that the largest and best known branch of the IRA is at least going through the motions of disarming. And I would flatly argue that this is largely due to President Bush's response to the 9/11 attacks, paradoxical as that sounds.
The world changed in many ways on that day; one was in the way civilized nations respond to terrorism. No longer would terrorist activity be considered primarily a police problem, to be solved by subpoenas and warrants... though that will certainly always be part of the response. Now, the United States, the UK, and even countries such as France, Spain, and Germany treat terrorism as a military problem... and that has led to a number of reactions among sponsors of terrorism in countries as disparate as Libya, Lebanon, Syria, Ukraine, and -- in my opinion -- Northern Ireland.
Simply put, sponsoring terror has suddenly become much more dangerous; terrorist paymasters are rethinking their involvement. Some, such as Qadhafi, appear to be dropping out entirely... though of course that has yet to be proven. Others, such as Bashar Assad of Syria, are simply losing control of areas long controlled (Lebanon), as the people rise up and begin to fight back. Others are making last-ditch efforts to utilize terrorism as a military weapon: Iran and North Korea, for example. None, however, is completely unaffected.
The Irish people are clearly sick of the terrorism... not only the Irish in Ireland but the Irish in America, as well; in addition, the Bush administration has clamped down severely on terrorist fundraising organizations, freezing their assets and seizing their bank accounts. Since Irish Americans used to be the terrorists' primary source of funding, their coffers are drying up: this was undoubtedly the reason behind the December 20th, 2004 Belfast bank robbery, in which alleged IRA Provos made off with £22 million ($42.8 million) -- money that likely cannot be spent without attracting British police and military attention.
That robbery, which convinced the Irish in Ireland that the IRA had simply become a Gaelic Mafia, plus the January 31st, 2005 pub-brawl murder of Robert McCartney by Provos -- and especially the subsequent thuggish "offer" by the IRA to McCartney's family that they would simply shoot the murderers! -- has brought public disgust at the IRA to what must be its highest level in recent history. These, plus the disclosure of Gerry Adams' personal involvement in terrorist operations has, I believe, forced the Provisionals' hand: they must make a serious and significant movement towards disarming, demilitarizing, and mainstreaming themselves into a purely political movement, with no terrorist involvement at all.
Ian Paisley is correct that they haven't gone far enough; they need also to denounce the other Republican terrorist groups and cooperate with the authorities in turning them in... which will be a bitter pill indeed to swallow after years of denouncing (and frequently killing) those they consider to be traitors to the IRA cause. I don't know if the current leadership can bring itself to do that, but the snowball is already rolling down the hill. Eventually, they will either comply or be crushed beneath it.
But what applies to Sinn Fein and the IRA applies equally to the Paisleyites. Bloody-handed Ian Paisley, who is every bit as involved in terrorism against innocent civilians, must eat the same crow: the Unionists must likewise disarm, every bit as transparently as they demand the Republicans do, and must likewise disavow terrorism and turn in their unrepentant brothers.
I have great faith it will happen; but I have great sadness that it will not happen quickly, nor without terrible dying strikes by the die-hards and bitter-enders as they collapse. Now that civilization, as one organism, is finally rising up, the cancer of terrorism is doomed. It is just a matter of time -- and lives, both innocent and guilty -- until terrorism as a political force in the world is obliterated... something which I could not have said on September 10th, 2001.
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 25, 2005, at the time of 4:07 PM
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