Tom Lehrer, the brilliant American musical satirist of the 1950s and 1960s, famously announced that he was retiring from satire after the warmongering monster Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. When the world was satirising itself in such a way, what was there left for him to say, he asked.
I was reminded of this when, as the US and British armed forces were marauding their way through Iraq, the headlines screamed ‘Bush Urges Northern Irish Parties To Embrace Peace’. So the man who freely uses weapons of mass destruction was instructing people who had been using what must now presumably be known as weapons of moderate destruction, on the glories of peace. Stood beside him putting forth his own pious platitudes was Tony Blair.
Killing innocent Iraqis while lecturing decommissioned Republicans would be bad enough in itself. But to make matters even worse, while all this was going on the Stevens inquiry, the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, and then the ‘Stakeknife affair’ were all exposing the utter illegitimacy of anyone representing the British state lecturing anyone, anywhere, on peace, morality, or indeed the ‘great British tradition of fair play’.
Before going any further it is worth reflecting on two things concerning the Stakeknife furore. Firstly, the individual identified as Stakeknife, Freddy Scappaticci, denies absolutely that it is him. We have no way of knowing whether it is or not, but given the latest exposures of the crude and murky world of British intelligence, we shouldn’t doubt that they would be capable of setting up the wrong man in order to protect the real scumbag.
Secondly, there is something to all this that can strike one as very funny. Anyone who read Peter Wright’s account of his time in the intelligence service couldn’t but be amused by the utter hilarity of some of the goings on of the ex public schoolboys, behaving as if they were part of an Enid Blyton adventure story, and making up clever and funny code names for their agents. So this time there seems to have been a falling out (perhaps between old Etonians and old Harrovians) as to whether the agent was called ‘Stakeknife’ or ‘Steak Knife’. Who the hell knows? No doubt Northern Ireland is awash with agents called things like Tuning Fork, Pump Handle and Lobster Bisque.
However, between the absurdities in Wright’s book emerged a picture of a sinister bunch of fanatics who were hellbent on overthrowing the Labour government of the day and discrediting left politicians. If some of this plotting never got beyond the spying equivalent of fantasy football, Northern Ireland presented them with an opportunity to play the real game.
The revelations of the likes of ex intelligence operators Colin Wallace, Brian Nelson and more recently David Shayler began to expose a very nasty picture indeed. The bombing of Dublin in the early 1970s, the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane, and untold Loyalist ‘hits’ were traced back to British intelligence.
Now with Stakeknife (or Steak Knife, call him what you will) being exposed, it becomes clear they were responsible for quite a few victims of Republican violence as well: an elderly innocent man shot in order, it is said, that the Loyalists be diverted from executing the Provo British agent. The Gardai informer given up by the British, his name given to the agent to pass on to an execution squad. Minor informers ‘sacrificed’ in order that Stakeknife retained his credibility.
Even within British intelligence the Military Intelligence Force Research Unit (FRU), which ran Stakeknife, was apparently happily sacrificing Special Branch and MI5 agents, as well as police and military personnel. Worst of all, countless innocents with little or nothing to do with the struggle were offered up by these agents of civilisation. All very ‘unBritish’ – James Bond was never like this – but of course Britain’s dirty war in Ireland always was.
Even now we watch the farcical parade of spooks and murderers hidden behind screens hurling further insult on the dead of Bloody Sunday by refusing to be seen or named, or in many cases utter a word of the truth at that inquiry. Some unseen spook gives second hand evidence on behalf of a dead man, code name ‘Infliction’. As the evidence he gives is a pile of horse manure about Martin McGuinness one can only hazard a guess that his code name is ‘Invention’.
Meanwhile we are somehow supposed to believe that the problem in Ireland is of Irish making. So in order for the peace process to work the IRA must prostrate itself in front of the world and say, ‘We are sorry, we were murderers, it’s all our fault, here are our guns, take them, destroy them, and let history say we were the bad guys.’ That’s what Bush and Blair mean when they call on the ‘parties to embrace peace’.
Interestingly enough the IRA issued a statement saying they would completely set guns aside if the Good Friday agreement was implemented fully. In that statement they did say sorry to the families of all innocent victims of their struggle. In contrast, the Unionists have never acknowledged, let alone apologised for, running a state that discriminated against and terrorised Catholics, and indeed led to the beginning of the ‘troubles’ in the first place.
As for the British, they always wanted us to believe they were the good clean guys caught in the middle of two warring factions. The Stakeknife affair proves beyond doubt that they were nothing of the sort. They were firmly entwined with the sectarian murderers and lawless henchmen of Loyalism, and in fact were directing many of the dirtiest crimes in the whole conflict.
Stakeknife may have acted as a knife in the back of Irish Republicanism, but he has ended up driving a stake through the heart of Britain’s claim to the moral high ground.
In November of last year, there was a brief moment of light amid the darkness that was 2020. Scotland became the first country in the world to make period products free for all. Just as the weekend and the eight-hour-day are now regarded by many as a given, future generations may be in disbelief that...
On 4 November last year, when many of us were watching the aftermath of the American presidential election, the US formally left the Paris Climate Agreement. Written in 2015 at the United Nations’ COP21 climate conference in Paris, the agreement is often considered to be the most significant document of international climate cooperation. Back then,...
To say 2020 was dramatic would be an understatement. The world situation has been completely transformed by the Covid-19 pandemic and the inadequacy of governmental and state responses. As we head into 2021 it feels like we are entering uncharted territory. To make specific predictions would be unwise. But the Covid-19 crisis raises fundamental questions...