And so the findings of the Bloody Sunday enquiry have been published, the mother of all Sunday supplements.
One awaits the perorations of Simon Heffer with great interest - we already have Norman Tebbit, the only mainstream, mainland politician I have ever heard repeat the sectarian slogan 'No Surrender', calling for a similar enquiry into the Brighton bombing. The spastic reflexiveness with which some English are able to hate could put Glaswegians to shame. Brighton's perpetrators were jailed, while Bloody Sunday's were not. Justice was served in one case, but not another. Both events were terrible and avoidable. Any comparison between what happened in their aftermaths, in particular the comparative degree of legal process undertaken to pursue and punish the perpetrators, is specious.
What Tebbit and those like him just don't get, and were never interested in getting and never will be interested in getting, was the radicalising effect that Bloody Sunday had on some people. The 'journalist', I suppose he might be called, Douglas Murray has published a piece in 'The Daily Mail' quoting Col. Wilford, the CO of the Paras in Derry that day -
"I have to ask,’ he said, ‘what about Bloody Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and every day of the week? ‘What about Bloody Omagh? What about Bloody Warrenpoint, Enniskillen, Hyde Park, or Bloody Aldershot and Brighton — bloody everything the IRA have ever touched."
That which is inexcusable, and for which no excuse should ever be attempted, can still be understandable. Frankly, that Murray's thoughts are capable of being published on a subject so serious as this says much in my opinion for the declining standards of British journalism. As for Col. Wilford, he sounds like a man afraid of spending the rest of his days in custody. As Chuter Ede wrote on Timothy Evans's plea for clemency, 'The law must take its course'.
What Murray, steeped in the might is right intellectual violence of neoconservatism, and Wilford the old soldier still just don't seem to get is that without the events of 30th January 1972 there might not have been Omaghs, Enniskillens, Hyde Parks or Aldershots. Bloody Sunday was a radicalising event. Seeing your neighbours being shot in the street when unarmed and running away does not make you love the shooters; just as seeing your family bombed to smithereens from 30,000 feet does not make you love the bombers. One of the real tragedies of Bloody Sunday was that it was a rehearsal for Iraq, although nobody knew it at the time. During the campaign of 2003 and afterwards, we were told that the British would be well prepared to police Basra because of their experience in Northern Ireland. It doesn't seem to have dawned on anyone that the reason they were so good at that type of operation was bitter experience learned in the aftermath of a few soldiers going out of control. With their penchant for killing people from the edge of space and imprisoning innocent people without charge on the other side of the world, the American military establishments inflicted a thousand Bloody Sundays on Iraq, and then seemed puzzled when people resisted. The problem wasn't that Saddam was the new Hitler - it was that they were the new 1 Para, and nobody had bothered to tell them.
The time has come to say it - much of what happened that day was cold-blooded, state sanctioned murder. A murderer in a red beret firing his weapon with the blessing of the Crown is still a murderer. The publication of today's report is a work of intellectual hygiene upon the British body politic which is nearly 40 years overdue. One can only reflect on how many lives, including soldiers' lives, might have been spared had it been conducted a great deal sooner.
(Update 16/04/10 - I've made some changes. It now makes more sense)