Victims of a Big Political Swindle

Patrick Murphy, in today’s Irish News (subs only), writes of the remnants of the war: old soldiers that now must be tidied away. “The remnants of war must now be tidied away, so that a new and sanitised version of the past can underpin their joint achievement of political power. The most obvious of those remnants are the ordinary people who were encouraged to fight that war in the first place.”
“Some may say that those who fought did so through choice. But how much choice did you have if you lived in Divis Flats or Newtownabbey, or if you were unemployed in Brixton? The battered bodies and broken minds of many of them are now being swept under the carpet of history.”
“Many would argue that anyone who took part in the Troubles, on any side, deserves no sympathy. But how much of what happened was prolonged for specific electoral outcomes? Thus if Sinn Fein, the DUP and the British government now expect praise, they must also accept their respective responsibilities for creating the problem they claim to have solved.”
Full article after the jump.It’s time to dump those who fought in the war
By Patrick Murphy, Irish News

If history is but a fable agreed upon, the DUP and Sinn Fein have made history at Stormont. Central to their agreement on law and order is their tendency to distance themselves from any contribution they may have made to the politics of violence here over the past 40 years.

The remnants of war must now be tidied away, so that a new and sanitised version of the past can underpin their joint achievement of political power. The most obvious of those remnants are the ordinary people who were encouraged to fight that war in the first place.

Together with the British government, the most vociferous protagonists in the Troubles will now quietly dump those who fought for republicanism, loyalism and the crown. Many people have no sympathy for those who engaged in political violence, but the nature and content of the secret talks at Stormont raise one significant question: were those who fought – on all sides – the victims of a great, big political swindle?

There is little doubt that the Troubles could have been avoided or, at worst, shortened to a matter of a year or two. Had that happened, of course, the two most powerful parties would not now be carving up political patronage between them.

Some may say that those who fought did so through choice. But how much choice did you have if you lived in Divis Flats or Newtownabbey, or if you were unemployed in Brixton? The battered bodies and broken minds of many of them are now being swept under the carpet of history.

There is nothing new in soldiers returning from war to find that the cause they believed in no longer exists, or that the society they fought for has moved on without them.

British soldiers returning from the First World War expected a land fit for heroes, but they found only hunger and hardship. Thousands of Russians who fought off the Nazis were subsequently imprisoned and executed by Stalin. Soldiers with Gulf War syndrome are still being ignored in Britain.

In this country organisations that thousands fought for, and hundreds died for, have now gone. Many former members feel betrayed by the disbandment of the Provisional IRA, the destruction of its weaponry and the abandonment of its aim of a united Ireland.

Many RUC members had a similar experience. They fought for what they believed was the defence of their country. Their reward was the disbandment of their force, a collective medal from the Queen and a curt thank you from Tony Blair.

The UDR/RIR followed the B Specials into historical oblivion, having fulfilled the political role for which they were created. Traditionally those who enlisted in the service of the Crown were given the Queen’s shilling. In this case the Queen gave them money to leave.

Loyalist paramilitaries are going through that same process now. Having previously colluded with loyalists by providing them with intelligence and equipment, the British government is now giving them money not to kill Catholics. They have served their purpose and will soon be discarded.

Many would argue that anyone who took part in the Troubles, on any side, deserves no sympathy. But how much of what happened was prolonged for specific electoral outcomes? Thus if Sinn Fein, the DUP and the British government now expect praise, they must also accept their respective responsibilities for creating the problem they claim to have solved.

War is little more than a political fashion statement. It is a process whereby the politically influential lead the politically naive into situations which enhance naivety and expand influence. It is often fuelled by simplistic phrases: brave little Belgium; the Jewish threat; weapons of mass destruction; Brits out.

It operates on a system of people, mainly young men, fighting each other. When their fighting ability declines with age, or when politicians no longer need some fighting to be done, they tend to become redundant. They may subsequently take pride in what they did, or recoil in horror at it.

Either way their careers do little more than contribute to the world of politics, where more illustrious careers are built on their sacrifices, and power is carved from the sufferings they both inflicted and endured.

George Bernard Shaw pointed out that you could always tell an old soldier by the inside of his cartridge boxes. The young ones carry cartridges in them: the old ones, grub. All of which suggests that old soldiers never die – they just become an embarrassment. What an embarrassed society we live in.

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