“just a terribly good history lesson..”

Tonight at 7pm Channel 4 are broadcasting the first of a two-part documentary, Car Bomb. As Euan Ferguson puts it in the Observer’s TV guide [not online], “Ostensibly, it’s the history of the eponymous terror weapon – how the car bomb was invented, tweaked, inherited, forgotten, revived.” That history has been published before. There’s a short online article by the presenter, Robert Baer, a former CIA spy. Ferguson isn’t impressed by Baer’s script, btw, but..

“But, Baer and his team have succeeded rather marvellously in tracking down eyewitnesses, ageing terrorists, limbless bomb-disposalists, teary old Mafiosi and wrinkled student anarchists, and getting them to speak. It is absorbing to hear them, late in their long lives – the first car bomb went off in 1920, in Wall Street; the weapon has been with us almost as long as the car – attempt to justify what our weasel words now call collateral damage. The taking of innocent lives, and the fluid lies which still attempt to pass this off as regrettable rather than, of course, inevitable.”

And an article in the Sunday Life quotes two of those “ageing terrorists”. Firstly Marian Price

Price, now 54, was part of an IRA unit including sister Dolours and now Sinn Fein minister Gerry Kelly, which planted car bombs at the Old Bailey, New Scotland Yard, Whitehall and the BBC in March 1973. Two of the bombs exploded injuring 200 people, which she regrets. However she has no reservations about having used a car bomb for political ends. She claimed: “I think car bombs did achieve something at the time. “I don’t think anyone got a thrill from planting car bombs or seeing buildings go up. It was just something that needed to be done to further our cause. “We were using them as a tool to make Northern Ireland economically unviable for the British Government.”

Indeed. And Tommy Gorman.

Tommy Gorman, who was the IRA’s chief bomb engineer in 1970s Belfast, explained the effectiveness of the car explosion as a tool of terror. “The car bomb is just so simple. You can’t see it. It’s just so simple.” But Gorman regrets the carnage of Bloody Friday in Belfast on July 21, 1972 — with 22 bombs killing nine people and injuring another 130. He said: “It was a terrible, terrible day. A blot on any kind of glory you try to make in this sort of struggle. I am utterly, utterly ashamed.”