“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.”

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  • dodrade

    And there was me thinking the IRA had invented it to blow up Ian McElhinney in Michael Collins.

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    How stupid are the IRA? All they had to do was claim they had developed a “smart” bomb which they would be “laser targeted” in “surgical strikes”. It’s all in the presentation.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    The Daily Mail had a lengthy article on the programme by the documentary maker himself, Kevin Toolis (who may be familiar to our readers), last week. However, it seems that it was taken offline pretty sharpish, as I was going to blog it myself. Fortunately, you can still read the cached version here. Not sure why it was taken off the site. Perhaps too much detail on bomb-making?!

    Anyway, I hope it was good. Recorded it for later.

  • Pete Baker

    So so, Gonzo.

    The first part only got as far as the very early 70s.

    But the credits show it is based on the book linked in the original post.

    Part two will, presumably, have the interviews with Price, O’Callaghan, and Gorman.

  • susan

    Billie-Joe, the remarkable similarities between being killed and maimed by an agent or agency of the state and being killed and maimed by an individual or organisation against the state are a central part of the discussion within “Buda’s Wagon,” one of the more interesting books that came out last year. It manages to convey both the inescapable cruel reality of violence and the complexities of various geopolitical crises.

    It was quite readable, and if I could remember who I loaned it to, I’d quote from it.

  • ParallaxCo

    It has never ceased to amaze me the links between the first car bomb attack in USA, killing Orlando Letelier outside the Irish embassy in Washington DC, and the perp who was shown to have gone to Belfast to help Pinochet link the Maze to Brit terror. Weird mutherfeckers these terreristas and their alma maters.

  • Pete Baker

    “the first car bomb attack in USA, killing Orlando Letelier outside the Irish embassy in Washington DC”

    Eh?

    You haven’t seen the programme or read the book [or any of the links] have you ParallaxCo?

  • ParallaxCo

    Pete, ok sorry didnt read the book or see the prog but felt a link was established by the book “Labyrinth’ by Taylor Branch and Eugene Propper 1982 isbn 0140066837 which claims that Letelier was the first modern victim of car bomb even describing in detail the evolution of the magnetic technique perfected by CIA and adopted by IRA. Sorry for for not having watched C4 pro, I just assumed it was more msm crap.

  • Pete Baker

    “which claims that Letelier was the first modern victim of car bomb even describing in detail the evolution of the magnetic technique perfected by CIA and adopted by IRA.”

    I’m sure you did feel “a link was established”.

    “I just assumed it was more msm crap.”

    As opposed to just plain crap.

  • Harry Flashman

    I always understood that the first car bomb occurred in Derry’s Ferryquay Street, the programme makers allege it was the 1920 Wall Street bomb which just happened not to be a car bomb but a horse and cart bomb. Can anyone confirm Derry’s grim claim to fame?

  • Dave

    The first mass-produced car bomb was the Trabant.

  • Penny Wellington

    Susan wrote:

    Billie-Joe, the remarkable similarities between being killed and maimed by an agent or agency of the state and being killed and maimed by an individual or organisation against the state are a central part of the discussion within “Buda’s Wagon,”

    What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet

  • andy

    Harry
    When was the Fewrry quay bomb? I handt heard of it before.

  • susan

    back at you, Penny W. Welcome back.

    Harry, what I remember from “Buda’s Wagon,” the first use of a bomb in cars — or trucks — was by the Zionist group Lehi, aka “The Stern Gang.”

  • Harry Flashman

    “When was the Fewrry quay bomb? I handt heard of it before.”

    Seriously? I think Ferryquay St was done almost half a dozen times.

    “Harry, what I remember from “Buda’s Wagon,” the first use of a bomb in cars—or trucks—was by the Zionist group Lehi, aka “The Stern Gang.””

    To be fair I also heard that Sean MacStiofain picked up the idea from some EOKA men he met while in prison in England in the 1950’s so Derry’s claim to fame probably doesn’t hold true.

  • lookinginonceinawhile

    Is this something new? What happened to the “I have no regrets” mantra?

  • andy

    Harry
    I’m just an idiot 😉

    Regarding the provisional IRA genesis of the idea I think in the eponymous book by Patrick Bishop and Eamonn Mallie Seamus Twomey was meant to have thought it up all-by-himself in a Provo meeting.

    Seems unlikely now, as insular as the Provos were I would imagine the older ones would at least be familiar with the Israeli War of independence (given the involvement of at least one Irish republican in that campaign, I think his name was Robert Briscoe).

  • susan

    Andy, Harry wasn’t wrong about Mac Stíofáin’s contacts with EOKA — specifically his lifelong friend Nikos Sampson. They even passed away within one week of each other.

    (No, I am not related — just lived in Leyton/Leytonstone ”88 –90 and got an earful on a regular basis from those who knew Mac Stíofáin before he became Mac Stíofáin.)

  • RepublicanStones

    ‘Israeli War of independence’

    What a misnomer if ever i heard one.

    As regards the show, anyone else notice Baer slipped in the term ‘Freedom Fighter’ on at least one occasion.

  • Dave

    So, the car (horse/cart) bomb was a Jewish invention. There you have it. No longer wonder why the Jews have won more Nobel Prizes than any other ethnic group. 😉

  • andy

    Hi Susan
    No I appreciate he was right with regard to EOKA contact (I read MacStoifan’s autobiography, “Memoirs of a revolutionary” which spoke about that in some detail, additionally some EOKA sorts turned up at his funeral).

    I just didnt think that EOKA was the route for the car bomb thinking.

    My cousin lived in Leytonstone in that period – my sympathies 😉

  • susan

    lol, Andy. Sympathies accepted. I’ve never read the autobiography. I couldn’t tell you beyond all shadow of doubt EOKA provided a blueprint. Merely that, sifting and dredging over what I heard and observed at the time, I would not be in a position to testify that it was not.