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A Confederacy of Dunces
Mainstream opinion on Third World debt as espoused by Geldof, Blair et al is grievously wrong. Plus reflections on the many bitter ironies at the heart of the Bloody Sunday inquiry.
Eamonn McCann, 03 Dec 2004
I see somebody has credited squeaky Julie Burchill with the observation that
‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ insults the people it patronises.
It was not so Julie Burchill. It was I.
Twenty years ago, Bob Geldof, as he then was, emoted on camera for mainly Muslim Ethiopians. You might think he’d have learned since. I wouldn’t. But you might. Anyway. Here he is again, drawing attention to the plight of Dafur as he launches a remake which manages the considerable feat of being more cringe-makingly awful than the original.
Apparently, there was something of a dust-up between Bono and that showband singer who has managed to con the likes of Dave Fanning into believing he isn’t shite over who’d get to sing some line or other. It says in the Daily Mirror that this is very sad because that sort of thing didn’t happen in the old days.
That’s shite, too. I have it from somebody personally present that at the time of the original recording, “I hadn’t seen such competition for lines since the great coke shortage of ‘73.”
Anyway, Dafur, too, is Muslim. Perhaps Sir Geldof, as he now is – having been enobled by the woman who, more than any other individual on earth, epitomises the enslavement and immiseration of Africa for his services to her class – might consider an alternative recording, ‘Do They Know It’s Ramadan At All?’
Last month, Sir Geldof announced during a visit to Africa that nobody should doubt Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s passionate commitment to ending world hunger because, “I mean, they’re Christians, practising Christians.”
This, children, is what we call, technically, “a non-sequitor.”
The remark came within the octave of Bono’s comparison of Blair and Brown to Lennon and McCartney. Bliar is blithely unrepentant about the 100,000-plus civilians – 30 September 11ths – blown to bits or crushed to death in the US-UK assault on Iraq. But Iraqis can go fuck themselves as far as rock-star humanitarianism is concerned.
Basking in praise from the two celebrity idealists, Gordon Brown found himself under fire from Eurocrat and former Thatcherite minister Lord Britton for pushing too aggressively for free-market trade policies which drive the disadvantaged down ever deeper into wretchedness. But Bono and Sir Geldof are far too important to factor considerations of that sort into their thinking.
Four hundred and thirty-fourth and very last day of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry and the woman from the BBC World Service wants to know my most memorable moment.
On the cluttered table between us in the media centre at Derry Guildhall, the London Independent stands out, with front-page colour picture of General Sir Michael Jackson in rakish red beret. But the story underneath isn’t about Bloody Sunday.
Instead, it’s pegged on a statement by Jackson that, contrary to the implicit assurances of political leaders, British soldiers might have to remain in Iraq “for years.”
Jackson’s views are reckoned worthy of such prominence not only on account of his seniority – he’s Chief of the General Staff, Britain’s number one soldier – but also because he’s widely regarded as a fellow of wisdom and gravitas.
He headed the NATO force in Kosovo, ever ready with ruminative analyses of the interplay of political and military factors. A thinker, then, and a soldier. An action man of philosophical mein.
But in the time and place, I was sharply conscious that his rise to top rank had begun with work done in Derry, beginning in the shadow of the Rossville Street flats before the smoke had cleared the area where his men had killed or wounded 27 unarmed civilians. He was Captain Mike Jackson then, second-in-command of 1Para, and had been in the midst of the action as the massacre unfolded.
Jackson gave evidence to the Saville Inquiry in London last year, in April and again in October. He was the only witness formally recalled.
The reason he was recalled was that a document had come to light seeming to suggest that he had been central to devising the false account of Bloody Sunday put out by the British authorities in the immediate aftermath of the massacre.
Jackson accepted in October that a “shot-list,” dated the day after the killings, was in his handwriting. He now remembered that he had compiled it during the early hours of the morning after Bloody Sunday. The list purported meticulously to describe, with the help of six-figure map-references, where each of the soldiers who had fired had been at that moment and the location of each of the targets. Fifteen separate “engagements” were listed, each target specified as a gun-man, nail-bomber or petrol-bomber.
This was the beginning of the libelling of the dead which sparked the outrage in Derry which was eventually to lead to the establishment of the Saville Tribunal. Within 24 hours, press releases were being distributed in London and by official British agencies around the world citing the shot-list account as the official version of events. The list also formed the basis of Government statements in the House of Commons and of military evidence to the first Inquiry under Lord Widgery.
Jackson had made no mention of his authorship of this document, or of its existence, in his testimony in April, despite the fact that its creation will have required considerable effort and intense focus over an extended period.
Cross-examined in October, Jackson was hampered by poor memory. On more than 20 occasions, he responded along the lines, “I cannot remember,” “I do not recall,” “I have only a very vague memory.”
At no point was it put to him that what had happened was a cover-up and that he’d been at the heart of it. The only use of the phrase “cover-up” came from Jackson himself. In his second witness statement, containing his first acknowledement of the document, he claimed that, “I can say with complete certainty that I was not involved in any attempt to distort or cover up what had happened on that day.”
He was not challenged on this, nor asked how he could be completely certain on this score while being able to summon only the most vague memory of other aspects of the affair:
Asked who might have ordered the shot-list compiled, Jackson couldn’t recall but speculated that it “may have been instigated in London.” He was not invited by any from the serried ranks of lawyers to extend his speculation to the matter of whom in London might have been the instigator.
None of those admitted to have been involved in planning Bloody Sunday has subsequently prospered in his career. But the man who orchestrated the cover-up has reached the pinnacle.
My most memorable moment of the Inquiry, then, came when a lawyer put it to the Chief of the General Staff of the British Army that he ought surely to resign now he’d been exposed as prime author of the lies which had justified mass murder, compounding the suffering of the bereaved and wounded and, more than 30 years later, putting all concerned through the emotional mangle of an elaborate and massively expensive Inquiry. The moment never came, of course.
So, seasonal greetings. And remember – Jesus is only for Xmas. A puppy is for life.