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Date Posted: Wed, Feb 10 2010, 19:52:12 PST
Author: by John McDonagh, NYC
In reply to: From e-book 's message, "Song: ENGLAND'S VIETNAM" on Sat, Feb 06 2010, 16:06:18 PST


With the many remembrances commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Irish 'famine', and the popularity of the recently-released films: ‘Michael Collins’ and ‘Some Mother's Son’, there is a burgeoning curiosity in Irish-America to look beyond the shamrocks and leprechauns to discover the real truth of their ancestry. England's Vietnam is an accessible insider's account of the on-going "Troubles" in the north of Ireland from 1969 to the present time, and is a must-read for anyone seeking to gain insight into the conflict in Ireland today.

Over the past twenty-five years, Finnbarr O'Doherty has acted as diarist, reporter, observer and participant in the most turbulent and misunderstood period in Irish history. He has written about Ireland from a unique perspective - not only as an historian and investigative journalist, but as a participant in this long unending war.

In America, we largely develop our politics in the class room and from the media. Finnbarr's teachers were the 'B' Specials, the British Army, and the Royal Ulster Constabulary, who beat Irish politics into him at marches, demonstrations, and in the street. His Universities were the prisons of Ireland, becoming so acquainted with them that he penned and published a guide to Irish prisons for political prisoners and their families.

From this vantage point, Finnbarr chronicles the events that led up to Bloody Sunday, and follows England's descent into a clandestine war of death squads, illegal surveillance, and political and media manipulation, the true facts of which are only recently coming to light.

I have been the host and producer of Radio Free Eireann, a weekly hour-long radio show on New York-based Pacifica Network station WBAI for over twelve years. It has been, and continues to be, a daunting task to get accurate information to report. The British government is a master at disseminating misinformation, and has been largely successful in banning the broadcast of news from any perspective that it would view as counter to its interests. England's Vietnam gives its reader an understanding of the reality behind the news, and provides a solid base for evaluating the relative merit of future "news" of the long war in Ireland.

As a veteran of the United States Army (1973-75), I can certainly see the parallels between our involvement in the war in Vietnam and England's role in the war in Ireland. Just as our war effort was sustained by lies and propaganda, so too has the British government through lies and propaganda inflamed and incited the English people into an acceptance of its continued participation in the Irish conflict.

At the start of the Vietnam war, the "enemy" was portrayed as the evil communist Vietnamese, who were plotting world domination, and who had to be stopped at any cost. When it became apparent that the "enemy" more often than not consisted of women, children and farmers trying to eke out a living from an unfriendly land, American involvement came to an end. British propaganda has been very successful in vilifying the "IRA", and using the "fight against terrorism" as a justification for its actions. England's Vietnam tells of the other players in this war - the families of those slain by the British, the wives of the prisoners, the people who believed that to practice civil disobedience might bring upon much needed social change, such as access to jobs, housing and the right to an equal vote.

Although with each successive poll there appears to be less and less support for continuing British presence in Ireland, there has not been a popular groundswell of support for a withdrawal of troops. This book could and should go a long way towards starting that groundswell.

Starting with the murder of thirteen unarmed peaceful protestors on Bloody Sunday, the British army has waged a war outside of any concept of civilized conduct. Finnbarr details many of the atrocities committed by the British army, with information provided by people within the British government, who, in good conscience, could not remain silent any longer. Of course, the British propaganda machine has gone into overdrive in an effort to brand those who have dared to speak out as either insane or criminal, and Finnbarr documents the British spin control efforts, especially those in the U.S.A.

With the "Peace Process" in tatters, we have come to a new phase in Irish history. Finnbarr provides a critical analysis of the peace process, and gives an insight as to what we might expect. England's Vietnam provides a solid foundation of historical information to use in assessing the current state of the process.

An integral part of understanding the peace process is knowing who the players are. Finnbarr documents the "Old Brigade" links to the "New" I.R.A., and gives a detailed history of the organization. He lets you know why Irish Republicans can never say to the British that there will be a permanent end to the violence while the British remain militarily and politically in Ireland. They cannot speak for the next generation of Irish Resistance.

Major Ormond Winter, the head of British Intelligence in Ireland in 1921, wrote "It has been said that no European can fathom the mind of an Oriental and it might equally be said that no Englishman can fully grasp the inner psychology of the Irish rebel character.". Perhaps, if Major Winter had been able to read O'Dochartaigh's discerning and vigorous analysis in England's Vietnam, he would have come a long way towards understanding the Irish rebel mind.

11th, November,1996

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