Glover's unheeded analysis
I remember it well, the day I got my hands on a faded photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy in 1979 - ``Future Terrorist Trends.'' Document 37. My eyes scanned the typed lines of high-grade intelligence like a Gnostic scholar who had just been handed a papyrus proving that Christ didn't die on the cross and lived out his life like the rest of us mortals.
There it was from the inside of the British state, dated November 1978, proof that they knew they couldn't beat republicans. The document took an arbitrary five-year time span from 1978 to 1983 and made projections. It concluded that whatever the British did, republicans would be stronger at the end of that five years, not weaker. In a sense, we were winning the war.
For the current process to succeed, the British state must let General James Glover, not General Kitson, be the paradigm for their remaining years in Ireland
It was written by one of their top men, General James Glover, recently deceased. Glover, of course, had no notion that there would be the Hunger Strikes and that Sinn Féin would break into electoral politics by the end of that period. He didn't know that republicans would be able to run a shooting war against their army and a political struggle against their political allies.
1978 was a bad year for republicans, but the British knew even then that they could not win this war. Here was written evidence from the heart of the British military establishment that there was no possibility of the British defeating the IRA - none whatsoever. So why then, did they try?
My working model of history given to me in Glasgow by factory-trained Marxists was that individuals weren't important in the march of human history. But like my youthful militarist sympathies, I now have to leave that behind me; it no longer makes sense of my world.
Individuals do matter. That's why Gerry Adams reminded us in Derry this Easter that we should not leave it to someone else. That, he stated, had been a weakness in the Irish revolution.
In 1979, Margaret Thatcher, a singular individual, took control of the British state and would run it as a medieval autocracy for 11 years. Had, for example, Geoffrey Howe been prime minister, things would have been very different.
During Thatcher's Reign Of Error, Glover's reasoned analysis of ``PIRA'' and his state's attempts to beat it were shelved. Instead, we got Ulsterisation, criminalisation, the Hunger Strikes, show trials, shoot-to-kill, etc.
With Thatcher finally ousted in November 1990, the scene was set for the political wing of the British state to finally sideline their militarists. The peace process can be viewed, in part, as the British state working out a way to bring this unwinnable war to a conclusion that suits them. That could not be done with Thatcher in control.
The year Glover's report fell into republican hands, 1979, Gerry Adams gave the oration at Bodenstown. He made reference to the fact that the British had conceded that they couldn't win the war. Neither, said Adams, could the IRA beat the British militarily. It was a military stalemate.
There had to be talks, there had to be a resolution of the conflict. That meant a dialogue between equals. But unionism said ``No'' and so did Thatcher.
There are two types of generals in armies. There are those who grieve of the cost in lives of the young men they command. There are also those who see only formations on battle boards and the latest tactical stratagem that they are keen to try out for real, always, of course, from a safe distance. Just as the top brass got to try out their new air and sea toys in the South Atlantic under Thatcher in 1982, so too did Frank Kitson and his spooks get a chance to play counter-insurgency games in Ireland on a lavish scale.
We have dealt with our own militarists - through dialogue and debate. Those with politics have seen the difference between the end and the means. Those who could not - or would not - have left. They remain wedded to an image of a revolutionary that must be armed.
So it is within the British state - no stranger itself to militarism! Some of their securocrats, no doubt, pine for the simplicities of shoot-to-kill. I, personally, do not rule out rogue elements within the British securocracy having a last gasp covert op to attempt to provoke republicans. They would, of course, be no more successful in that than they were in their dirty war against us during the Thatcher years.
Back in 1978, I simply saw the guerrilla defeat of the British as the only logical conclusion to this island's British problem. Not very political, I'm afraid. General Glover was way ahead of me; luckily he wasn't in front of our leadership.
I was trapped in the activist ethos - we just had do more and keep doing more and it would eventually shift. Like the Sumo wrestler, we just had to keep pushing and the British would be out of the circle, one day.
What the republican leadership has done is much more clever. They have brought the armed conflict to an end. In doing so, they have stepped aside and the British have found themselves out of the circle, their generals defeated by silent IRA guns.
Unfortunately, some of our former comrades only know the push; in doing so they keep alive the dark dreams of the British generals who do not want to lose their dirty war for good.
For the current process to succeed, the British state must let General James Glover, not General Kitson, be the paradigm for their remaining years in Ireland. Glover died peacefully, an old man. Many others, however, did not have a peaceful end to their days over the last 20 years, because his employers did not heed his words.
BY MICK DERRIG