[Marxism] Goodbye Belfast! Hello Kabul! (Juventud Rebelde)

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Wed Aug 1 21:29:43 MDT 2007


Great Britain
Goodbye Belfast! Hello Kabul!
By: Luis Luque Álvarez
Email: luque at jrebelde.cip.cu

August 1, 2007 00:00:48 GMT

A CubaNews translation by Ana Portela. 
Edited by Walter Lippmann.


For some it is the end “of an oppressive military presence”, for
others a goodbye to “our friends and colleagues of the British army”.
For all, a sign of better times to come in what was once a violent
Northern Ireland.

On the first day of July, Operation Banner concluded. It was an
unprecedented mobilization of the armed forces of the United Kingdom
which had begun in 1969. The purpose at the time was to bring
“normalcy” to Ulster through direct support of the Royal Ulster
Constabulary (RUC). The police force, instead of maintaining peace,
used the force to protect Protestants in favor of union with Great
Britain, crudely attacking the Catholic sector that called for
integration with the Republic of Ireland and discriminating such
basic rights as access to jobs and housing.

It was a difficult time. The Troubles was and is the term used
referring to that period. It was a time of multiple clashes between
those who wanted to safeguard their privileges and those who rebelled
against their condition as second class citizens due to their
political ideas and religious beliefs.

Thus, while Colonel Wayne Harber, commander of an infantry brigade
proudly boasted that “for 30 years, during the darkest and most
distressing times, when the police needed help, the British army was
there”. On the other hand, a deputy of the independent party, Sinn
Fein, Gerry Kelly, remembers soldiers “breaking into their homes at
night and counting all who were there, even the babies”. So not
everyone had reasons to feel a warm nostalgia over those who were

However, today the truth is different. There are two reasons for
decreeing the end of Operation Banner. One is the reduction of
violence. After the Peace Agreements of 1998 – and not without
obstacles along the way – Northern Ireland has calmed the seas of
social and political life. Nevertheless, in Belfast, the capital, a
wall still marks the border between the Catholic and Protestant
areas. It is also true that since May there is an autonomous
government shared by both sectors. Differences are solved with words
not with anti-riot bullets, nor Molotov cocktails thrown at the
houses of the enemy.

Added to this is that an International Disarmament Commission in
2005, verified the destruction of the Irish Republican Army (IRA)'s
arsenal, which was the central objective of the British military.
Today, with the IRA unarmed… who to shoot? “Let’s go home!”

Now, there is a more secret reason. If, during the most explosive
moments, Great Britain deployed 30,000 soldiers in Ulster, this
number has gradually declined since 1998. Today there are only 5000 –
numbers of a peace time brigade – and will not be involved in tasks
of security which is now the responsibility of the new Ulster police
but in the necessary training to send them off to less idyllic
places: Iraq or Afghanistan…

In the first country, the United Kingdom has 5500 soldiers and 7000
in the second. “Coincidentally”; these will be strengthened by
another 700 in the near future. And since there is no sign that the
Iraqi storm promises to calm down, and while the Taliban sharpen
their aim against NATO troops, London uses the troops it no longer
needs in Ulster. In other words, they are not enough according to
army general Richard Dannati who explained that they did not have
enough to confront even an internal emergency.

For now, at least, they have the handful left over from Ulster. But
the new British premier, Gordon Brown, could pinch George Bush under
the table and whisper: “Please my friend, not another little war!”

Editor-in-Chief, CubaNews
writer - photographer - activist

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