Forged in Ireland

Brigadier Gordon Kerr operated a special unit for the British in Northern Ireland, the Force Research Unit. Research means different things to different people. For some research means a library; for others, research means going through files in some archive. For others, research is a sedate and secluded career among test tubes. For the Brigadier, apparently, research meant hiring killers among the Protestant paramilitaries to track down and kill dissident Catholics.

At least, that is the rumor about a suppressed report, today.

Among the victims of Kerr's research was one Pat Finucanne. The BBC admirably compressed report about researching Finucane starts like this:

"Loyalist paramilitaries shot Mr Finucane 14 times as he sat eating a Sunday meal at home, wounding his wife in the process. The couple's three children witnessed the 1989 attack. In its statement claiming the killing, the UFF said they had killed "Pat Finucane, the IRA officer".

While Mr Finucane had represented IRA members, the family vehemently denied the allegation - and have been supported in this by the police. But, what has made the investigation into his murder so important to many in Northern Ireland is that it lies at the heart of allegations that some members of the security forces collaborated with loyalist paramilitaries to the extent that they could have stopped the killing if they had so wished."

The last extenuating clause --"they could have stopped the killing if they had so wished" -- is apparently a sop thrown to elements of the "security forces" who consider that they did a wonderful job in Ulster. It is the language used by Stevens in the non-release of his report, today. The Guardian story begins like this:

"The murders of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane in February 1989 and Protestant student Brian Lambert in November 1987 by paramilitaries "could have been prevented" if the security forces had not been involved in the plots, Sir John said.

"Sir John carried out a four-year inquiry into allegations of widespread collusion between Special Branch, army officers and Protestant terrorists. He concluded there was damning proof of the use of agents in assassinations and withholding evidence."

Another Guardian story fingers one of Kerr's researchers -- a Brian Nelson

"An FRU agent, Brian Nelson, infiltrated and effectively ran the Ulster Defence Association, a loyalist terror group. Sir John's team believes that Nelson, who died last week, was responsible for at least 30 murders, and that many of the victims he helped to identify were not involved in terrorism."

As Steven's investigation was going on, Kerr spoke up for Nelson:

"Sir John believes that he has debunked the claim by Brigadier Gordon Kerr, who ran the FRU at the time of Finucane's murder, that Nelson saved more than 200 lives while he was operating in Northern Ireland. His team has found evidence he saved two: one of them was Gerry Adams. Finucane was killed by loyalist terrorists guided to him by Nelson.

Sir John's detectives uncovered evidence that some police officers wanted Finucane killed and that the force had been warned he was a target: at least two of the loyalists involved were police informers. But nothing was done to stop the murder."

Paul Foot's column is a little more cut to the chase about the Nelson-Kerr connection. Nelson wasn't just your average researcher/killer -- he organized arms shipments to the Protestant paramilitaries, under the benign protection of his fellow Researchers, and no doubt kept his group up to snuff with recruitment drives and plans for strategic attacks. All the gentlemen involved seem to have learned a lot from the Argentine military of the 1970s. In order to uphold their honor they were forced, alas, to frame an Army officer who was appalled at the collusion in assassination and gang warfare and threatened to grass. They framed the man for murdering his best friend, and had him sent away to prison for ten years. When Nelson was finally brought in on the charge of four murders, his researching buddy, Kerr, spoke up for him in court.

This case indicates some of the features that are no doubt in crystallization as Richard Perle's friend Ahmed Chelabi forms his own paramilitary group in Iraq. Apparently, Chelabi has sent a representative to Baghdad to claim dibs on the governance of that new American territory.

The deep collusion between army units and paramilitaries, the assassination of selected targets as the army officially presents itself as a neutral party, the importation of arms, and especially the nature of the targets -- lawyers, students, any educated person who is willing to speak out -- no doubt this is what is up next for the INC. Interesting. As Angus Calder showed long ago, Ireland was the site where the prototype of British imperialism was perfected in the seventeenth century -- the ethnic cleansing of the North American indians, for instance, followed on plans made by Raleigh, originally, for the ethnic cleansing of Catholic Irish -- and this was true down to the nomenclature. Raleigh's idea was to set up protestant plantations, as he called them, in Ireland. The Elizabethan effort floundered, but many of the elements of it became standard issue imperialist tools. Even down to the nineteenth century -- the British response to famine in Ireland being repeated in India, almost laissez faire impulse for laissez faire impulse.