PC Spooks? V: Northern Ireland as a casebook for the war on terror

So what is the point if this series of posts?

Well to sum up, Dean Godson, son of Cold War warrior Joe Godson, has been doing something very similar to what Clifford Hill of the IRD advised in 1971, using the British experience in Northern Ireland as a ‘casebook’ for other situations, in this case the War on Terror.

In particular, he has used the Northern Ireland example to argue three things:

1. Defeatist officials advocating negotations with terrorists are a threat to the policies of elected politicians.

2. That Western states should be wary of engaging with supposed moderates in insurgent communities.

3. That cold war outfits such as the Information Research Department are a model for prosecuting the idealogical battle in the War on Terror.

In reality, a look at the historical record on Northern Ireland turns these propositions on their head.

1. The MI6 negotiations that led to the 1975 IRA ceasefire were in line with offical policy. It was those elements of the secret state opposed to an accomodation who sought to turn the anti-IRA disinformation operation Clockwork Orange into a plot against the elected Government.

2. The British Army’s Information Policy unit identified genuine moderates such as the SDLP, the Irish News and Fr Denis Faul as IRA propagandists.

3. The Information Research Department sought to impose a global ideological straightjacket on the Northern conflict, ignoring genuine local grievances.

Northern Ireland may nevertheless have genuine lessons for the US in the War on Terror, not least the dangers of regarding the British secret state as a model for the mooted overhaul of the FBI.

PC Spooks? – Index to posts







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