British military operation in North ends at midnight
July 31, 2007
THE withdrawal of British troops from the streets of the North represents an historic advancement following generations of an Orwellian nightmare of oppression, leading Belfast republican Gerry Kelly said yesterday. But Unionist politicians praised the contribution made by the soldiers in bringing political peace and stability to the North after being deployed there for 38 years.
At midnight tonight all military personnel will be recalled to their barracks, bringing to an end Operation Banner, the longest continuous campaign in British army history. Over 300,000 soldiers served in the North – with 763 killed by direct paramilitary action – during the deployment, often in the most bitterly controversial circumstances. From tomorrow the number of troops will be reduced to a “peacetime” garrison of around 5,000.
Mr Kelly, a former IRA prisoner who was jailed in 1973 for his part in the Old Bailey bomb plot in London and now a junior Sinn Fein minister at Stormont, said the latest development was hugely significant.
During the early ’70s, when he was on the run, Mr Kelly said, details of nearly every working-class Catholic’s home was held on computers, with people being stopped by soldiers and asked to describe the colour of the wallpaper in the house they were staying. “They had it on file. They used to walk into houses at night and count everyone there – from babies up – to keep check,” Mr Kelly said. “When you talk about Orwell’s book ‘1984’, this was real Big Brother stuff big time,” he said. “The harassment was so in your face. These are emotive words but it was oppressive in a very personal way. That’s the type of thing that was put under the banner of counter-intelligence,” the North Belfast Assembly member said. But, he claimed, this was simply a repetition of the tactics used by the British army in every arena in the world where they went as a colonial power.
Senior DUP politician Jeffrey Donaldson said the political progress that had been achieved would not have been possible but for the contribution of the British army. “I believe the army has achieved its objective in Northern Ireland in supporting the police in combatting terrorism.”
Note that during its most recent (and still ongoing) military occupation of Northern Ireland / the Six Counties, the British state conducted some path-breaking experiments in sensory deprivation on Republican prisoners, often on those held without trial. Prisoners were subjected to hooding, wall-standing, white noise, sleep deprivation and various other techniques designed to destroy their sense of self, and hence their ability and willingness to resist British authority. This form of state terrorism is also intended to have instructional value, the lesson being that those who defy state impositions will be destroyed, and so joining in any kind of collective resistance is rendered that much less attractive.
One of the obvious advantages of such techniques, over and above cruder forms of torture, is legalistic: it allows the people authorising such uses of force to do so while claiming that they do not support ‘torture’ (while at the same time, as in the case of US Vice President Dick Cheney, seeking legal approval to do just that).
Sensory deprivation (SD) refers literally to the artificial deprivation of the senses – auditory, visual, tactile and kinesthetic. In connection with the Northern Ireland ‘guineapigs’ it meant (1) hooding prisoners prior to their interrogation; (2) constant use of a sound machine which produces ‘white noise’, a high pitched hissing, mushy sound; (3) long periods of immobilization, being forced to lean against a wall, legs wide apart with only the fingertips touching the wall; (4) little or no food or drink; and (5) being forced to wear loose overalls, several sizes too big. In addition, (6) prisoners were deprived of sleep for days on end; while not technically SD this accentuates the process. There is a purpose behind all these actions. Measures (1), (2), (3) and (5) cause visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile deprivation while measures (4) and (6) deprive the brain of oxygen and sugar necessary for normal functioning. In addition, measures (1), (4) and (6) may disturb the normal body metabolism.
No doubt US authorities have learned a great deal from their British counterparts in this exciting field, and sensory deprivation also no doubt continues to prove to be a technique of great utility in the never-ending War on Terror™.
Go on home British soldiers go on home
Have you got no fucking homes of your own?
For 800 years we’ve fought you without fear
And we will fight you for 800 more
- For Dimma, Luke and — of course — Bulldog Spirit!