State-sponsored murder and the selective application of moral standards.

I see the usual Telegraph bloggers are a little quiet on today’s announcement of the findings of the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday. Just as well; they have nothing to crow about; the British Army shot 14 unarmed protesters on the 30th of January, 1972 and there isn’t a single word that can honestly be said in defence of the Para’s actions on that day. The Widgery Report published in the immediate aftermath of the massacre was recognised by many to be a total whitewash.  It exonerated the actions of those soldiers who did the killing with some of the culprits claiming that they had been “fired upon”. In their minds and in the mind of the State, they were acting in ‘self-defence’. Now we know the truth: the dead were unarmed and were killed in cold blood and the responsibility for this tragedy goes all the way to the top of the Army.

There is an irony to all of this: in 2001 when Blair was preparing the country to go to war in Iraq, he and others repeatedly made the claim that “Saddam killed his own people”. The justification for this accusation lay with the events in Halabja in Northern Iraq in 1989, at the tail end of the brutal and bloody Iran-Iraq War, when Kurdish villagers were gassed to death (in what was, in effect, a repeat of the British actions in Iraq in the 1920’s).  Through the clever use of denial and moral relativism they constructed a demon in the minds of the people: states don’t go around murdering their own citizens…and Britain is the sort of place where this kind of thing doesn’t happen.  We are honest and decent; we respect the rule of law. Now we know that this is a nonsense. On 30 January 1972, the British state killed its own people – 14 of them. There is no getting away from it, this is state-sponsored murder.

As for the Saville Inquiry itself, the only thing the Tory MP, Patrick Mercer, could offer on Newsnight was that “it will be divisive”. Another pointed to its cost (£191m) and its time-scale. It has taken 44 years for the truth to be revealed and the Inquiry took 12 years to reach its conclusion. It took a while but we finally got there.  Now the families of the dead can move on, though I won’t be naive enough to suggest that Northern Ireland is going to suddenly lose its sectarian tensions over night; they still exist in spite of Blair’s PR job.


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