Nothing. Nada. Rien.
Nothing. Nada. Rien.
This is an astonishing and deeply disturbing story. It is also a largely untold story; untold in the West and particularly in Britain that is, but well known in Kenya.
It is the story of how some 500-600 women from the Samburu tribe in Kenya have fought for years to prove that they were raped by British soldiers who, under an arrangement with the Kenyan government, train regularly in the nearby countryside.
Those impregnated by their rapists and who gave birth to children that are of a lighter colour than native children have been shunned, abandoned by husbands and families and forced to leave their villages and set up home together in their own community.
The British have responded to the women’s complaints by asking the Royal Military Police to investigate the allegations – the military investigating the military – a familiar procedure to those who have lived through the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
In another outcome familiar to Troubles’ veterans, the RMP cleared the soldiers of the charges, claiming that since some of the stories by the women were invented none of the allegations are credible. But how to explain all those light-skinned Kenyan kids?
Thanks to MV for sending this to me……
Two pictures tell the tale. The first was taken in 1983 in the aftermath of that year’s British general election, the second on Friday in the wake of the Assembly election count in West Belfast.
One thing has not changed. West Belfast is still the most deprived area of Northern Ireland, ranking number 2 for unemployment and number 1 for the poorest health.
Foyle, the other constituency which returned a PBP Assembly member in the shape of Eamonn McCann, ranks number 1 for unemployed adults and 3rd for poor health.
It is no accident that these two seats showed the same shift to the left that has been apparent elsewhere in the West, in Britain in the shape of Jeremy Corbyn and here in the States in the extraordinary electoral challenge to Hillary Clinton mounted by Bernie Sanders.
All these political phenomena have the same root cause: anger and disillusionment brought on by the excesses of neo-liberal economic policies.
We don’t know yet how the Corbyn and Sanders’ stories will end but it is very likely that politics in both places will never be the same again.
So what of the North? The two seats which moved leftwards in last week’s election were for over thirty years the engines that drove the Sinn Fein machine into power first at Stormont and then near to power in Dublin.
But just as the Corbyn and Sanders phenomena – and also Donald Trump – are symptoms of a rebellion against political party establishments which are out of touch with their own people, the setbacks for Sinn Fein are similarly rooted.
West Belfast in particular has had a Sinn Fein MP more or less uninterrupted since Gerry Adams won the seat in 1983. In Foyle, Sinn Fein and the SDLP share control of the area but it is Sinn Fein, through local man Martin McGuinness, which has access to the First Minister’s office at Stormont.
Sinn Fein control or influence has, as the grim unemployment and health statistic show, done little to better the lives of the people in these areas who have voted for them, one election after another. All the mainstream parties shed votes in the Assembly election but none more so than SF, whose vote fell by 2.9 per cent.
Bernadette McAliskey wrote recently of how there are now foodbanks in Dungannon, near her home, but there were none when she and her comrades began the struggle for civil rights in the late 1960’s. So how, Nationalist voters in particular are entitled to ask, has the Good Friday Agreement or Sinn Fein’s political adventure at Stormont made their lives better?
The setbacks suffered by Sinn Fein in both seats last week are more than a judgement on neo-liberalism or the cruelties of austerity. They are also a profound pronouncement on the failings of a party that has become complacent and out of touch, more focused on securing seats at cabinet tables on both sides of the Border, and with that their place in history, than creating jobs and better lives for their people.
For Sinn Fein, the message from last week’s election results is loud and clear – the times they are a-changing.
Can’t come fast enough!
As the English council election results began flowing into newsrooms across the UK on Friday and showed that far from reeling in defeat, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party was actually holding up quite well (the disaster in Scotland being the fault of Corbyn’s Blairite predecessors and therefore not a subject for polite media discussion) there can have fewer glummer faces than in that once proud bastion of left-wing – and rational – journalism known as The Guardian.
I must say that I have been both surprised and dismayed by the fervour with which The Guardian’s writers have taken up cudgels on behalf of an old Labour leadership that brought us the Iraq War and the disasters that followed, buckets of neo-liberal economic policies and a neglect of the NHS such that it has paved the way for its demolition by Cameron’s Tories, and against a new Labour leadership that held out a little hope that these devastating trends might be halted or reversed, even if only slightly.
So it was that The Guardian seized upon the Livingstone affair with almost indecent glee, seeing in it another gaping manhole through which Mr Corbyn might fall (or be pushed).
A reporter by the name of Ben Quinn excelled himself. Livingstone’s claim that Hitler and Zionists had made a deal to export German Jews to Palestine in 1933, he wrote, was based on a book written by, wait for it, an American Marxist, in fact a Trotskyist called Lenni Brenner.
Quinn then assembled rival academics to pour ridicule on Brenner’s research.
Thomas Weber, a professor of history and international affairs and an expert on the Hitler era, Jewish relations and German history, said he was not immediately familiar with Brenner’s book.
However, he added: “Brenner’s book lies well outside academic mainstream. It is mostly celebrated either by the extreme left and by the neo-Nazi right.”
Brenner’s book is cited by, among others, the Institute for Historical Review, which is widely regarded as antisemitic and is listed by the US Southern Poverty Law Center as a group that has engaged in Holocaust denial.
So Red Ken relied upon another leftie, an academically discredited one at that, whose work is cited by neo-Nazi’s.
A 1983 review by CC Aronsfeld, a respected scholar of the Holocaust, in the journal International Affairs was critical of Brenner’s book.
“Brenner has produced a party political tract that unhinges the balance of history by ignoring too many difficulties, especially psychological. For once Stalinists will be pleased with the work of a Trotskyist,” he concluded.
Had Mr Quinn widened his circle of research just a little and consulted the people at the Shoah Research Center at Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, there is a chance that the people there may well have pointed him in another direction. After all when it comes to the Holocaust and all that preceded it in Nazi Germany and elsewhere in Europe, the people at Yad Vashem are the go-to guys.
If Mr Quinn had done that he might well have been directed to Yad Vashem Studies Vol. XXVI, Jerusalem 1998, pp 129-172, where he would have read a lengthy article by Yf’aat Weiss, titled: ‘The Transfer Agreement and the Boycott Movement: A Jewish Dilemma on the Eve of the Holocaust‘.
Look at the date: 1998. The article has been around for nearly twenty years, Mr Quinn!
Courtesy of Scribd, I have reproduced the entire Yad Vashem article below but it is worth extracting the opening paragraph:
In the summer of 1933, the Jewish Agency for Palestine, the German Zionist Federation, and the German Economics Ministry drafted a plan meant to allow German Jews emigrating to Palestine to retain some of the value of their property in Germany by purchasing German goods for the Yishuv, which would redeem them in Palestine local currency. This scheme, known as the Transfer Agreement orHa’avarah, met the needs of all interested parties: German Jews, the German economy, and the Mandatory Government and the Yishuv in Palestine. The Transfer Agreement has been the subject of ramified research literature. Many Jews were critical of the Agreement from the very outset. The negotiations between the Zionist movement and official representatives of Nazi Germany evoked much wrath. In retrospect, and in view of what we know about the annihilation of European Jewry, these relations between the Zionist movement and Nazi Germany seem especially problematic. Even then, however, the negotiations and the agreement they spawned were profoundly controversial in broad Jewish circles. For this reason, until 1935 theJewish Agency masked its role in the Agreement and attempted to pass it off as an economic agreement between private parties.
‘For this reason, until 1935 the Jewish Agency masked its role in the Agreement and attempted to pass it off as an economic agreement between private parties.’
In the wake of the the furore over Gerry Adams’ use of the ‘N’ word in a tweet there has been another lively controversy over a subsequent claim from Mr Adams, made in mitigation for his unwise intervention on social media, that he had been a founder member of the civil rights movement and therefore in no way could be said to be on the side of slavery or any similarly reactionary behaviour.
Today I came across a story in something called the NewsHub which more or less captured the vitriol directed at Adams over this issue. This is the relevant extract:
Then to top it all off, he claimed to be a founding member of NICRA (the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association). This is simply a flat-out, brazen lie that has infuriated and baffled in equal measure. In the words of Ivan Cooper, a senior members of NICRA speaking to the Irish News; “People like Gerry Adams threatened to extinguish the ideas of the civil rights movement by waging a conflict which claimed the lives of innocent Catholics, Protestants and others who yearned for an end to the violence. They set the cause of equality back by decades in the narrow pursuit of vengeance and destruction. In doing so, they long ago sacrificed any claim to the civil rights movement. I will not allow him to revise our history. I will not allow him to degrade and debase our movement.”
Austin Currie, another senior member, suggested that Adams seeks to appropriate the achievements of NICRA as the IRA’s own campaign to force the British out of Northern Ireland was such an abject failure. It’s a damning condemnation but it does seem accurate given Sinn Fein’s insistent linking of NICRA and the IRA in recent years. Perhaps Adams thinks if you repeat a lie often enough it becomes the truth. To give him his credit, lies like this have him hailed as a hero in certain international circles. Back home, it just makes him look an oddball.
I was surprised to see Ivan Cooper of all people chipping in with his tuppence worth considering that his record during this time hardly bears scrutiny. Put it this way, the good people of Strabane are still wondering what happened to the boatload of Cyprus potatoes that were supposed to have been shipped to the brand new chip factory Ivan and his buddies had promised to build back in 1976.
Gerry Adams actually wrote about his role in the formation of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) in a book called ‘Twenty Years On’, edited by Michael Farrell, published in October 1988, to which I had also contributed an article on the media and the Troubles.
When someone makes a claim about an issue or event that is not a matter of controversy or dispute at the time of writing or publication it tends, in my view, to make that account a pretty powerful piece of evidence if, nearly thirty years later, as in this case, the issue does become contentious.
And so it is with Adams’ claim to have been there at the birth of NICRA.
The truth about NICRA is that it was, in large measure, a creation of the then IRA leadership – that is the Goulding leadership – along with the Communist Party. Many others were involved in the gestation process in the years beforehand, such as the McCloskeys and their Campaign for Social Justice, but the significant final moves came mostly from the IRA/CP direction.
One crucial and secret IRA meeting, held in Kevin Agnew’s home in Maghera in Co Derry in late 1967/early 1968 – I believe Eoghan Harris may have written about this event – decided in principle to create a NICRA type body.
A meeting in the War Memorial Hall in Waring Street, Belfast in January 1967 attended by republicans and members of the Wolfe Tone Societies took this decision a step further but the key meeting, which approved NICRA’s constitution and elected the first Executive, was held in March 1967 in the International Hotel in downtown Belfast (I wrote elsewhere, inaccurately, that this meeting took place in St Mary’s Hall off Castle street. That was an earlier meeting of the Republican Clubs, the first to be held in defiance of a government ban).
This was the foundation meeting of NICRA.
Gerry Adams was at the International Hotel meeting under IRA orders, although he was, as always, coy about the IRA bit in the article he wrote for ‘Twenty Years On’, and like his comrades was under Army orders to vote the party line, as he describes in the extract reproduced below.
So his claim to have been a founder member of NICRA is technically truthful even though it is a bit like the tail gunner in the Enola Gay asserting responsibility for nuking Hiroshima. He was, after all, under orders. If the IRA edict that day had been to render NICRA stillborn, would he have raised his arm? As a good soldier, probably.
A note or two about ‘Twenty Years On‘. I remember well when it was published. In those days some journalists in Belfast had established a lunch club. It convened every month or so and the idea was that a luminary of some sort, from politics, the police, government and so on, would be invited to dine with a select bunch of hacks and after we had feasted and the port was passed around – left-to-right of c0urse – there would an off-the-record exchange, with the emphasis on off-the-record.
About a year or two before that event I had left The Irish Times in circumstances that can only be described as painful and the scars were far from being healed. By that point there had been a bit of a hurdy gurdy act in the Belfast office and by October 1988 some bright spark had settled on the idea of sending Fergus Pyle up to Fanum House to be Northern Editor.
Fergus had been appointed editor of The Irish Times in 1975 when Douglas Gageby decided to retire. He was given the job not on merit but because he was about the only semi-sentient Protestant left on the staff and these were the days, remember, when the chairman of the Irish Times Trust was Major McDowell, a retired British Army officer who had spent the Second World War labouring on behalf of MI5. The Times was changing, for sure, but the remaining Anglos about the place were still holding out against a Catholic editor.
Anyway Fergus Pyle was a disaster – he fell big time for the Peace People for instance – and before long he was farmed off to the public relations department at Trinity College (where else?) and Gageby was persuaded to come back to rescue the paper from financial disaster, which he did.
Fergus had been Northern Editor after Henry Kelly, who later found his vocation as a quiz show presenter on commercial television, i.e. way back in the late 1960’s, early 1970’s, and the idea of making Fergus Northern Editor was anchored in the notion that he was well equipped to look back and make sense of everything.
The day of the press lunch, as I said earlier, coincided with the publication of ‘Twenty Years On’ and hardly had I settled in my seat at a long dining table than Fergus, who was sitting opposite me, launched his Exocet, in full sight and hearing of the gathered crowd.
“I see you are sharing a by-line with Adams”, he sneered. “Do you think that was a wise thing to do?”
At the end of the lunch, as was normal practice, the guest departed and the remaining hacks, or at least those sober enough to contribute, debated who to invite to the next gathering.
Someone, I can’t remember who but it was not me and might well have been Anne Cadwallader, suggested : “Why don’t we ask Gerry Adams?”
If silence could be sliced and laid on plates with a spoonful of vanilla ice-cream we would all have had an interesting second dessert that lunch-time.
Eventually someone broke the stillness: “But there are no decent restaurants in West Belfast we could take him to”. (The unspoken sub-text here was that a) the alternative, a restaurant in downtown Belfast was too public a place for respectable reporters to be seen in such company, b) hopefully, Adams himself might consider it too dangerous to venture out of the ghetto and that would be the getout! and c) there really were no decent restaurants in West Belfast.)
So that settled the matter.
Six years later, many of the same journalists (not all, but a lot) – minus Fergus Pyle, who had gone to the great newsroom in the sky – would be scratching each others’ eyes out for a one-to-one exclusive with the same man, while eyeing sceptical little me with a look which said: “What’s wrong with you, buster?”
Anyway here is Gerry Adams’ own account of those earlier, simpler days. (It would be an interesting exercise to trace the subsequent career paths and personal journeys of those who contributed to ‘Twenty Years On’) Enjoy:
A major group of American academics has, through their professional association, come out in support of Dr Anthony McIntyre, the former Boston College researcher whose own interviews with the college have now been subpoenaed by the PSNI in a move widely seen as a punitive ‘fishing expedition’.
Declaring itself ‘profoundly disturbed’ by the subpoena, the American Sociological Association, which represents 13,000 scholars and researchers throughout the US, says it has been moved to support Dr McIntyre over concern at the threat to research confidentiality posed by the PSNI move which is being supported and facilitated by the Obama Department of Justice.
“The research for (the Belfast Project at Boston College) was conducted with a guarantee that the information interviewees provided would not be released until after their deaths”, the ASA wrote. “Such guarantees are a core component of efforts by historians and social scientists to develop the research-based knowledge that is critical to an informed society…..Such scholarly freedom is essential to both an informed and free society.”
The ASA move comes after Boston College let it be known that it would challenge the McIntyre subpoena in the courts, a marked change in approach which along with the ASA’s letter, suggests that American academe may have woken up to the grave threat posed by the PSNI decision to pursue the Belfast Project.
Here is the full letter sent to our campaign by the ASA: