The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Tangled web which stretches from the New Lodge to Iraq


Eamonn McCann • Belfast Telegraph, 22 April 2004

Did the punishment fit the crime? This was the question pondered on all news bulletins following publication of the IMC report.

In the Commons, the Unionists seemed underwhelmed by the notion of docking the pocket-money of paramilitary-related parties. On the other hand, the main parties in the South appeared content that the sanction was just about right. I wonder what Jean McBride thought.

As Paul Murphy was outlining the IMC's recommendations at Westminster, she was at the High Court in Belfast at the start of her third legal bid to force the Ministry of Defence to get rid of Scots Guards James Fisher and Mark Wright , the pair convicted of murdering her son Peter, 18, in the New Lodge in 1992. They had served only three years before being released and re-instated in their regiment.

Ms. McBride wasn't in court to complain about their release. Her point was that the retention of the two men sent a message that the murder of her son was a minor matter. Conviction for possession of marijuana leads to automatic ejection from the army. Murdering a teenager from the New Lodge seems seen as less serious.

The Court of Appeal ruled last June that the army should have sacked the two soldiers. But the ruling stopped short of ordering their discharge. Instead, it declared that the Army's reasons for retaining them didn't constitute "exceptional circumstances"---the only basis under Queen's Regulations on which they could be kept on.

The Ministry of Defence responded in September that it would not "revisit the question of the employment of the Guardsmen," thereby telling the judges to get knotted. Hence Mrs. McBride's return to court.

Sitting alongside Murphy as he assured MPs that the IMC's punishment fitted the paramilitaries' crimes was Minister John Spellar. Did his thoughts stray across, one wonders, to where Jean McBride was listening to lawyers' argument? Or his memory waft back to November 2000, when he had been a member of the board which decided that Fisher and Wright were suitable cases to be put back in uniform and reissued with guns?

The board's decision had been welcomed by the men's commanding officer, Lt. Col. Tim Spicer. He'd given evidence that shooting the unarmed McBride in the back as he ran away had been "the correct course of action." If he'd had his way on the night, he explained, he'd have handed the murder weapons back to the men and told them to carry on.

Spicer is now the chief executive officer of Sandline International, one of the leading mercenary outfits tendering for business in Iraq, where market conditions are set for improvement as Spain and other countries pull regular troops out. From July 1st, the contracts will be in the gift of John Negroponte: his appointment as US Ambassador to Iraq was confirmed on the same day as the McBride court case and the IMC announcement.

The New York Times has detailed Negroponte's role in "carrying out the covert strategy of the Reagan administration to crush the Sandinista government in Nicaragua" during his time as Ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985. He worked closely with Col. Oliver North in running guns to the terrorist Contras. The Los Angeles Times and the Baltimore Sun have helped expose his cover up of murder, kidnapping and torture.

Negroponte will be well-known to Dick Kerr, a star in CIA operations going back to the 1962-'63 Cuban missile crisis. By 1989, Kerr had become number two at the agency. Upon retirement in 1992 he was honoured by Bush senior for leading the CIA operation during the first US-Iraq war. He's leader of the team currently reviewing the CIA's performance in relation to Iraq's WMD.

He is also a member of the IMC which on Tuesday laid down the punishments to be imposed on parties which associate with people who use guns.

A complicated business, crime and punishment.







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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

29 April 2004


Other Articles From This Issue:


Pragmatic Politics
Liam O Ruairc


Hard Times
Brian Mór


Every Picture Tells A Story
Anthony McIntyre


Demonizing Will Backfire
Sean Mc Manus


Tangled Wed Which Stretches from the New Lodge to Iraq
Eamonn McCann


Glossary of the Iraqi Occupation

Paul de Rooij


The Letters page has been updated.


23 April 2004


It Hasn't Gone Away You Know
Anthony McIntyre


Brian Mór


We're on the One Road
Tommy McKearney


Easter Week in Derry and the Lazarus Complex
Eamon Sweeney


Time for the Dead

Mick Hall


POWs and the Challenge of Partnership
Aoife Rivera Serrano


'A Real Sensuous Pleasure'
Liam O Ruairc


The Letters page has been updated.




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