Tuesday, March 14, 2006

End of Empire

We thought we were running a risk of linking to too many obituaries with Irish aspects, with just having linked to an obit for a Scotland Yard Special Branch officer last week, but National Review's The Corner (of all places) points us to the Daily Telegraph obit for Gen Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley. Now we prefer the Times so we went there first to read of Farrar-Hockley's astonishing military career -- both a microcosm of Britain's very messy post-WW2 entanglements and an image of incredible bravery and endurance (2 years as a POW in north Korea).

But, as we complained about with the previous obituary, it would be nice to know the other side of these stories -- at least the other side in geopolitical terms. For instance:

Then, in 1962, he took over command of 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment serving in the Gulf. The outbreak of the rebellion of the Radfan tribes in the Western Aden Protectorate took 3 Para there in 1964 and Farrar-Hockley led them brilliantly in the capture of the dissidents’ stronghold in the remote Wadi Dhubsan ...

Giving up command of his battalion in 1965, he went straight to the Far East to become chief of staff to the director of operations in Borneo. There, he took over organisation of the politically sensitive, then unattributable, cross-border operations, the success of which played a significant part in bringing about the collapse of Indonesian President Sukarno’s ill-judged military confrontation with the recently formed Federation of Malaysia.

Remember, the consequences of those events in Yemen and Indonesia were very long-lasting. And as for the Irish angle, of course it's there -- and indeed one wonders if the initial Army strategy of sending grizzled veterans of the late colonial wars to Ireland was really such a good idea:

He was only just 46 when promoted major-general and appointed Commander Land Forces Northern Ireland in August 1970. He was the first senior officer to acknowledge publicly that the IRA was behind the republican violence. This was a period when he was at his most uncompromising, pointing out the risks of trying to pretend, as did many politicians of the day, that there was not a terrorist insurrection within the UK and demanding appropriate countermeasures against the IRA. His briefings of ministers provided exactly what they did not wish to hear about Ireland.

While there was no suggestion that he was moved prematurely — a year in the job being set by his example as the subsequent norm — his selection to command 4th Division in Germany brought with it some mistaken hopes that Northern Ireland might be a calmer place without him. He left in July 1971, well before “Bloody Sunday” in Londonderry (sic) in January 1972 but his close association with the Parachute Regiment subsequently made him a prime IRA target.

Bloody Sunday did seal the bad reputation of "the Paras" in the nationalist population. Both The Times and the Telegraph mention an IRA assassination attempt in 1990, averted when a bomb under his car was spotted by his gardener, but his opinions on the atrocity were likely long-held and not affected one way or the other by being a marked man:

[Telegraph] In response to new evidence that emerged in successive enquiries into "Bloody Sunday", when 13 Catholics were shot dead during a civil rights' march in Londonderry (sic) in 1972, Farrar-Hockley robustly defended the role of the Parachute Regiment: "It is all part of a long-running public relations exercise," he told the BBC, "to persuade people that soldiers were all murderers and nothing wrong was done by the people on the other side." He voiced strong concerns following the ruling by the judges sitting on the Saville Tribunal that the former Paras could not rely on being granted anonymity.

Veering now into a side issue, we wonder if the National Review, engaged in a running feud with Andrew Sullivan, was up to something with their effusive link ("The Anglo-American world needs its Farrar-Hockleys now as much as ever") to the Telegraph version:

He was also an outspoken opponent of the European Court of Human Rights ruling that the British Armed Forces were obliged to permit avowed homosexuals to enlist. He maintained that the military was a unique institution which should be allowed to run its own affairs, and that the concession would damage morale and discipline.

Enough to get a certain someone -- if he follows the link --- a bit upset.

Finally, and only loosely linked to the above, we want to briefly return to a post last week in which we had mentioned Sarah Sands being replaced as editor of the Sunday Telegraph and the possibly unrelated disappearance of Mark Steyn from the Telegraph group. Sullivan, acting on a dubiously-sourced blog post, linked Sands' dismissal to the squelching of another Telegraph piece that likely fell foul of Britain's strange hate-speech laws. Sullywatch takes the baton from here.

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