The news that General Michael Jackson was gung-ho for the invasion of Afghanistan back in 2011 should come as no surprise to anyone in Derry.
The news comes in a book just published by the distinguished journalist Tom Bower.
Jackson was the man who devised – wrote out in his own hand – the cover-up lies after the Bloody Sunday massacre. He later repeatedly perjured himself to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry.
Jackson had been second-in-command of the paratroopers in the Bogside on the day. Although clearly guilty of, at the least, being an accessory to murder and perverting justice, Saville’s inquiry let him off the hook. Saville pinned all of the blame for the atrocity on lower-ranking soldiers - par for the course when it comes to official inquiries into official criminality.
Jackson should be prosecuted. If he isn’t, how can we say that truth and justice have seriously been sought?
Over the years, calls for Jackson to be put into the dock have been few and far between. None of the main parties shouted about the issue from the rooftops. To put a focus on Jackson would have been to indict the army top brass and their political associates – which would have made it impossible for Cameron to make his phoney “apology” while insisting that nobody of any importance had been involved in the events he was apologising for.
Saville let the families down. Successive British governments have striven to ensure that they stay down. The British authorities have been confident they could get away with this because they believed that they had squared off local political leaders who might have been expected to lead opposition to the stitch-up.
Some of them had been talking to the British about how to finesse popular response to the report’s publication. The British believed that they had arranged that the Bloody Sunday issue would now be regarded as resolved – in the name of “reconciliation”. The top Northern Ireland Official dealing with the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, Mary Madden, blurted out the truth when she snarled at me in the corridor of the Guildhall on the day Saville’s report was published that I should stop bringing up awkward issues because, “Everybody had agreed that this was to be a day of reconciliation.”
It’s worth taking a minute to ponder what that statement could mean. Who is/are the “everybody” who, according to Madden, had agreed that the report would be the last word on Bloody Sunday. No more fractious argy-bargy to disrupt reconciliation…
How could such an agreement have been made unless both sides knew in advance what the Report’s conclusions were going to be and had signalled that they regarded these conclusions as a fair and satisfactory resolution of the affair?
Here’s a question: Did members or representatives of any political party operating in Derry hold confidential discussions with the NIO or other agents of government in the weeks prior to publication of the report?
Here’s another question: Did any discussions take place at that time about the Bloody Sunday March and whether the Report had enough in it to persuade family members and others to abandon the march?
There are other questions, too, but maybe those are enough for the time being.
Derry people – and others across this and the neighbouring island – can be assured that People Before Profit MLAs will see to it that the name of Michael Jackson rings around the Assembly – just as we will relentlessly bring up the cause of the Ballymurphy families, of Kathleen Thompson, Manus Deery, Julie Hambleton and the others bereaved in the Birmingham bombs, Caroline Mooreland – “executed” by the Provos on the word of an informer – etc., etc., etc., etc
People Before Profit will raise these issues in the name of all of the working class of the North. We say that when the State murders its citizens it must be held to account. Otherwise, democracy is a dead letter. For us, that’s the key.
To call for the truth about establishment involvement in the Bloody Sunday killings, and for Jackson to be brought to justice, is not to make a nationalist argument. Containing the Bloody Sunday cause within nationalism makes it virtually inevitable that it will become a matter of political negotiation not a matter of principle, and bogged down in Orange-Green deadlock.
I will have a lot more to say about Bloody Sunday in the coming weeks.