Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Iraqi insurgents versus the IRA: keeping a scorecard

It seems that the Iraqi insurgents aren’t killing quite enough British soldiers for some people’s taste.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, a group called the Revolutionary Communist Party made quite a name for itself through a number of distinctive policies, not least its uncritical support for the IRA.

These days it has evolved into a number of manifestations, including the Institute of Ideas and the online journal sp!ked (sic). And sp!ked has this to offer on the current situation in Iraq:

‘The number of British deaths has fallen year-on-year since the conflict started, from a high of 59 in the first year to just 17 in the third year.’

Just 17? No, that's not a Beatles song. Damn, those feckless Arab bastards really should try harder. But here’s the clincher. The RCP’s old ‘say ooh ah, up the ‘ra’ habits die hard:

‘The IRA was more effective at killing British soldiers than Iraqi insurgents have been. In one single year in Northern Ireland - 1972 – the IRA killed nearly three times as many British military personnel as the Iraqi insurgents have managed in over three years.’

Well, you just can’t fault that kind of work rate, can you? What are they, on piecework or something? Then again, on such calculations, both sets of terrorists are big girls' blouses compared to the wehrmacht. But Brendan O'Neill, author of the study, concludes:

‘This suggests there has been a politicisation of British death in Iraq - not that this war is more deadly than others, but that death has sometimes quite cynically been made into the defining issue of the conflict. It is time we made better arguments against the war than exaggerating how dangerous it is.’

Soldiers die in wars. That is one of the defining characteristics of warfare, and something that anyone who signs up for a military career knows full well. But that is no reason for anti-war socialists to laugh off the fatalities by keeping jokey little scorecards.

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