The Slaughter Of Innocents

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It has taken Britain almost four decades to admit to a war crime in Northern Ireland:

The Bloody Sunday Inquiry report found that all those killed were unarmed and that paratroopers had lost control and opened fire without warning. Some had been trying to flee when they were hit and soldiers had made up false accounts in a bid to cover up their actions, the report found.

A total of 13 unarmed civilians, seven of them teenagers, died in Londonderry when soldiers from 1st Battalion, the Parachute Regiment opened fire during clashes after the banned march was stopped from entering the city centre on January 30 1972. A 14th man died some time later from his injuries.

This panicked murder of unarmed civilians was the Brits' Gaza moment (along with their Cheney moment in instigating the torture of terror suspects in prison). And this long-delayed report helps show how war crimes take time for democracies to process and take responsibility for. The entire history of the last forty years suggests something else as well: that Irish terrorism was not defeated by force of arms, or brutality, or collective punishment. It took negotiations with the worst parties, a stoic acceptance of some terrorist violence because the attempt to stamp it all out only made it worse, economic growth, and insistence on the most logical partition.

Maybe at some point, the Israelis will absorb these lessons. And maybe they won't.

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