This book is the personal account of Eamon Collins – an IRA man during the worst of the troubles, then turned state's witness, who is now dead, assassinated as he walked his dogs. Early on in the book a key formative event occurs that send Collins from by-stander to terrorist. A sniffer dog get excited during a search of their farm mistaking the small of creosote for explosives. The army (some of whom Collins claims had been drinking) then moved to arrest him, his dad and also his brother in a violent and protracted assault. Here is a sample of the account:
“They told me to lie on the floor [of the jeep] as three soldiers got in on either side of me. They began to hit me with their rifle buts on my legs arms, back and buttocks. I could hear my mother screaming hysterically. One of my guards shouted, 'fuck off you old whore!' as the jeeps drove off.”
During the journey and back at he army base, the torture and humiliation – akin to what we've seen in Guantanamo – continues until the army finally realise they've make a mistake and arrested 3 innocent men and release them...
“Other times I would feel a surge of rage whose power would unbalance me: I would sit alone in my room and think with pleasure of blowing the heads of those para[chute regiment] scum.”
A threat he would later make real as he proceeds to join the IRA and run intelligence operations targeting soldiers and cops. Other points he makes that are vial to understanding how a terror group operates are that without the support of committed and sizable groups of civilians to hide, provide intelligence and recruits, to finance and assist the IRA, they would simply not exist. Put simply while some of the ordinary people felt that the army and police were not there to protect them but to oppress them, they will support groups like the IRA. Here's that writ large in a reported discussion between Collins and a British intelligence officer, after he had turned against the IRA:
“One of his most interesting questions was: 'If I had unlimited resources to fight the IRA, how would you advise me to use them?' I had a simple answer: Support, encourage and make possible at every turn the development of Sinn Fein...once the Republican movement got sucked into the constitutional political system they would eventually be waving goodbye to the armed struggle.”
Which is exactly what happened. This is why the west should be taking to Hamas and the Taliban. There is simply no other choice and this book lay out why this is the case from an 'insider' point of view. Collins is also blunt about the damage the armed struggle does to the communities that support it, on how it forces the most aggressive and militant to the fore and how all involved- from the IRA to the British army – becomes locked in a military struggle of ever-descending depths.
This book should be read by all those making policy for the failing War of Terror. It gives the tactical - never mind moral – importance of why our human rights matter – more so during a time of war than in peace.