I read the news today, oh boy…
Come out ye Black and Tans and fight me like a man…
These two snippets of wildly divergent songs keep playing in my head these past several days.
The first, of course, is from the John Lennon song, Day in the Life, and is familiar to anyone that has listened to the Beatles Sgt. Pepper album. The second is from the Irish rebel song written by Domenic Behan ( Lyrics.) Before I explain why these two songs are on auto-play, let me give you a bit of personal background.
I am of the first generation on my father’s side of the family born in the United States. Both sides of the family, however, came from Ireland. I grew up listening to stories of fairies, leprechauns, keeners, ghosts, Tinkers, famines and beloved Saint Patrick. And, the Black and Tans. (Historical video)
My father and uncles were children during the time of the Irish Rebellion of 1919 -1921. At the time, they ranged in age from 11 to 14. When I was about 9 or 10 years old I asked, innocently, why my uncle Pat limped so badly and why my uncle Frank had two scars, white, irregular circles, each on either side of his cheeks. It was the “bloody Black and Tans”, I was told. “What’s that”, I asked? The British Army, was the answer.
You see, before the age of telephones and the internet, many people had to communicate face to face or in writing. This was certainly the case in rural West Ireland of the time (even up until the 1950’s in many areas). The Irish Rebels – IRA – used fleet-footed youngsters to spread the news of the Black and Tan mercenary military units approaching villages and towns. The Tans, recruited from the ranks of unemployed soldiers following WWI and, reportedly in some cases, the mental wards and prisons of England, had quite the reputation for pillaging, murder and rape. Their approach would strike terror and hatred into the civilians of towns and villages. Uncle Pat, then age 14, was caught in County Clare and, as he was correctly suspected of being a “runner” for the IRA, had his instep crushed by the butt of a British rifle. Never would he run again. Uncle Frank actually did have a printed IRA message concealed in his mouth when he was apprehended by the Tans in the mountains of County Mayo. Since he wouldn’t open his mouth to expel the message, a pistol was placed to his cheek and the bullet blew the message and his face to shreds. He was 12. My grandparents, fearing for my father, who was a runner, too, sent him to the relative safety of English coal mines to work underground until he could buy his passage to America. He was about 12 when he left home – forever. Nearly 100 years later, Black and Tans are still a curse and cursed in Ireland.
So, why are the songs of John Lennon and Dominic Behan playing in my head? Because, two days ago I read the news and could only say, “oh, boy”. It seems that some folks in our government are seriously discussing the idea of raising a mercenary force of fighters to replace U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Mercenaries bought and paid for by us – the American citizen, to fight a war Congress has not the guts to declare. These forces would be recruited from former U.S. soldiers. The report stated some of the reasons for considering this proposal are to continue the war in Afghanistan – but at a lower cost; troops would be under the control of Afghan authorities, thus removing the U.S. from some culpability for “irregularities” and we could bring our boys and girls home. How nice. See: u.s. mercenaries
Have we lost our collective minds and souls? The idea of the United States using mercenaries to fight its war – even if those mercenaries are American – is sickening. War is bad enough. But, using proxies always comes back to haunt you. Just ask the British. If the war in Afghanistan is, after all, a “good” war, should we not fight it ourselves? If it is not, isn’t 16 years enough?
Yes, I read the news today and said, “Oh, boy” and pray that years from now Afghans will not rise up in their own variation of the Behan song: “Come out ye ‘Mericans, and fight me like a man”.