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The Dirty War: Covert Strategies and Tactics Used in Political Conflicts Paperback – March 17, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0415922814 ISBN-10: 041592281X Edition: 0th

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (March 17, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 041592281X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415922814
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,192,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

An amazingly detailed and profoundly disturbing examination of the ``dirty'' covert war between Northern Ireland's paramilitary groups and British security forces. Investigative journalist Dillon focuses on the chaotic years of 196990 to describe how British security forces attempted to infiltrate and destroy the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). The two sides fought a deadly, no-rules war with spies, informers, assassination, misinformation, and wholesale coverup. While the IRA tried to destabilize Northern Ireland by bombing, compiling weapons, and murdering British troops, British security forces established their own ``unofficial'' hit squads to identify and murder IRA operatives. Dillon brilliantly illuminates the deadly, murky underworld of spies and informers, meticulously describing how British intelligence would arrest ``vulnerable'' IRA members and ``turn'' them with threats of imprisonment, blackmail, torture, and monetary rewards. Dillon also reveals how the IRA systematically searched out and eliminated informers within their midstusually with a bullet to the head. Dillon fully understands the devastating political and cultural implications of Northern Ireland's ``dirty'' war. He repeatedly points out that governmental counterterrorism, waged in secrecy and thus lacking accountability, ``raises serious issues for a democracy.'' He cites the brutal murders of Andrew Murray and Michael Naan, two suspected IRA members killed by British soldiers. Although dozens within the British army knew about the murders, the crime was systematically covered up for eight years. Dillon's account of the Murray/Naan murders makes for shocking and fascinating reading. The ``dirty'' war in Northern Ireland has created a diseased culture of silence, betrayal, and selective memory. Though a decade old (it was a bestseller when first published in Ireland), Dillon's book is investigative journalism at its relevant best. He's put himself in harm's way to get at the dark truth, gaining access to both British intelligence sources and the IRA. A seminal, if dated, study of Northern Ireland's nightmarish legacy of official and unofficial violence. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Review

Long regarded as one of Northern Ireland's best-informed journalists, many of Mr. Dillon's books have until recently been unavailable to American audiences. Now, thanks to Routledge, they are receiving the audience they deserve.
The Washington Times

An amazingly detailed and profoundly disturbing examination of the 'dirty' covert war between Northern Ireland's paramilitary groups and British security forces..Dillon's book is investigative journalism at its relevant best. He's put himself in harm's way to get at the dark truth, gaining access to both British intelligence sources and the IRA.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1999

Makes Cold War duplicity a la Deighton and Le Carr seem positively endearing.... This excellent book demands the attention of anyone concerned about civil liberties in the United Kingdom.
The Guardian

Grippingly written with the pace of a thriller.
Financial Times

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By David Dearborn on February 27, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are many reasons to buy and admire Martin Dillon's 'The Dirty War,' which is nothing less than a monumental achievement in investigative journalism. Dillon peels the lid off a very large can of worms--two decades of undercover conflict between the IRA (Official and Provisional), British Army, RUC, Loyalists and assorted other players in Northern Ireland from 1969 to 1990. The author's painstaking research (including many first-hand interviews with participants) and scrupulous objectivity should make this book required reading in newsrooms and journalism schools everywhere. But it's not some dry exercise. A lot of 'The Dirty War' rivals the best non-fiction crime and detective writing. Dillon knows how to tell a story. He also has a knack of involving the reader in his exhaustive analysis of individual incidents and themes. When answers aren't evident, his not afraid to admit it; rather, he asks questions and draws us in. This book is an absolute must for anyone interested in the modern British Army and its counterterrorist tactics. But it's not an anti-British book and it's not an anti-IRA book. It IS continually fascinating and, refreshingly, has a strong moral compass in the author's value set to help the reader through the unpleasantness.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mr. D. J. Walford on January 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
A good book by Dillon. He covers all parts of the Northern Irish Troubles, including British Army and security forces undercover actions and the way in which the IRA use devious "honeytraps" to tempt British Army men to their deaths. It also gives a section on the little known Loyalist paramilitary forces. I Liked this book as it was easy to read and gives a good insight into the past 30 years of the troubles. Anyone who is just getting into Irish history and is unsure about what to read, The Dirty War is an excellent starting point as, from the start, it gives you no illusions, even the title tells the truth.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Marilyn Ferdinand (mferdinand@hfma.org) on September 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
While it may seem strange for a book to leave one feeling both depressed and exhilarated, experiencing such paradoxical emotions is the norm with one of Martin Dillon's books. I have read three of his nonfiction works in the past year, most recently The Dirty War, and have come to the conclusion that I am not likely to find another writer/journalist who can get so close to the players in Northern Ireland's Troubles, elicit as much information from them, provide more complete complementary information from a vast array of written source material, and make it all coherent to the average reader. I had only sketchy knowledge of the Troubles before I started reading Dillon's works--I now find myself following his detailed accounts of events and trains of thought as though I had known them all my life. How exhilarating to be in commune with an author of such abilities!
And how depressing! It makes one weep to see the depths to which individuals and governments can sink to push their agendas, which range from the pursuit of profit to revenge to the perpetuation of a cynically unfair set of policies over a population. The last motive applies equally to illegal British interference in the internal affairs of Northern Ireland and to IRA paramilitaries who condemn the British justice system while pursuing their own perverse notion of justice that usually ends in the addition of another name to the "Disappeared" list. In the end, the Irish people are the pawns in a chess game without clear motive or end.
Maybe peace will come to Ireland some day. In The Dirty War and his other books, Martin Dillon reveals how high the odds are stacked against it--yet how to hope and work for it still.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By M. Conrad Hunter on October 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
In this `whose to blame' world the paradox portrayed by this work are the responsibilities involved in peacekeeping. The conflict in Northern Ireland has been a huge burden for the British, who have little real sympathy for either side.

However, the main thesis of Martin Dillon's The Dirty War surrounds the notion that covert intelligence procedures and operations, which require a greater intimacy between the hunter and the hunted, are sinister by nature. Somehow, to the uninitiated there seems to be a cleansing process associated by not knowing the enemy.

The `dirty' part of The Dirty War centers on the concept of assassination. Because, in an unconventional war much of the fighting and dying is done in the shadows, ambushes and small-unit actions dominate the battlefield. The problem then, seems to be that if the attacker did not know the identify of those killed it was war; if they did, it was assassination. The difference is arbitrary, in as much, as every soldier who responds to the will of those who make policy, and war understands the ugliness and reality of combat.

Herein lies the nexus between the historical struggle between the British and Northern Ireland, and the American forces in modern low intensity conflict. Operating in a democracy, controlled by the rule of law, the overriding principal that governs counterinsurgency warfare tactics is that of minimum force. This self-imposed code of ethics often appears to offer the insurgents an unfair advantage. However, as is the case in Northern Ireland so it is in Afghanistan, Iraq, and future conflicts to come...responsibility comes with power, and the United States and Great Britain, if they want to be treated with global respect, must exercise one with the other.
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