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November 03, 2008

The War of the Flea

Preliminary reading on guerilla warfare and counter-insurgency lead me to a Time magazine article published July 31, 1972 in the wake of an IRA ceasefire in Belfast. Citing Robert Taber in passing, one observation from "The War of the Flea" struck me as particularly surreal and absurd. Such was life in an urban war zone before cable television, before the internet and in the day when news often travelled at the speed of the paper on which it was printed.

After midnight, Bogside TV sets stay tuned for another sport: listening to British army headquarters issuing orders and receiving reports from units on patrol. The army's transmitters happen to be on the same frequency as a local TV station. British HQ is aware of this. Messages that could tip off Provo patrols are cut short by clipped instructions "to use other means" of communication. Such lapses as "We don't want another calamity like Lima's [code name for a British patrol] shooting on our own men" or "Can you claim a hit?" are met with the sort of hilarity among Bogsiders that Americans reserve for a good quip on the Dick Cavett Show.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at November 3, 2008 05:41 AM