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Michael Collins: Terrorist or Patriot?

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Submitted By Cayub
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Michael Collins: Terrorist or Patriot?
By
Carlos E. Ayub

Excelsior College
CJ350
Kevin Henry

Michael Collins: Terrorist or Patriot?

Michael Collins was a revolutionary Irishman, a patriot and a dissident, a man whose actions are considered by some to be bravely heroic and others as unsettlingly terrorist. Collins orchestrated much of the political and militaristic provocation that led to the violent escalation of the Anglo-Irish war for independence, and eventually was one of the principal supporters and signers of the treaty that lead to the establishment of the Irish Free State and de-escalation of violence in the region. The widespread characterization of Collins as terrorist is principally derived of his actions and association with the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) which later became the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and Sinn Fein. Collins significant political and demonstrative participation in the battle for Irish independence began with the former group when he participated as a volunteer during the Easter Uprising, an action planned to foster support for the Irish cause. These actions comprised the first portion of Collins’ life as a dissident and insurgent. It would be his subsequent involvement in Sinn Fein that would characterize him as a terrorist. Collins participated financially and by procuring weapons to help the organization’s efforts at rebellion. Though these actions alone are not enough to characterize Collins as a terrorist, he also organized a hit squad and setup much of the organization’s extensive intelligence network. He obtained a list of British and loyalist Irish police and intelligence officer and sent hit squads to their homes and killed them. He also attacked police stations and continued a campaign of terror against many other targets. These actions largely culminated in the assassination of many British Secret Service Officers in Ireland, and the British responded with firing into a crowd of football (Soccer) observers and players. Collins’ actions intended to blind England to Ireland’s internal revolutionary action and force the issue of Irish independence. Collins’ campaign was deliberate, dynamic and violent, a campaign of counter-espionage, guerilla warfare and terror. Following the escalation of guerilla violence and reprisal, Collins was send to England against his wish by his friend and leader of Sinn Fein (Eamon De Valera) negotiating and ultimately signing a peace treaty establishing the Irish Free State. Though less than truly radical, the treaty was, Collins argued, the beginning of the means by which Ireland could effect the creation of a free state. Upon his return home, many of Collins followers including De Valera did not approve of this treaty and a new wave of violence erupted in Ireland. During an effort to make peace with some of his followers Collins’ convoy was ambushed by Irish radicals who succeeded in killing the revolutionary leader. This inherently marked the end of Collins involvement as a politician and revolutionary. Collins model of political violence was some how consistent with that later developed by Carlos Marighella and Che Guevara, but also there were some differences. As we learned in Jonathan White (2002, p. 85) Michael Collins studied the tactics of the Russians Peoples’ Will and the writing of earlier anarchists and terrorists to launch a guerrilla war against the British, but clearly, Collins did not simply wanted violence, but rather change, and the freedom to pursue such change legislatively. Carlos Marighella was a leader of the nationalist Communist party in Brazil, and later a fiery revolutionary terrorist. White (2002, pp 114-116) explains that Marighella believed the basis of revolution was violence. Any type of violence was acceptable because it contributed a general feeling of panic and frustration among the ruling classes and their protectors. Marighella endorsed violence for the sake of violence. Ernesto Guevara. “Che” Guevara was born in Argentina and had a medical degree, but turned his attention from medicine to the plight of the poor. White (2002, pp 118-119) says Guevara believed poverty and repression were problems that transcended nationalism and revolution was the only means of challenging authority. Terrorism played a limited role in Guevara’s guerrilla framework. The main purpose of terrorism was to strike at the government network and then to demoralize the government. Though his motives are in many ways legitimate, and his tactics largely successful, Collins ultimately could not escape the violence he helped to foster in his native land, and could not or did not escape utilizing guerilla tactics with public violence in an attempt to force political change. For these reasons Collins was, though an idealist, though a politician and a patriot, still, fundamentally and inescapably, a terrorist.
References

Michael Collins the Movie, 1996. Director: Neil Jordan. Producer: Stephen Woolley. U.S. Distributor: Warner Brothers
Jonathan R. White. (2002). Terrorism (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadswort/Thomson Learning

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