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Hail Jim Hickey, "Irish Hero" of the Colonial Occupation of Iraq



You think the Americans don’t know what they’re doing in Iraq? They know all too well.

Check out, for example, Captain Christopher Cirino of the 82nd Airborne, who told an English journalist in Fallujah a few weeks ago: “The men we are being attacked by are Syrian-trained terrorists and local freedom fighters.”

That’s right. He said “freedom fighters”.

Now check out the codenames employed in the weekend swoop for Saddam Hussein near Tikrit. ‘Red Dawn’, they called it, with suspected Iraqi-resistance locations tagged ‘Wolverine 1’ and ‘Wolverine 2’.

Press comments have noted that ‘Red Dawn’, a 1984 John Milius flick that chronicles a Soviet invasion of the US, is a favourite movie of American right-wingers. What hasn’t often been pointed out is that the heroes of ‘Red Dawn’ are a brave band of ragged small-town resisters to the invasion, and they call themselves ‘Wolverines’.

So do you really think the Americans are so twisted by their own propaganda that they see themselves in the roles of Patrick Swayze and his heroic local comrades? Not at all. ‘Red Dawn’ is a little colonial in-joke: in this version of the movie, the resistance is scattered, and the invaders win.

The joke runs a little deeper still. The chief instrument of imperial oppression in this real-life story is an Irishman, Chicago-born Colonel Jim Hickey, commander of the 1st brigade of the 4th infantry division.

The colonel is inheritor of an Irish national tradition of resistance to colonialism–and a Hickey family tradition of US military service. His grandfather served in Europe during the first World War before returning to Ireland, and his father was sent to Korea after emigrating to America.

The Irish heritage was never far away. The colonel’s parents now own a shop in Naperville, Illinois, that sells Irish ‘gifts’.

Perhaps he grew up kissing little replica blarney stones. Hickey has happily chatted to journalists all week despite the fact he was 100 yards away from Saddam at the time of his arrest. His interview with Rachael English on RTE Radio 1 lasted a full 20 minutes.

Mind you, there’s little art to his gab. He speaks in chilling military jargon that better suits the villain of the movie rather than the hero. “My principal task was to complete the destruction of all former-regime elements within the area of Tikrit.” As for the resistance: “We will give back much more than we take, I can guarantee you that.”

Rhetorically Hickey is no George W Bush, though on RTE he did try to invent a word, twice: Iraqi fighters would engage in “erratic, spasmatic activity” and “irrational, spasmatic behaviour”, he said.

He also managed the odd bit of awkward Bush-ian piety, forced out on radio after a long hesitation: “The Almighty was with us that night.”

Being based in one of the marble guest-houses formerly enjoyed by Saddam’s inner circle may have gone to Hickey’s head. “I have hundreds of thousands of people in this area,” he told English, words worthy of any colonial military administrator.

Hickey’s parents came from the west of Ireland. He grew up in “a strong Irish culture… Over time I’ve really gained an appreciation of the uniqueness of that type of upbringing, and the strength of the values that come from people like my parents… Their sense of humanity and right and wrong has definitely influenced me over the years.”

His mammy calls it “a true American story”, in which “Jim is giving something back to this country we adopted.”

In obscure American lingo, a ‘jimhickey’ is someone who performs his task with excellence. No doubt the colonel is such a man.

But look at the front of Monday’s Evening Herald in Ireland and see the little photo of his auntie in west Clare, where ragged bands of small-town resisters once battled an Empire. Then ask yourself, Saddam aside, whether his task in Iraq is worthy of his heritage.

Counterpuncher HARRY BROWNE is a lecturer in the School of Media at Dublin Institute of Technology and a member of the steering committee of the Irish Anti-War Movement. He can be reached at


Harry Browne lectures in Dublin Institute of Technology and is the author of The Frontman: Bono (In the Name of Power)., Twitter @harrybrowne

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