General Petraeus: "I'm an Enya guy" -- the Irish and the American military


When Irish American journalist Jennifer Griffin asked General Petraeus about his favorite music, "I'm an Enya guy," was his response.

The hunter of Al Qaeda terrorists, Iraqi insurgents and Afghan Taliban apparently has a soft spot for the Gaelic Irish vibe.

Petraeus' musical preference is somewhat of a relief. Like Jewish Americans concerned for the special relationship between Israel and the American military, Irish Americans have an old record of service with the US armed forces, and expect it would assist the Irish army and defend Ireland's neutral independence should its economic crisis ever be exploited by bigger powers again.

The founder of the American navy, for example was Commodore John Barry, from Tacumshane in Wexford (a place known for windmills in his day). President Kennedy was a navy hero himself, and laid a wreath in Tacumshane to honor the special relationship between Ireland and the United States.

Commodore Barry was one among an astounding 16 other Irish-born officers under George Washington's command. Many more officers and declaration signators for American independence came from Ireland than any other country.

The Irish and Americans have been loyal friends through the rise of the American rebel army into a superpower; and through the history of Ireland's recovery from imperial depopulation, cultural genocide and land clearance policies by regaining national independence. London was a mercilessly oppressive tax-collector; and the Americans and the Irish had a hand in freeing eachother from the red tape that you see on the Union Jack.

An Irish engineer from Clare--John Phillip Holland--was initially funded by the old Irish army to invent the world's first real submarine, which was called the Fenian Ram. The Fenian Brotherhood had funded the project to overcome British naval domination over Irish ports, but scrapped the plan as costs rose. The famous Irish regiments that crucially helped the Union win the Civil War, followed their victories in America with war in post-Famine Ireland. The original 19th century Irish army--the Fenians--were in many cases American veterans that had fought for Lincoln, and brought their military skill to Ireland's cause afterwards.

The first submarine was an Irish prototype the Fenians funded, and was followed by six more models, all by JP Holland. The US military took up funding, where the Irish ran out, so that by the turn of the century, the Irish invention had become a staple of the American submarine war machine.

One could go on and on with examples of Irish defending the United States, from the five Sullivan Brothers that died together when their battleship was attacked in World War II, to the most decorated soldier of that war, an Irish Texan named Murphy.

Good Irish Catholic boys faced apocalyptic nihilism in Vietnam for the American military. The happy Irish warrior quality that Cohan gave the American soldier with "Over There, Over There" is not the only story. Patrick Daniel Tillman's story is important to remember in trying to make sense of the wars waged today.

There is no peace movement today, but there is Enya singing in General Petraeus' ear. I honestly don't know what to make of it.


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