|These are regular editorials
produced alongside the corresponding issues on Nonviolent
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The recent Iraqi war illustrated some realities
about current Irish government international policy. One reality
is that it will effectively back the big western powers of
the USA, the UK, and, where applicable, the EU. Any military
'muscle' that the Republic could add would be totally insignificant
so its help is given as moral (immoral) support and assistance
in kind (Shannon for US planes to refuel and stop over). When
faced with a moral dilemma (attacking Iraq without a UN mandate,
despite initially emphasising it as essential) the Taoiseach
and government will wriggle, and wriggle and come out with
any old gobbledegook to avoid taking a moral stand; as recorded
here previously, the Taoiseach declared it not to be a 'pre-emptive'
strike by the USA and UK because they had informed the UN
and said why they were doing it! What utter and despicable
What price the policy of de Valera in trying
to develop the League of Nations in the 1930s? What price
Frank Aiken, Minister for External Affairs for Fianna Fail,
and his significant role in developing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty in the early 1960s? Like the people involved, the policies
seem dead and buried. Our economic interest lie with our friends
and kin in the USA, the Dáil was repeatedly told, so
we should back them. The 26 counties fought a war of independence
to leave a great empire; parts of society now seems keen to
join the current greatest empire. The Irish government eventually
got its way on the Nice Treaty, but they had to put the question
twice to get the answer they wanted ('Twice as Nice').
Fine Gael has now declared itself in favour
of ditching military neutrality and backing a common EU 'defence'.
And an Irish Times poll (17th May) showed a majority of voters
(58%) supporting a future EU common defence so long as Ireland
can opt in or out of particular military actions; 19% said
Ireland should not join in any circumstances. The poll also
showed a strong swing in support of Irish government policy
allowing US armed forces the use of Shannon airport, now 51%
approved and 39% disapproved (the most interesting unanswered
question here is - why have people changed their minds? And
what role did US and British lies play in this change of view?
The Irish Times correspondent put it down to a relatively
short war and 'with comparatively few casualties').
While some continued EU developments are welcome,
the advent of a common EU military policy is not one of them.
And the risk continues that 'Fortress Europe' will not only
economically dominate the globe along with the USA but become
a superpower in its own wrong. There is some hope, given the
reactions to the US-UK war plan for Iraq, that the EU might
act more responsibly than the US. But it is only a hope. When
EU interests are directly threatened then logic and decency
may go out the window.
When do we declare Irish neutrality dead? And
how do we wake it (in two senses of the word)? It is also
true that, positive examples not withstanding, it was never
carefully defined and at times or for some people was reactive
only, being forged as a form of anti-Britishness. But the
examples above are honourable ones on the world stage of which
Irish people can be proud; the Irish role in the UN in general,
and in military peacekeeping in particular, is also an honourable
There may be Irish politicians in future with
the guts and determination to push, on a European stage or
the lesser Irish one, for positive, progressive, liberatory
foreign policies. The stated policy on world debt relief is
already a positive one. Irish military neutrality may not
actually be dead yet but it has certainly taken a turn for
the worse in its hospital bed.
But it would be wrong for progressive forces
to put all their eggs in the neutrality basket. The Republic
may be a small fish in a big European pond but it can still,
if it chooses, cause ripples. The formal abandonment of military
neutrality is not desirable but at a certain point it may
simply be recognising reality, and honesty may require it.
It will be a sad day but we can still fight for justice, global
equality, and peace. The end of neutrality will not be the
end of the world. But it will be the end of an era when the
Republic stood aside or even pretended to stand aside from
the great power blocs - what an irony that after the end of
the Cold war it should become much closer to the western power
History is full of such ironies. Strike while
the irony is hot.
Information on the High Court decision regarding Edward Horgan's
unsuccessful constututional challenge on US military use of
Shannon Airport can be found at the following sites (thanks
to Eoin Dubsky for information);
It is not all that long after the Iraq war and already the
lies used to go to war are being exposed. It is clear that
elements within both US and UK administrations were totally
unsure of what was being put out as fact regarding weapons
of mass destruction. And the allegation that Iraq not only
had such weapons (WMD) but could launch an attack using them
within 45 minutes was pure fiction, added to 'intelligence'
reports at the insistence of the British Prime Minister or
Expect further revelations as time goes on.
The world in general is glad to be rid of Saddam Hussein and
his brutal regime. But the world does not appreciate being
lied too with such arrogance to justify a war whose consequences
will continue to be worked out in the years to come - in both
Iraq and internationally through increased attacks by groups
like al Qaeda. And it is clear that the USA and UK had had
far too little thought about the aftermath of war in Iraq
- or maybe everything we were told was just lies anyway. For
example, the London 'Independent' newspaper of 10th May devoted
half its broadsheet front page to blatant lies told by the
British and US American governments on oil, the UN, weapons,
aid and the future government of Iraq.
Most of the world saw through the British
and US lies before the war. Many Irish people and the Irish
government seem duped into supporting the use of Shannon airport
on spurious grounds. It is to be hoped now the war is over
that all can realise the lies that were told so that next
time there is less gullibility and more resistance.