Nov 2006

147 and counting

From Europhobia (now dressed in lovely WordPress trousers and sporting a shiny new URL) comes news that investigations into European complicity in US war crimes have identified 147 occasions when Irish soil was “suspected of being used for ‘extraordinary renditions’ or transfer of prisoners without trial or legal redress to sites such as Guantanamo Bay or Uzbekistan.”

It’s clear that the so-called “neutrality” of Ireland is a sham. At Shannon we provide transfer, refuelling and storage facilities for the US Air Force. I suspect that our government would not have offered the same hospitality to the Iraqi airforce in the geographically unlikely event that Saddam Hussein had made the request.

That said, our constitution is pretty damn clear about the neutrality of Ireland, and it’s always been a strict rule that Shannon could not be used for combat missions. This means that long-range bombers can’t refuel in Ireland on their way to drop explosives on a city, but a plane full of marines on their way to shoot people in that city is acceptable. I wonder whether the revered group of idealists, poets, socialists and agitators who framed our constitution would be proud of a government willing to make such spurious distinctions.

Or of a people willing to quietly acquiesce.

But use of Irish soil during these CIA ‘extraordinary renditions’? That brings the moral transgression and culpability to a whole other level. Here we have the Irish State actively and regularly assisting a policy of kidnap and torture. And 147 flights over a period of a few years is pretty damn regular. We’re not talking about a couple of isolated incidents here.

Protestations of ignorance are hollow and meaningless. An independent neutral republic not only has a right, it has a duty, to regulate any foreign military traffic that crosses its border. And for precisely this reason! So that we are not complicit in acts inconsistent with our international obligations. If a US airforce plane lands in Shannon and it contains people snatched from the street by the CIA en route for torture in an Uzbek detention centre, the Irish authorities have an absolute legal obligation to detain that flight and prevent a crime against humanity.

That these flights were never once detained demonstrates either than the Irish authorities were aware of their nature and chose to provide assistance nonetheless; or that a deliberate policy of ignorance was in place. Imagine an Irish airport had been used as a stop-off point for plane-loads of Afghan heroin for the past few years. Imagine that in order to gain favour with the heroin producers, the Irish government ordered the contents of the planes not to be examined. Imagine that the government later claimed they didn’t realise anything dodgy was going on. Lastly, imagine how naive you’d have to be to believe them.

You may consider that an extreme analogy. And it’s true, it would take a peculiar kind of eejit to think nothing dodgy was going on if Afghan heroin producers asked them to ignore some planes. But the C.I.A.? I mean, come on! You can trust them to be completely legit and above-board, right?

As I say; a peculiar kind of eejit. The kind we seem to elect.

What’s worse is that even despite widespread acknowledgement that these torture buses were fuelled and resupplied by Ireland, we have not denied the US military use of the facilities at Shannon. Instead we have accepted assurances that such flights will never stop in Ireland if indeed they ever happen which they don’t.

So we’re checking the planes now? Well no. They’ve promised to be all legit and above-board from now on, so we don’t need to.

Who has? Ummmm… the C.I.A.

You mean the kidnappers and torturers? Doh!

Posted in: Opinion