Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Selling our 'neutral' souls

A disturbing video popped up on my Facebook timeline this week.

It showed two little boys, the younger aged no more than three, running from airstrikes, with terror in their voices and tears in their eyes.

They were crying out for their mothers, as a distressed adult bundled them into the back of
US troops at Shannon Airport
a van.

Behind them, the dust and debris disguised the fact that ten children had just been killed. Their school had been destroyed.

If it had happened in Europe, we would be expressing outrage and changing our Facebook profiles in sympathy with the victims this week.

If it happened in Europe, people would clamour for justice and contact their politicians to express their horror and despair.

But the little boys live in Syria, and to them and their families it must seem that the world doesn’t care. Their city of Damascus has been shelled countless times in recent weeks, but we never see the images of the destruction on our nightly TV news channels.

The harrowing two minute film I saw came from Al Jazeera, rather than any European, Irish, or British network.

These are the invisible victims, the ones who do not seem to matter to those in power.

Their terror seemed in such contrast to the scenes of joviality in the House of Commons a couple of weeks back, when a majority of British MPs voted in favour of airstrikes across Syria.

As they laughed and voted for war, those who opposed their views were branded as “terrorist sympathisers”.

We don’t know from the video whether the boys live in an ISIL controlled area or not, all we see are two little boys with terror on their faces.

This is the reality of what our Governments in the West do in our name.

And the Irish can’t moralise, either, as none of us has a clue what has been going on at Shannon Airport for the past 13 years.

We know that American warplanes stop there every week to refuel, on their way to and from ‘renditions’, tours of duty, or bombing missions across the globe.

Nobody knows what’s inside those giant planes, because nobody in authority at Shannon has bothered to check.

And when two TDs took it upon themselves to try to inspect those planes, they found themselves in a ludicrous situation – facing the District Court, required to pay fines, and then facing an hour and a half to two hours in jail when they refused to pay those fines.

Such a waste of taxpayers’ money, such a terrible compromise of the concept of Irish ‘neutrality’ just months before we celebrate the heroes who fought for our freedom, and neutrality, back in 1916.

If you want to see how good the security is at Shannon, have a look for the old footage of Galway activists Margaretta D’Arcy and Niall Farrell trespassing onto the runway a couple of years ago.

It’s never a good idea to wander onto an airport runway on a Sunday afternoon, but the activists were determined to make a point.

To their huge surprise, nobody noticed that they had cut a fence and entered the runway – even though they were wearing bright orange boiler suits, as an expression of sympathy with the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.

Shocked that nobody seemed to notice them, or that nobody approached them, Niall eventually rang the authorities to tell them what he’d done. Eventually, after taking the call, the Airport Police arrived to remove them from the runway.

The same Airport Police have never once, to anyone’s knowledge, boarded one of the US military aircraft to find out who or what is being carried on board.

If you are flying from Shannon on a midweek night, you can often find that civilian passengers are outnumbered three or four to one by US troops buying plastic leprechauns, shamrocks, and bottles of whiskey on their way home from Afghanistan, Iraq, or Pakistan.

For all you’d know, those same troops could have blood on their hands as a result of bombing missions all over the Middle East.

But we never hear about those missions and we didn’t hear much about the Medecins Sans Frontiers hospital which was destroyed by US air strikes a couple of months ago.

We don’t know who bombed the school in Damascus this week, either. 

And, doubtless, the two little boys in the video shared by Al Jazeera don’t care who bombed their school. Russian bombs cause the same damage, heartbreak, and destruction as British, French, or Syrian bombs and are unable to distinguish between fighters and innocent civilians.

The monthly protest at Shannon Airport

So, like the MPs who joked and ridiculed Jeremy Corbyn MP as they voted in favour of air strikes in a far-off land, we should hang our heads in shame.

Because, while US troops continue to use an Irish civilian airport to facilitate bombing missions across the globe, we, too, have blood on our hands.

But who’s complaining as long as Shannon keeps busy and the soldiers keep buying their plastic leprechauns?

Only Mick Wallace and Clare Daly and a handful of others, notably the Shannonwatch people who protest once a month, while the rest of us turn a merry blind eye to what’s really going on. 

Our authorities don’t seem to have the time, resources, or desire to find out what’s happening with the US military at Shannon, in a so-called ‘neutral’ country, but they can afford to send a TD to jail for two hours. 

It’s not today nor yesterday that the Irish began to sell out their principles in the pursuit of fools’ gold.

No doubt the children of Syria would find the whole thing ludicrous, if they hadn’t got far more pressing matters on their innocent minds.

1 comment:

  1. So true. The brave people of Shannonwatch who persist in spite of the silence