1 November 2007 Edition
Empire’s Irish Times
THESE DAYS, The Irish Times is a bit more subtle. There was a time when our paper of record was quite open in its efforts to recruit young working-class Irishmen to go and fight on behalf of somebody else’s ‘King and Country’ and teach the little brown, yellow or black people a lesson.
“The cheek of the blighters, trying to run their own country,” the portly remnants of the British Empire would mutter over breakfast.
So it was interesting to see two lengthy features in the paper in the same month about Irishmen serving with the British Army in Iraq and Afghanistan.
At the start of October, Conor Lally interviewed four Irishmen serving with the Irish Guards in Baghdad and Basra. Two of the four dropped out of school before ending up with the British Army while another admits to having watched Guns of Navrone a lot as a child.
Last Saturday, Tom Clonan interviewed a Clondalkin man serving in Afghanistan who joined up after he failed to get into the Irish Defence Forces.
Fascinatingly, all of the soldiers interviewed get asked whether they have encountered any abuse or animosity from Irish people about serving in the British Army, while none of them is asked their feelings about serving in a war that is illegal, immoral and oppressive.
One can hear the ‘sneaking regarders’ for British imperialism in this country shaking their heads in sorrow at the temerity of the natives objecting to Irishmen serving in an army that occupied Ireland for centuries and continues to occupy a portion of the country.
Still, two extremely positive and soft-focus major features with Irishmen serving with the British Army in three weeks will make the British recruiting officers, struggling to find new candidates for an unpopular and dangerous war, more than a little happy with their outpost in Dublin.
I PICKED UP a copy of Business & Finance this week. It’s not usually a magazine that gets examined in this column but there was nothing else in the newsagents except for Hibernia that I hadn’t flicked through already and life is too short for rosary crusades.
The front cover is quite dramatic. A bullet-riddled ballot box marked with the Irish flag is about to be struck by a bullet carrying the EU flag. “EU: Trick or Treaty” asks the magazine. “Is a gun being put to Ireland’s head to vote yes to the Reform Treaty?”
No doubt, those of you who have never read the magazine before might think, an insightful and thorough analysis of the merits of the Treaty giving space to opinions on both sides of the debate will follow. Sadly, what we got was all too familiar.
Not a single opponent of the Treaty was interviewed. The Director General of the Institute of European Affairs, Fine Gael former leader Alan Dukes, and Fianna Fáil MEP Eoin Ryan were given plenty of space to outline the dangers of a ‘No’ vote. Opposition to previous EU treaties, when referred to at all, was dismissed as an ill-informed vote against bureaucracy or a lack of generosity to accession countries.
No reference was made to the left-wing economic arguments against the Reform Treaty, which is merely a rehashed version of the EU Constitution, arguments that won the votes in France and the Netherlands.
Considering the laughable article by the magazine’s editor and pin-up for neo-conservative economic ‘thinking’ in Ireland, Dr Constantin Gurdgiev, comparing the tyranny of what he dishonestly refers to as Marxism with the freedom of the markets, one shouldn’t have expected much.
I would highly recommend reading it and then picking up a copy of Naomi Klein’s new book, The Shock Doctrine, to discover how deeply, utterly and completely false Gurdgiev’s claim that free market neo-cons reduced poverty is.
Klein’s book looks at the destruction wrought by these kinds of policies in Russia, Poland, South Africa, Chile, Bolivia and elsewhere, often accompanied by the foulest kind of human rights abuses and leaving millions in poverty and deprivation.
As one of Dr Gurdgiev’s colleagues, professionally but not ideologically, JM Keynes, once put it:
“Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men, for the nastiest of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all.”
THE SAME could be held to be true of the planners for the invasion of Iraq.
BBC journalist John Ware’s No Plan, No Peace, broadcast on Sunday and Monday night, deserved an earlier showing than it was given.
Ware makes a strong argument, exposing the lack of attention given by American and British planners to the aftermath of the invasion and how they would govern their newest colony.
Less than 200 officials, mainly American, were put in charge of a country devastated by war and with a population of 26 million.
I think Ware did miss the point slightly, though. As other journalists have pointed out, there was a huge amount of planning for taking control, administering and exploiting Iraq’s natural resources, as well as outsourcing the rebuilding of Iraq to private US contractors.
Ware’s error is to suggest that, because there was no planning to take care of Iraqi civilians, there was no planning at all. The simple truth is that Iraqi civilians were not important – contracts to US businesses and control of oil is.
My favourite quote is from a former American ambassador who became the Mayor of Baghdad (being from Baghdad clearly not a requirement).
“We were really using a Lonely Planet guide book from some time in the early 1990s,” he said. “It’s a great guide book but it shouldn’t be the basis of an occupation.”
Wise man. They should make him President of America.