20 March 2003 Edition
Countdown to slaughter
Shannon still available for illegal campaign
By the time you read this, the US/British war on Iraq has begun, with troops on the move and air strikes under way. Of course, when we say war, we use the term loosely. The disparity in terms of weaponry and technology means that the imminent conflict will be more akin to a turkey shoot.
The build-up to this war has been tortuous, but in the early hours of Monday morning, George Bush finally ended the attempt to use the UN as a diplomatic cloak behind which to launch his war for oil. He gave Saddam Hussein and his sons a 48-hour ultimatum to leave Iraq. Later that day, Saddam retorted in predictable fashion, insisting he was born in Iraq and will die in Iraq. That will very likely be sooner rather than later.
As US and British troops cross the border from Kuwait, they are in violation of a UN resolution. After Iraq was expelled from Kuwait in 1991, the UN declared the border a demilitarised zone. No troops of any nation are allowed to enter or cross it.
Ironically, the British and American camps situated at the border are filled with weapons of mass destruction. Assembled is the most capable killing machine the world has ever seen.
The Dublin government has played its part in getting them there. Over 30,000 US military personnel have passed through Shannon Airport this year so far, and the government has refused to say how many miilitary aircraft have used the airport to refuel en route to the Gulf.
Speaking on RTE's Wednesday evening news, Bertie Ahern used weasel words, assuring the continued use of Shannon while regretting that agreement could not be secured at the United Nations. The Dáil has been recalled for an emergency debate on Iraq today.
No solace here for the 100,000-plus who marched last month in defence of Irish neutrality and against this illegal war. Defence Minister Michael Smith admitted in a reply to a Dáil question he posed that as well as the Shannon stopover, there have also been 22 landings of US military Aircraft at Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel since September 2001.
The Dublin government has acted in direct contravention of the duties of a neutral state.
Because of Ahern's disregard for the views of the people and the absolute arrogance of his government, Ireland will be partially responsible for the untold suffering that will be visited upon the civilian population of Iraq over the coming weeks.
Indeed, opposition has grown, not declined, as the US and British governments have in recent weeks tried to make their case for war. Last Saturday, in cities and towns around the US, over a quarter of a million people demonstrated against the war. The scale of international opposition far outweighs that to any other war in history, including the war in Vietnam.
The United Nations' already sullied reputation has taken another severe beating this week, one from which it will struggle to recover any credibility, as the state that hosts its headquarters openly flouts its resolutions.
The Iraqi people, who have been living in fear of this war since last September, have become resolved to their fate. For 12 years, they have endured a repressive internal regime and punitive international sanctions.
Once considered the best fed people in the Middle East, over 24 million people have been reliant on 45,000 UN food distribution centres since 1992, put in place as a result of the 'Oil for Food' programme. Thousands of Iraqis have died because of a shortage of medical supplies caused by the blockade.
The food programme has now been suspended and the distribution centres closed, as UN officials beat a hasty and embarrassing retreat. It is estimated that within three weeks, the Iraqis will have run out of food. Human rights organisations have said that up to a quarter of a million children will face death from starvation, that is, if they survive the bombing blitz.
Showing a Blair-like talent for spin, British defence officials are morbidly claiming that any 'accidental' bombings will be admitted this time. During the last war, an air raid shelter was hit, killing 400 innocent Iraqi civilians.
PROTEST WAR ON IRAQ
Sinn Féin will continue to play its part in the anti-war effort.
Actions planned against the war include a ten-minute work stoppage at noon on the day of the attack, followed by a protest at 6pm in major cities and towns (Dublin, 6pm US Embassy in Ballsbridge).
Anti-War rallies will be held on the Saturday following the attack. In Dublin, the rally will begin at 2pm, outside the Central Bank on Dame Street.
SF calls for free vote on Iraq
Government TDs should take a principled stand - Ó Snodaigh
Sinn Féin Dáil spokesperson on International Affairs, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, has welcomed the decision of the government to recall the Dáil to debate the war on Iraq. He cautioned, however, against it being used as a Government versus Opposition slagging match and asked all parties to allow a free vote on the issue.
The Dublin South Central TD said "it has been clear for a long time that the vast majority of the people are against this war. And while it is welcome it is nonetheless regrettable that the Taoiseach has only now at this very late stage afforded the elected representatives of the people a proper opportunity to debate the issue.
"Ireland, through the use of Shannon Airport and Baldonnel Aerodrome, has been complicit in the build up to this war without even the fig leaf of a UN mandate and in direct contravention of our duties as a neutral state. And because of Bertie Ahern's disregard for the views of the people and the absolute arrogance of his government, Ireland will be partially responsible for the untold suffering that will be visited upon the civilian population of Iraq over the coming weeks.
"In many ways, this debate has come too late, as the bulk of the weapons of war have already arrived at their destination. However, if the Taoiseach has any credibility at all left, he must allow his party a free vote on the issue. Indeed, I would call on all parties to allow for a free vote so that the Taoiseach can be left in no doubt as to the feelings of the people of this state, as represented by their public representatives, regardless of party affiliation."
Ó Snodaigh called on all TDs to "take a principled stand on this issue and to vote with your conscience".
This unjust war
BY SINN FÉIN CHAIR MITCHEL McLAUGHLIN
By the time you read this article, the invasion of Iraq may already have begun.
President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have attempted unsuccessfully to portray their war on Iraq as some kind of humanitarian adventure. You can be sure the images that will be shown around the western world, with its so-called free press, will not be of the suffering that will be inflicted on the innocent civilian population of Iraq.
There will be no pictures of the children suffering from lack of medical attention - caused through the draconian sanctions imposed by the UN - following the last attempt at 'Regime change' by George Bush Senior.
There will be no pictures of burnt and mutilated bodies of innocent men, women and children, killed in the name of democracy.
No, the pictures that you will see will be of the latest precision targeting by the 'smart bombs' on Iraq's factories that produced 'weapons of mass destruction' - those weapons of mass destruction that all of the British and American Intelligence networks could not direct the UN weapons inspectors to uncover. But don't worry - the 'smart bombs' will find them.
And what of the tens of thousands of civilians - men, women and children - who live and work in close proximity to these factories? Well, they will be described in sanitised media reports as having been caught up in 'collateral damage' - an unavoidable consequence of war. Britain and America will justify the tens of thousands killed, the hundreds of thousands injured and the millions displaced as being for their own good.
When will superpowers - and those that hanker after times when they were superpowers - realise that they will not prevent or resolve conflict by obliterating thousands of civilians in an attempt to punish their leaders. It is time that the leaders of the Western World asked themselves why they are so despised by smaller and less developed nations.
If the US and Britain would direct one tenth of the resources into developing the infrastructures of these countries instead of selling them 'weapons of mass destruction' at times when they are not a perceived threat, then just maybe they could build friendly rather than adversarial relations with them. Remember, it isn't the rebels that create the conflicts throughout the world, but unresolved conflicts that create the rebels.
But Bush and Blair are not the only ones to blame for pursuing a war with Iraq. Many other nations failed to use their influence to prevent it, or to suggest other means that would undermine Saddam's authority, thereby achieving a 'regime change' through peaceful means.
If the UN was able, through resolutions, to impose weapons inspectors on Iraq, then through UN resolutions it should have been possible to impose other UN Agencies capable of distributing humanitarian aid effectively to the people in need. It should have been able to send in Development Agencies that could have built the infrastructure and the confidence in the Iraqi people that would have undermined the brutal grip that Saddam had on his people. The financial cost would have been infinitesimal in comparison to the cost of war. The human cost would have been avoided.
The Irish government is not immune to criticism for its actions in the preparation for this war. There are growing concerns that the government is intent on abandoning neutrality by continuing to assist the US military en-route to the Gulf, against the expressed wishes of the people.
Not for the first time, Bertie Ahern is treating the elected representatives and people of Ireland with disdain. His failure to consult with the Dáil and to clearly answer direct questions on how he intends to respond to the US/British war on Iraq is a disgrace. The government should issue a cease and desist order on the use of Shannon Airport by the US military.
We in Sinn Féin will continue to play our part in the anti-war effort. We have now put our 32-county membership on alert, and will be fully mobilising in support of the planned protest action throughout this island.