"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons." Bertrand Russell

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The yearly dissent

Its been a while since hes been allowed column inches and it'll probably be another 6 months before he gets space again. But beggars can't be choosers...

Like it or not, we are up to our neck in the Iraq war
Richard Boyd Barrett

The targeting of innocent civilians in London on July 7th was an atrocity to be condemned without reservation. However, the response of Tony Blair, much of the media and our own Government has been dishonest and hypocritical.

The tragedy is being used to whitewash the US-UK war in Iraq, attack civil liberties and inflame the conditions that led to the attack in the first place.

Blair denies any link between the attacks and the invasion of Iraq. Instead, the finger is pointed at Islam, producing a dramatic increase in attacks on Muslims in Britain, including mosque burnings and physical attacks.

John Waters asks us to "embrace" Bush and Blair as "our true protectors" against the "virus" that wants "to remake the world in the image of Islam."

Mark Steyn obscenely suggests that the incineration by the US of 300,000 innocent civilians in Nagasaki and Hiroshima with nuclear bombs offers a guide for dealing with Iraq today. Such views offer a certain path to further atrocity.

It is blatantly obvious that the war and occupation in Iraq, based on lies about weapons of mass destruction, has produced raging anger in the Muslim and Arab world. It was predicted that this anger would increase support for al-Qaeda. London was on high alert since the Iraq war started for precisely this reason. A recent poll in Britain shows that 85 per cent of people believe Iraq and the London attacks are connected.

The Iraq war poured petrol on already simmering anger in the region over Israeli oppression of Palestinians, the US presence in Saudi Arabia and 10 years of murderous sanctions against Iraq. Where a few thousand subscribed to al-Qaeda ideology before the Iraq war, tens of thousands do today.

Islam is no more to blame for this or the London attacks than Christianity is for what Bush has done in Iraq. The focus on Islam is a racist attempt to divert attention away from the political issues of Iraq, Palestine and Western control of oil that fuel the rising cycle of violence.
Blair's new "war on extremism", with plans for compulsory ID cards and new crimes such as "indirect incitement to terrorism", is a major threat to the civil liberties clearly aimed at those who offer strident criticism of US and British foreign policy.

Thus we enter an Orwellian world where those that kill civilians with cluster bombs, missiles or even nuclear weapons are "our protectors" but those that defend Iraq's right to resist occupation are terrorists.

Bertie Ahernclaims Shannon plays no role in the Iraq war. He says there is no risk of a London-style attack. Yet we are also told there are al-Qaeda activists operating in Ireland requiring draconian new security measures and enhanced co-operation with US intelligence services. Both can't be true.

In truth, Ireland is up to its neck in the Iraq war. The number of US troops going through Shannon airport has increased rapidly since the invasion. Some 153,381 went through in the first six months of this year. Shannon is the main European hub for transporting US troops to Iraq.

In 2003 Bush's envoy to Ireland publicly thanked the Government for the use of Shannon. He made it clear that, in terms of "location and capacity", it would be difficult to replace.
The London and Madrid bombings show that states linked to the US occupation are potential targets. By allowing US troops to travel through Shannon to Iraq this country is linked to the occupation. To suggest there is no risk is a lie.

That aside, the more important reason to stop the US military using Shannon is the horror in Iraq itself. The civilian death toll is at least 25,980 and may¨ be as high as 128,000. Iraqis have faced London-style atrocities every day since the US led invasion began.

The violence, now spreading to the West, will only end if the US ends its occupation. Here, we must renew pressure on Ahern's government to end its collaboration with the US war machine at Shannon.

This would be a vital act of solidarity with the Iraqi people and the anti-war movement in the US. On Saturday September 24th there will be major protests in Washington, San Francisco and London calling for the withdrawal of US/UK troops from Iraq.On that date, the Irish Anti-War Movement and other peace groups have called a major peace rally and festival at Shannon airport. Be there!

• Richard Boyd Barrett is chairman of the Irish Anti-War Movement

The Irish Times

and a letter rubbishing the 'nuclear justification debate'

Madam, - Around the 60th anniversary of the atomic incineration of Hiroshima, you had a headline about the "lessons of the nuclear catastrophe". Like other papers you also published articles which said there was an unresolved debate about whether or not that incineration was justified.

Surely in Ireland, where no patriotism or wartime loyalty induces us to deceive ourselves, we can speak about the matter in plain terms and state the obvious.

The wiping out of Hiroshima was not a "catastrophe": that word means a disaster caused by natural or other impersonal agents. Objectively and beyond possible dispute, it was a deliberate act of indiscriminate massacre. The cited debate as to whether that massacre was "justified" is ambiguous. In the verbal sense of the word, it was justified, with reasons given, by president Truman and others, and their "justification", though rejected by many prominent persons, was tacitly accepted by the rulers of the West. The question that has since been debated is whether the massacre was "justified" in the sense of being a legitimate act or, alternatively, was a war crime.

The answer is obvious, and if the Germans or the Soviets had done it, there would be no debate. The agreed morality and law of the West at the time forbade any deliberate act of indiscriminate massacre and held such an act to be a grievous sin and a heinous crime. This ethical and legal principle admitted of no exception, no possible justifying circumstances or motives.

Consequently, in pleading that he had justifying motives, president Truman was proposing and declaring a new post-hoc and post-Western ethic, namely: "A deliberate act of indiscriminate massacre is legitimate if performed with good intentions, such as bringing a war to a rapid end or saving a larger number of lives than would otherwise be lost."

That ethic had not been in force when the massacre was committed. If a criminal on trial for a crime were to enunciate novel legal principles that would have justified his act if they had been in force, he would be laughed out of court.

Those are the facts of the matter. Quite apart from them, historians have observed with dismay the pitiful, lying tactic which Truman used in subsequent years in a desperate attempt to justify himself to himself. The American military's advance estimates of fatal casualties in a full-scale invasion of Japan varied between 20,000 and 63,000, with 46,000 being the most accepted estimate. In a speech on August 9th, just after the double bombings, Truman said that "thousands of American lives" had been saved. By December, the figure he was citing had risen
to "a quarter of a million lives".

In subsequent years, in his speeches or writings, it rose further - until in 1959, at a Columbia University seminar, he said: "The dropping of the bombs stopped the war, saved millions of lives."

Historians now generally accept that Truman's motives in perpetrating the two massacres were a mixture of righteous revenge, a desire to placate the nuclear scientists who wanted experimental data, and, above all, a desire to impress and warn the Soviets by a display of American power. - Yours, etc,

Dr DESMOND FENNELL, Maynooth, Co Kildare.