By Will Griffin, July 27, 2019
From The Peace Report
Neutrality is an easy concept to understand: don’t invade other countries and don’t take sides in other people’s wars. Yet, Irish Neutrality has for decades aiding the U.S. military in transporting troops and weapons to and from combat zones throughout the world.
This violation of Irish Neutrality substantiates Ireland to be complicit in any war crime the U.S. commits. Recently, two U.S. veterans attempted to stop an aircraft at Shannon Airport and as a result were thrown in jail for two weeks and had their passports seized as they await an unknown trial date. This incident occurred over four months ago in March 2019 and they have yet to return home to the United States. This incident highlights the larger issues of Irish capitalism, US, British, and EU imperialism which exposes the semi-colonial state of Ireland.
Tarak Kauff is a former U.S. Army Paratrooper and Ken Mayers is a former officer of the U.S. Marine Corps. They now both serve in the organization Veterans For Peace (VFP), an organization made up of military veterans who now oppose war and the militarization of communities at home and abroad influenced, or should I say pressured, by the U.S. military.
A VFP delegation traveled to Ireland in early March to stand in solidarity with Irish peace activists to protest U.S. military activities in Shannon Airport. The U.S. military has been using this airport as a transport hub for troops and, despite the denial of both the U.S. and Irish governments, weapons for decades. The transport of weapons is in direct violation of Irish Neutrality and has made Ireland complicit in any war crime the U.S. commits wherever these weapons travel. So when Kauff and Mayers attempted to stop an aircraft full of troops and weapons from entering Shannon Airport, they were essentially attempting to stop a crime from occurring, a responsibility of the Irish government.
As a former U.S. imperialist watchdog myself, or what most Americans call a military veteran, I traveled through Shannon Airport when I returned home from a 15-month tour to Iraq. When we arrived at Shannon in 2007, we had our M-4 rifles on the civilian aircraft with us. We were all told to leave our weapons on the plane while we entered Shannon Airport to wait for our plane to be refueled. I remember this specifically not because I knew we were violating Irish Neutrality, but because it’s extremely rare for a soldier to leave behind any weapon. Weapons, in the military, are considered a sensitive item and all sensitive items are to be accounted for at all times. Sensitive items are usually expensive or dangerous items, or sometimes both, so they are never to be lost. How unusual yet relieving it was to leave our weapons behind after carrying them with us everywhere for 15 consecutive months.
Traveling through Shannon Airport with U.S. troops and weapons goes well beyond 2001. VFP member and veteran of the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993 Sarah Mess remembers traveling through Shannon in 1993. Mess was a surgical technician who saw plenty of wrong-doing of the U.S. military in Mogadishu. In an interview she said, “We were the terrorists in Somalia and traveling through Shannon Airport makes Ireland just as complicit for aiding us in terrorizing the Somalis.”
To understand the issue of Irish Neutrality better, I’d recommend watching U.S. Vets Expose Irish Govt Complicity In War Crimes, a 15 minute short doc produced by Afri-Action from Ireland featuring both Kauff, Mayers, and more. In addition, you can watch What’s the story with Irish neutrality? by Luke Ming Flanagan, an 8 minute explainer video.
On July 11th, the Irish High Court denied Kauff and Mayers’ appeal of their bail conditions requiring them to stay in Ireland until their unknown trial date. “As soon as the judge opened his mouth,” said Kauff, “I could tell he was going to deny the appeal. It’s clearly political.” Kauff and Mayers are currently raising funds for legal, travel, and other expenses since they may not be able to return up until October 2019 or two years from now.
Indeed, this is very political. The issue of the U.S. military violating Irish sovereignty in regards to Kauff and Mayers really highlights a form of U.S. imperialism. The two veterans could be forced to stay in Ireland for years. No one has any clue as to how long this will continue; weeks, months, or even years! If the Irish government is capitulating to U.S. imperialism, the case of Kauff and Mayers will be used as an example and threat to others who dare to challenge and expose this relationship. This U.S. imperialism is also just one of many aspects of imperialism from other nations and entities, ultimately making Ireland a semi-colony.
To understand the political nature of this issue, I will provide a definition of ‘semi-colony’ as well as lay out the material conditions of Ireland from a Marxist perspective:
A semi-colony is a country that, whatever its formal character (own government, own defense system, own formal elements of sovereignty, etc.) is a _de facto_ colony in the global scheme both due to (a) financial dependency on the core, and (b) the fact that its own domestic economy is in such a way intervened by foreign, imperialist, capital, that it works as a constitutive part of the accumulation process at the core and the realization of the historic tasks of the capitalist mode of production are heavily obstructed or simply ruled off by the force of facts.
Ireland today is divided into two artificial states. In order to prevent the victory of the National Liberation struggle in Ireland, in the 1920s the Irish Nation was partitioned into two pro-imperialist states by Britain. Ireland in 2019 is therefore both a colony and a semi-colony. To quickly explain this to your readers, Ireland is a colony because Six Irish Counties remain under a direct military occupation by Britain, and are ruled from the British Parliament in London. Ireland is a semi-colony because Britain maintains semi-colonial control and influence over the remaining 26 Irish counties, known as the Free State. The Free State is also dominated by EU and US Imperialism.
When looking at a map it is easy to see two Ireland’s: Ireland and Northern Ireland. To elaborate from the organizer from ISR/AIA, what the Brits call Northern Ireland is, in reality, the six occupied counties of Ireland, the part of Ireland which is a full colony. The other twenty-six counties, known as the “Free” State of Ireland, is a semi-colony. As a way to solidarity with the ISR, I will not refer to the occupied part of Ireland as Northern Ireland but as the six counties of Ireland under occupation by British forces. In a separate interview with an ISR organizer, he gave the following reason,
“We refer to the occupied part of our country as the occupied six counties. We don’t use the phrase that imperialism gives it for the simple reason that we believe to use that phrase is to give legitimacy on an artificial and illegal state”
To give an example of another semi-colony of the U.S. to compare, and of which I lived part of my childhood, is South Korea. They have their own elections, their own military, their own land but in reality the U.S. owns this country. The U.S. maintains eighty-three military bases, over twenty-eight thousand troops, and still holds that if South Korea is to return to direct warfare the U.S. military is to govern the entire country to their desire. No nation is truly independent as long as another nation has dictatorship over its government, military, and land.
While South Korea has a clearer picture of being a semi-colony with its heavy presence of U.S. military troops, weapons, and partnerships, Ireland has a less clear view. Where do we draw the line of an independent state and a semi-colonial state? We don’t. Both are semi-colonies under the umbrella of the U.S. empire. It does not matter if there is one missile or one hundred missiles in South Korea or Ireland, violating a nation’s independent status changes the conditions.
The U.S. military using Shannon Airport to transport weapons for their imperialist wars is just one of the many ways that show Ireland is a semi-colony. Just look at how Irish ports are being used for the British Navy and the European Union for “defense” purposes. The Brits have been using Irish waters to conduct military training exercises for decades and docking their warships on Irish ports. We can go back to 1999, 2009, 2012, or almost every month this year.
It’s not just the Brits using these ports either. A Royal Canadian Navy frigate “assigned specifically to patrol European waters to meet and support NATO interests in the context of tensions with Russia” stopped in Dublin in July 2019. I’ve still yet to see any Russian warships dock in Ireland, which would show neutrality between these tensions. In May, a German Navy Frigate “carried out exercises in Swedish waters” remained docked in Dublin during the June Bank Holiday.
The Irish government also has secret, or maybe not so secret, agreements with the British to “protect” their airspace. This agreement “permits the British military to conduct armed operations in Irish sovereign or Irish-controlled airspace in the event of a real time or envisaged threat of a terrorist-related attack from the skies”. Who would be willing to attack the former colony and current semi-colony of Ireland from above is beyond me.
Just to really push this semi-colonial status further, even Irish billboards are not neutral. David Swanson, director of World Beyond War, wanted to show his support for Kauff and Mayers by renting out some spaces on billboards throughout Ireland. On the highways to and from Shannon Airport, tons of billboards are along the road and “open” for advertisements. Swanson said why not collect enough money to rent one and put our message on it: “U.S. Troops Out of Shannon Airport!” After calling several billboard businesses, Swanson was denied to rent out any billboards.
None of this means the people of Ireland don’t want neutrality to be a real thing. In fact, a poll published in May 2019 showed that 82 percent of the Irish people want neutrality to be a reality. Fighting for real Irish Independence has been a century-long battle since the Easter Rising of 1916, the Black and Tan Wars of the early 1920s, and the War of Independence of 1919-1921. Yet, one hundred years later, Ireland still remains a semi-colony and colony.
These are many reasons why the Irish Socialist Republicans are calling for a revival of the early independence days of Ireland. The ISR have recently launched a campaign, “This is Our Mandate – This is Our Republic“, a popular People’s campaign to rebuild the All Ireland Socialist Republic, Proclaimed in Arms in 1916 and democratically established in 1919.
They go on to say:
Building on the 1916 Rising, at that first meeting of the Revolutionary Dáil Éireann the democratically elected representatives of the people of Ireland declared our Independence and released three documents to confirm the establishment of the Irish Socialist Republic.
These documents were the Declaration of Irish Independence, A Message to the Free Nations of the World and the Democratic Programme.
Of these documents the Democratic Programme is the most important.
With the 1916 Proclamation, the Democratic Programme outlines the Revolutionary Socialist nature of the Irish People’s Republic and sets out the type of society that would be established in the People’s Republic.
The socialist nature of the Democratic Programme struck fear into the hearts of Irish Capitalism and British Imperialism. This led that axis of evil into an alliance to brutally suppress the Irish Socialist Republic by violent counter revolution.
Although suppressed, the Republic never died. We assert that the Irish Republic is inalienable and non judicable. The Proclamation and Democratic Programme remain our mandate for the reestablishment of the Irish Socialist Republic.”
This campaign is a response to Irish capitalism, British, US, and EU imperialism. Whether it is the U.S. military using Shannon Airport or the British and EU using Dublin’s ports and waterways for their military adventures or the Irish capitalists exploiting their own people, bringing back the revolutionary roots of Ireland will address all of these issues. The people of Ireland know what it’s like to be colonized. Capitulating to Irish compradors and imperialism from foreign nations is most certainly a slippery slope to losing independence. A revival of revolutionary Irish roots may be the only way forward. As the ISR states:
Therefore the Our Mandate Our Republic campaign views the pro Imperialist institutions at Leinster House and Stormont, as well as the systems of county councils that prop them up, as illegal partitionist institutions, the puppet parliaments of capitalism and Imperialism in Ireland. The campaign further views Westminster and the EU Parliament as the institutions of foreign imperialism with no right to operate in Ireland. All the institutions mentioned above work together to suppress our People’s Republic and to exploit and oppress the Irish Working Class.
This is the People’s Campaign for National Liberation and Socialism!
We are building the Broad Front for the Socialist Republic!
We are re-organising the Struggle for National Liberation and Socialism for Victory.