Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Voices of Reason on Guantanamo

January 11 was the sixteenth anniversary of the opening of the infamous US military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba by George W Bush. The excuse for the existence of the hell-hole was the 9/11 atrocity. The prisoners were mostly bounty hunted, their live bodies paid for by American dollars, they were then handed over to the Bush administration. Dumped in Guantanamo they were for long deemed outside the protection of the Geneva Convention.

Prisoners' ages ranged from 13 to 89.  For years they were held without trial and many were tortured.  In all 799 human beings were interned there; with just 41 still remaining.  Of these 41 only one is serving a sentence after having been judged guilty by a military commission. Two others have made "pleas" and are awaiting sentences.  The cost in terms of human suffering, injustice, human rights and plain decency in the treatment of humans is incalculable.  The cost of running the camp is estimated at  $1.234billion, excluding bounty costs, transportation costs and the costs of extraordinary rendition.

There were protests from around the globe. In the USA and elsewhere, these were often led by Witness against Torture, Catholic Workers, and Voices for Creative Nonviolence. People of faith and of no faith attended and organised. A multitude of pictures have been captured here. If you scroll down several pages you will see the accompanying picture of Colm Roddy and myself outside the US Embassy, Dublin, on 11 January 2012, on one of our protests. Sadly for me this year I was in hospital from 5 January till 12 January and unable to give witness, however feeble.

All the more reason to rejoice on receiving news of a heart-warming action in Washington DC by a coalition of 15 human rights organizations. There were speeches, songs, poetry and symbolism. Then five arrests for those who crossed a symbolic line.  The five were  Ken Jones, Manijeh Saba, Helen Schietinger, Beth Adams and Brian Terrell. The detention of Brian Terrell, for a longer time than his comrades, makes for very interesting reading here.

Significantly,  in Donald Trump's America, prisoners are still being held in roach infested cells and even non-violent prisoners are shunted in chains from cell to cell and between the jail and the court. The President wants more money for more internees.  Who can trust this volatile man to act in this situation with even a modicum of fairness? 

 (Additional sources:

Colm and Justin

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Another Day of Shame as Ireland Joins PESCO

The Dáil has had another Day of Shame today reminiscent of a day in March 2003 when TDs voted to allow the United States to use Shannon civilian airport for George Bush to wage "Shock and Awe" terror against the people of Iraq.

On a Saturday before the war, 130,000 Irish people had marched in Dublin alone to prevent that war. But immediately, the Dáil abandoned all principle and all morality to give Bush his way.  On that day, Bertie Ahern, the leader of Fianna Fáil. entered the hall of infamy by leading the charge to support the war in spite of Irish neutrality.

Today, with no war pending, the Fine Gael Government with the full support of Fianna Fáil (now in opposition) led the Dáil and voted to make Ireland a member of PESCO. This is the first sly step on the road to participation in a European army.  The attempt is sly because the Government spokespersons keep repeating that Ireland has an opt-in opt-out clause that they cannot show us.

It is also a sly move because it has been enacted at a time when Irish media have pre-occupied themselves with the Brexit issue, especially the implications for the Irish border between North and South and the hold the DUP Members of Parliament have over Theresa May, the British Prime Minister.

We must now increase our defence spending from around €980 million to over €3 billion. This is at a time of a serious housing shortage that the Government is unable or unwilling to put right.  Already this December (only seven days old) three homeless people have died on the streets, two in Dublin and one in Cork.

The EU can also dictate to us on matters of defence.

This time there were many notable speeches in the Dáil against the Government decision.  Independent TDs Clare Daly and Mick Wallace and People for Profit's Richard Boyd Barrett were among the more convincing and sincere.

It was all to no avail.   The Fianna Fáil Opposition who threatened to bring down the Government a week ago if the Minister for Justice did not resign, [she did resign] voted with the Government. And the result was inevitable.

There will be no Day of rage in Ireland - only days of Shame

Irish Anti-War Group and Shannonwatch Blocked in Irish Dáil

It has been sensationally revealed by Paul Murphy TD in the Irish Parliament or Dáil that two major Irish anti-war groups cannot be contacted from within the Dáil.

However members (TDs) are free to contact the NATO military machine  from within the chambers.

The reason is that the two blocked enties are "advocacy groups".

But NATO?  Well, NATO is only a huge military block!

The information was released on the occasion of a rushed debate that seeks to slide Ireland into the ill-named Pesco. Like the similarly ill-named Partnership for Peace into which we were pushed by Parliament into NATO, Pesco is a step on the road to thrusting us into a European army.

The Dáil debate is at present ongoing.  All of the passion and logic is coming from opponents of Pesco. All the clichés and faux saluting of our "peace keeping forces overseas" are coming from the supporters of Pesco.

Sadly, these include the main Opposition party, Fianna Fáil, who are propping up Fine Gael on the issue from the Opposition benches.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Military Universities and Jesuit whitewash

Although I am now a non-believer, I have nothing but the height of respect for that gallant group of people in the United States of America who call themselves the Catholic Workers.  They have relentlessly waged a gallant non-violent struggle both to help the poor and to oppose all war and warmongers in whatever disguise over many years. In their struggle against the supporters and purveyors of a philosophy and theology of violence, they have been to prison time after time, some like the Berrigan brothers Philip and Daniel enduring years of life behind bars.  The Berrigans were Jesuits, Dan persisting in the clerical vocation till his recent death and Phil leaving the priesthood to marry Elizabeth McAlister and with her rear a brilliant family, persisting in both his faith and vocation to oppose all war until he died in December 2002.

The tradition of the Berrigans lives on.

In Ireland Mary Kelly, and five Pitstop Ploughshare activists (Deirdre Clancy, Nuin Dunlop, Karen Fallon, Damien Moran, Ciaron O'Reilly) blazed a non-violent trail in 2003 by disabling a US warplane at Shannon airport, risking years in prison. After tortuous trials they were all eventually acquitted because they had lawful excuse (to save lives in Iraq). Since then other activists have engaged in protests at the same airport having entered it by cutting or in one case hopping the fence.  Seventy nine year old Margaretta D'Arcy spent time in jail, Niall Farrell, Mick Wallace TD, Clare Daly TD, Colm Roddy and Dave Donnellan followed suit. [See previous blogs].

There are onging actions of a similar kind in Australia at present

Yesterday in the United States,Catholic Workers, Vets for Peace and a member of a group called Neb. For Peace were among the eight people who showed up on the side walk outside the Creighton Universities ROTC building at noon, to protest

As part of a national wide campaign called “Teach Peace Not War!”, they hope to get the 17 U.S. Jesuit colleges and universities that host Military Training to end the obnoxious practice.The group at Creighton asked the University "not to whitewash the gospel"  and presented the Director with a bucket of whitewash as a reminder.

Spokesperson Andy Kenney said to the Jesuit Director: "Please accept this bucket of whitewash as a gentle reminder not to use it to conform to the world around you. May you never have need to open it again. May you advocate, with the zeal and authority of Jesus, to remove worldly military training centers from your catholic campuses.”

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Rajoy calls for calm, then fires Catalan President, senior ministers and dissolves Parliament.

The Spanish Premier has added fuel to the fire by reacting to Catalonia's declaration of independence by dissolving the regional Parliament, dismissing its President, senior ministers and chief of police despite asking for "calm".  To any outside observer this looks like a recipe for disaster.
Premier Rajoy and King Felipe have adopted an imperial approach to the Catalan attempt to gain independence from the beginning.  They have opposed a regional democratic vote, giving Spanish police a free hand to use violence against voters on the day of the referendum.

Catalonia is split almost evenly on the question of independence so a democratic vote might have resulted in a win for either side. But an aloof and rigid government in Madrid refused to allow such a vote to take place. In this they were backed by the European Union who plead that there could be too many countries around for them to govern if secessions happen.
The Catalan response is firm and more responsible.  They will oppose the heavy-handedness from Madrid by non-violent means, civil disobedience and passive resistance.  As these are very powerful tools, more powerful in the long run than violence and physical force, the Spanish could have a long struggle on their hands.
At least that will be true if the Catalan independence struggle remains non-violent in the strictest sense.