The Irish state has blood on its hands for its involvement in the War on Terror, read about it now!
I originally wrote this piece in September 2021 following the announcement by United States President Joe Biden that US forces would withdraw from Afghanistan, but never sought to publish the piece. The Irish Government is playing both sides on the matter of foreign affairs, calling for peace and claiming to be 'neutral' while actively supporting Western military imperialism. In this peice, I examine and criticise the involvement of Ireland in the Afghanistan War, with sources provided at the end.
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The general attitude of the Irish political establishment can best described as two faced. Talk of care, compassion and a just society on one end while actions that hurt workers, communities, and society as a whole are enacted. On the matter of Afghanistan, it’s yet again the same old political shenanigans.
The world has been watching closely at the events unfolding in Afghanistan, as the Taliban has inevitably regained power following the recent end of the twenty year long Western occupation. In a statement on the 16th of August 2021, An Taoiseach Micheál Martin stated that the events have “taken many by surprise”, despite the fact that assessments by intelligence agencies warned that the Taliban takeover would occur. The Taoiseach also declared that Ireland would “participate fully” in international humanitarian efforts.
Since then, the Government has issued a further one hundred and fifty humanitarian visas on top of the previous forty five to Afghan citizens, as well as fast tracking one hundred and three family reunification applications. Deportations of Afghan citizens have been halted and the two hundred and thirty three people with pending deportation orders will have the opportunity to request their orders be revoked.4
The far-right have rushed to oppose this, blaming the housing crisis on refugees as opposed to crooked developers, unscrupulous landlords, vulture funds and the cycle of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. The divisions the far-right seek to create, built on lies and racism, must be opposed. We owe it to these civilians and the international community to offer safety and refuge, not just because of our international human rights obligations nor the history of the Irish people fleeing persecution and poverty, but because the Irish state has and continues to play a role in the War on Terror.
Following the September 11th terrorist attacks, the Irish Government invited the United States to use Shannon Airport, with no end in sight for this toxic relationship. Shannonwatch, the campaign group that tracks and seeks an end to military use of Shannon Airport, reports that between 2001 and the end of May 2021, little under three million United States soldiers passed through Shannon Airport. These flights don’t require permits from the Minister for Transport but flights carrying munitions of war, both overflights and landings, do require permission. Between 2007 and 2020, 15,342 applications for permits were made to the respective Minister, with only 601 (3.9%) being rejected. It gets worse when you are made aware of the Irish state’s assistance in the extrajudicial capture and torture of terror suspects by allowing rendition flights through Shannon Airport, with the Government having suspected such prisoner transfers were taking place according to a leaked diplomatic cable from a meeting in December 2007 between the then-Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern and then-United States Ambassador for Ireland Thomas C. Foley.
For twenty years, the Irish state has been complicit in the occupations, torture and bombings as part of the War on Terror and for what, the blood of innocent civilians that are now on our hands. The ‘Cost of War’ project by the Brown University Institute of International and Public Affairs estimates that between October 2001 and October 2019, direct war deaths across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen tallied in at 312,971 - 335,745 for civilians and 769,549 - 801,398 overall. These numbers do not take into account indirect deaths, such as deaths due to infrastructure damage, starvation, water shortages and disease, so the actual death toll is much higher. On top of that, across the aforementioned nations, plus Libya, the Philippines and Somalia, thirty seven million people have been displaced, their homes destroyed, livelihoods ruined and families broken apart. That is the cost of war and regardless of who’s innocent or guilty, a civilian or combatant, these are people who have all paid the price.
Unfortunately, foreign policy isn’t a high profile issue in Irish politics, with Brexit and the occasional European treaty referendum being the exceptions. In 2003, one hundred thousand people poured onto the streets of Dublin to oppose Bush and Blair’s invasion of Iraq, though the anti-war movement in Ireland has never been that large since. It’s about time to rebuild that mass movement, to remove the United States from Shannon Airport, to get an Irish withdrawal from PESCO and to oppose the triple lock imperialism of the United States, Britain and the European Union.
1) Statement from the Taoiseach Micheál Martin on the situation in Afghanistan - 16th of August 2021
2) ‘A massive policy fail’: CIA warned White House of swift Taliban takeover - 18th of August 2021
3) 300 Afghan citizens expected to arrive in Ireland under Govt programmes - 18th of August 2021
4) Afghan nationals in Ireland can request deportation orders to be revoked - 17th of August 2021
5) Military Use Of Shannon Airport - 2021
6) US 'rendition flight' aircraft flew to Shannon airport - 1st of September 2011
7) Ireland suspected Shannon had carried prisoners: the WikiLeak in full - 17th of December 2010
8) Human Cost of Post - 9/11 Wars: Direct War Deaths in Major War Zones - 13th of November 2019
9) Creating Refugees: Displacement Caused by the United States’ Post-9/11 Wars - 21st of September 2020
10) 100,000 March Against War In Iraq - 15th of February 2013