From Socialist Voice, June 2006

Ireland’s shame: Torture flights continue

The discovery by cleaning workers of a chained and blindfolded prisoner on board a US aircraft at Shannon Airport has exposed the real relationship and the attitude of the US government to Irish neutrality and Irish law.
    The Department of Foreign Affairs, in a press statement, reported that on Sunday 11 June “a civilian aircraft landed at Shannon for a technical refuelling stop en route from Kuwait to the United States. Among other unarmed military personnel the plane was carrying a US Marine convicted of a minor breach of the US military code. He was in military custody. He was wearing military fatigues.
    “While the transfer of such a prisoner would be lawful under international and domestic law, it requires the consent of the Minister for Justice. The US authorities did not seek such consent. This failure, though inadvertent, is unacceptable. It is a matter of gravest concern to the Irish Government.”
    It was an employee of a private cleaning company who discovered this person shackled on board the aircraft—not a garda or immigration official but an ordinary worker cleaning the aircraft.
    Once again the Irish government takes at face value the word of the US government, despite the fact that the same government is flouting our laws. The recent report published by the Council of Europe on the collaboration by fourteen European countries, including Ireland, in CIA torture flights has exposed what most people believed to be happening for some time; and the Shannon revelation is the smoking gun that they have tried hard to conceal.
    Our government has been complicit in this gross violation of international as well as national law in relation to supporting or assisting in the torture of prisoners. The Irish government has taken the word of the US government and Condoleezza Rice at face value.
    A number of questions need to be asked about the role of torture flights and the role of Shannon Airport. The US government claims that it does not torture prisoners; then why kidnap people from Britain, Germany, or Italy, then transfer them to third countries, such as Afghanistan, Jordan, or Egypt, for “questioning”? Have Britain and other countries not got the capacity to interrogate prisoners?
    There can be only one reason for prisoners being transferred to countries like Afghanistan, Egypt, and Jordan, and that is that these and other countries have a long history of the abuse of prisoners. The torture of political prisoners is commonplace in these and other ally countries of the United States.
    It is the same tactic as claiming that the Guantánamo military base in Cuba is not really US territory, so prisoners there are not bound by US law. The US Supreme Court has ruled that this is not the case: this US military base is subject to US law, and the prisoners there have legal rights.
    The Council of Europe report exposes not alone the complicity and collusion of fourteen European countries in the transport of prisoners but also the fact that the United States has and uses secret prison camps in a number of European countries, in particular Poland and Romania—two countries that threw off the oppressive “yoke” of socialism and “domination” by the Soviet Union and have now entered the suffocating embrace of imperialism. The new elites of eastern Europe are quite willing to sell the sovereignty and independence of their countries to secure their own junior role. This is a far cry from the heyday of 1989, when “sovereignty and independence” was the flag that reactionaries draped themselves in throughout eastern Europe.
    The political elite of Ireland are now well integrated in both the US and EU imperialist camps, having a foot in both. Our mass media remain remarkably silent in relation to this important matter and to our acquiescence in both torture and war. This elite cannot and will not do anything to jeopardise their economic and political interests.
    More than a thousand American soldiers pass through Shannon Airport every day. It is now clear that Shannon will be allowed to continue with this use so long as the United States requires it, as well as to allow torture flights and the refuelling of the US war machine on its way to Iraq or Afghanistan.
    As we move into the period before a general election in the Republic, we must now start asking the question of all the parties putting themselves forward for government, including Labour, Sinn Féin, and the Green Party, whether they would close Shannon and Baldonell to the US military. Will they demand that aircraft be opened and searched? Will they ensure that they are not carrying prisoners for torturing, or that these aircraft are not carrying weapons for prosecuting oppressive wars?
    Ninety years later, James Connolly’s political strategy continues to haunt left and democratic opinion. The elites will always betray the interests of the nation for their own class interests. The empires will still control and dominate us through their business connections, their economic power and influence.
    We need to step up the campaign to close Shannon Airport to use by the US war and torture machine.

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