Since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, and Afghanistan before that, transport aircraft, chartered by the US military, have shuttled almost 3 million troops through Shannon Airport. My youngest son and his gun truck company made the stopover trips to the carnage twice, in 2003 and 2004; even disembarking for the terminal lounge in full battle dress while their aircraft was being refueled. There was never an attempt by the soldiers to hide this unwitting disregard for Irish neutrality. To my son’s knowledge there was never a search of the planes and his troops were armed to the teeth, in violation of not only the Irish constitution but also the Hague Convention.
Last St. Patrick’s Day two US veterans, longtime anti-war activists and Veterans For Peace members Ken Mayers and Tarak Kauff, attempted to expose this clear breach of international law at Shannon by unfurling a large banner on the apron that read Respect Irish Neutrality, U.S. War Machine Out of Shannon Airport! As one would expect, my peace-vet friends were abruptly apprehended by airport security and Gardaí, and long story short, their passports were confiscated and they are still in Ireland awaiting trial. More than four months now, one excruciating delay after another with no end in sight. It’s as if the US Justice Department’s treatment of dissidents might be rubbing off on the Irish courts. My great-great-grandfather Mícheál Smyth of County Mayo has got to be freaking out.
Your readership deserves far more coverage of this international law violation than it has received thus far. Polls continue to show that nearly six out of every ten Irish citizens oppose the U.S. military co-opting Shannon Airport, “a de facto American military base,” in Dublin MEP Clare Daly’s words. The Irish government however seems content to allow this occupation of County Clare to continue, with not only Irish neutrality at stake but Ireland’s rich heritage of resisting imperialism the obvious collateral damage.
It is far past time to end this thing. Please support the VFP veterans’ bail to include a promise to return. Rest assured they’ll be back. There is nothing they would like more now than a trial.
This piece originally appeared in the Irish Examiner.
The author of this post is Gene Marx from Bellingham, Washington. Gene is a Vietnam veteran and former Naval Flight Officer with VAQ-135 aboard the USS Coral Sea in 1971-72. Past Secretary of the VFP National Board of Directors, Gene is currently a member of VFP-111.