In March of this year, US president Barack Obama thanked Ireland for its assistance in transporting troops to and from occupied Iraq and Afghanistan. Shannon Airport is now effectively a US military outpost.
The statistics are shocking and they seem to be getting worse all the time as the Twenty-Six County government believes its help for the USA’s imperial adventures in the Middle East is going unnoticed by Irish citizens.
In 2009, for example, 1,276 civilian flights were given permits for the transport of weapons and munitions through Ireland, with almost all of these travelling to and from the United States and through Shannon on military missions. On average, 25 US military flights [carrying approximately a weekly total of 5,000 US troops] are using Shannon each week. That’s over a quarter of a million troops a year transported through the airport.
Up until 2003, Dublin governments claimed to uphold the 1907 Hague Convention on Neutrality, which states that “belligerents are forbidden to move troops or convoys of either munitions of war or supplies across the territory of a neutral Power”.
So why has the Twenty-Six County government so publicly abandoned the concept of Irish neutrality? Is it for money? It doesn’t look like it. In 2009, the movement of US troops through Shannon was worth €7 million [£6.1 million] to the airport. Small beans to sell your neutrality for, especially when you consider that, in the same year, the Twenty-Six County state spent €3 million [£2.6 million] on a security bill to facilitate the US military entourage.
In total since 2005, it has been claimed that over €35 million [£30 million] has been made, with the consequent security costs in the region of €15 million [£13 million]. Making the Twenty-Six Counties a client state cost the US the bargain price of €20 million [£17.4 million million]. That works out at around €80 [£70] a head for every child that has lost their lives as a result of the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq.
As well as the brutal reality of Ireland’s role in these wars, the situation in Shannon has given rise to some strange goings on. Below are some of most thought provoking:
US Military Base in Ireland: Spain, England, Germany and Japan have them, so the best paid politicians in the world were probably wondering why Ireland hadn’t got one. What are we talking about? US military bases, of course.
The concept of neutrality was promptly ditched and a quarter of a million US troops now travel through Shannon Airport each year and, to give the whole thing the feel of an authentic US military base, two soldiers have, since 2003, been permanently based at Shannon with approval from the Leinster House careerists.
Are the RAF now also using Shannon Airport: The simple answer is that it would seem so. On September 5 last year, at least two containers marked as property of the RAF beside a chartered Omni Air International plane at Shannon were spotted by vigilant anti war activists. One of the containers that sat near the Omni Air plane was marked “Property of RAF Brize Norton”. RAF Brize Norton is the home of the RAF's strategic air transport and air-to-air refuelling forces. This is the most important British military base for maintaining the occupation of Afghanistan and is the main transport base for sending troops and supplies in and out of the country.
White Phosphorous: The use of white phosphorous in warfare is illegal under the Geneva Convention; the chemical burns right through human skin and can burn the bone and through vital organs. The fact that it has a tendency to stick to skin makes it all the more dangerous. When it sets fire to buildings water won’t put it out.
However, the USA has, in recent years, used white phosphorous in Fallujah in Iraq, while the Israeli army used it in munitions during the 2009 attacks on the Gaza Strip. In both cases, civilians were killed and, despite efforts to cover up the effects and the reasons for its use, it can be plainly stated that white phosphorous was used with a full knowledge of the effect it would have.
Reports from January 2009, suggest that Shannon airport was used by the US military to transport some of this deadly material to the Middle East. A C-130 Hercules landed at Shannon on January 8. Activists monitoring the airport noted unusual modifications to the loading equipment at the back of the plane. The plane in question was based at Little Rock Air Force base in Arkansas, only a short distance from the facility at Pine Bluff in the same state, which is the US military’s only active manufacturing plant for white phosphorous.
Mystery Cargoes: On January 25 2009, a US Navy C-9B Skytrain logistics plane was reported to have landed at Shannon. By law, the plane should have had its registration number on display. The number was incomplete, with four digits missing, but, more importantly, there was a detachment of Twenty-Six County soldiers guarding it. At the same time, another airplane with 300 US soldiers was parked at the airport but it required no protection. What was the cargo that required such special attention?
Attacks on Gaza: Activists Shannon Watch also reported that a plane registered to Kalitta Air landed in Shannon on December 20 and 22 2008, only days before the commencement of the viscous Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip. Kalitta is known to transport munitions around the world for the US Air Force. In 2006, the same airline delivered laser-guided bombs to Israel to be used in the war against Lebanon; these bombs were transited through Prestwick airport in Scotland without clearance. As a result, there are good grounds to suspect that Kalitta's trips through Shannon have been for supplying Israel with more tools of death and destruction.
Torture: Activists have documented the occasional transit of aircraft associated with the CIA’s ‘extraordinary rendition’ program through Shannon. Sightings by activists of a Gulfstream jet registered N379P at the airport played a vital role in exposing the international network of airports involved in the now notorious torture program. In one case, N379P refuelled at Shannon on July 22 2002, the day after it transported Binyam Mohamed to Rabat, Morocco to be tortured.
Reporting Crime: On June 18 2008, Edward Horgan of Shannon Watch approached the security hut at the entrance of Shannon Airport. He was reporting a very serious crime – torture. At that very moment, a plane that had left the notorious Guantanamo Bay detention facility the day before – registration N54PA – was parked in the airport grounds. Instead of investigating the possibility of a crime (three different Gardaí refused to do this), they charged Horgan with trespassing and obstructing them in their jobs.
Twenty-Six County state aids and abets kidnappers: 23 CIA agents and two Italians were convicted on November 24 2009 of the kidnapping in 2003 of Muslim cleric Abu Omar. The 23 were sentenced to over 115 years in prison for the crime. The plane used to transport the kidnapped cleric refuelled at Shannon on its return flight, as it brought him to be tortured by US agents. The Dublin government doesn’t seem to care that it has helped in the kidnap and torture of this man and continues to facilitate every US military request.
In the major war crimes of the 21st Century – in Afghanistan, in Iraq and Palestine – Ireland has been complicit as a result of both the actions and inaction of the criminal clique in power in Leinster House. The Irish people are the only ones who can restore this country’s reputation as an exporter of international solidarity – first on the agenda must be the removal of the USA from Shannon.