We need to make a clear statement to the world
By Joe Higgins, Socialist Party TD
Let us imagine that some 20 years ago a president from a Stalinist state was to be welcomed to Ireland by the Government of the day.
Let us imagine he controlled gulags in occupied territories where thousands of prisoners were incarcerated without trial and where torture was systematic and widespread; that he had recently led a brutal invasion and occupation of another country during which thousands of children, women and men were slaughtered on foot of justifications that were shown to the world to be monstrous lies; that he had armed and massively supported another regime which routinely bulldozed to smithereens the homes of a people utterly dispossessed by the brutality of this regime and it predecessors.
Imagine then the reaction of the US government of the day? Of the British and EU governments? Of the Irish and European media? Of the Fine Gael party? Of the Progressive Democrats, just then coming into existence?
Yet this is precisely the record of the president whom the Taoiseach and leader of Fianna Fáil, Bertie Ahern, and the Tánaiste and PD leader, Mary Harney, are to welcome to our island in a few days' time. Whom Fine Gael and the media say must be welcomed with respect. It is, of course, because George W. Bush is the most powerful leader of the capitalist West, and therefore his crimes must be minimised or brushed aside.
This State has, for well over a year now, sponsored a tribunal of inquiry into the shooting dead of a young man by State forces in the village of Abbeylara, Co Longford. The killing of John Carthy disturbed a majority of our citizens who demanded that a lethal reaction toward even a single citizen needs to be thoroughly investigated.
But Mr Ahern, Ms Harney and the Minister for Justice, Mr McDowell, are deploying almost half the police force of this State to protect a head of state whose army and air force have killed thousands of Iraqi children, women and men in pursuit of strategic interests.
The Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister for Justice have decreed that residents in Co Clare should be treated as potential terrorists to facilitate a visit by the man responsible for deploying instruments of mass terror that have in three years destroyed thousands of innocent lives.
Mr Ahern, Ms Harney and Mr McDowell are shameless hypocrites. Under pressure, they set up an inquiry into a monstrous bombing attack 30 years ago that killed and maimed for life dozens of innocent people in Dublin and Monaghan. But they replenished and refuelled at Shannon Airport an army of bombers that killed and maimed tens of thousands of innocents in Iraq.
Mr McDowell pillories a political party, which he says is linked with racketeers and criminals who enforce their will with baseball bats. But he deploys the State's police force to defend an imperialist leader whose racketeering cronies would make the diesel launderers look like altar boys swigging from the sacristy wine.
Even the most vicious baseball bats look like matchsticks beside the hellfire missiles and Apache helicopters, which only recently were used to slaughter civilians in Fallujah. Not to mention the concentration camps, whether in Guantanamo or in more recently occupied territories.
Yet for all this, the pillars of the Irish establishment will roll out the red carpet for George W. Bush. After all, before the invasion of Iraq, the Irish media faithfully gave credence to the patent lies about the Saddam Hussein dictatorship possessing weapons of mass destruction.
By contrast, very significant sections of the Irish people detest the crimes of George W. Bush. They detest the political amoebas in the Irish establishment who whitewash those crimes. They are at one with very significant sections of the American people who equally repudiate Bush's policies.
No doubt the United Nations Security Council resolution supporting a transfer of "sovereignty" to Iraqis on June 30th will be advanced to legitimise the United States/British invasion of Iraq. Since when was the term sovereignty changed to mean the imposition by an imperial power of a government composed of a hand-picked group of cronies subservient in all crucial matters to that imperial power's military and political arms of occupation?
Bush and Blair's grab for oil and control in Iraq was designed to rob the Iraqi people, not assist them acquire genuine sovereignty. Just as the cynical manoeuvrings of Messrs Chirac and Putin were designed primarily to protect their economic interests in Iraq. And these are the people who constitute the United Nations whose blessing is now supposed to sanitise a criminal invasion.
Real sovereignty for the people of Iraq and the Middle East will come neither from the world's imperial powers nor from the Arab dictatorships in the region. It will come when their oil and other wealth is prised from the grasp of the multinational oil cartels.
It will come when an organised workers' movement re-emerges from its suppression under Saddam Hussein's brutal dictatorship and the effect of mass unemployment following the occupation.
Campaigning for full democratic rights, decent jobs for all, guaranteed rights for all ethnic and religious minorities, it could find a way out of the present morass. This is also the alternative to the reactionary fundamentalists feeding off the interference of imperialism in the region.
By turning out in very substantial numbers this Friday and Saturday to protest at the policies of George W. Bush, Irish people will not only be making a clear statement to the world, but extending a hand of solidarity to all those in Iraq, in Palestine, and in the Middle East generally, now suffering the consequences of domestic dictatorships and imperialist interference.
This article first appeared in the Irish Times of 23rd June 2004.