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Bush And Blair Summon The Irish Contras

I shudder at the image of our representatives as sweaty-palmed supplicants listening to presidential sermons on the need for a non-violent solution to our national trauma, the sanctity of law, and the will of the people for peace. But our party leaders remained mute in the face of this brazen hypocrisy … what sticks in the craw is the political and moral cowardice of Irish politicians who vocally oppose the Iraq war yet can't wipe the lipstick from their tuxedos fast enough when an invitation to the White House arrives - Eamon Lynch

Anthony McIntyre • 10.04.03

They chose this country to host their war summit. Like wolves in sheep’s clothing they knew they could disguise their belligerent essence by wearing the mantle of peace. Our peace process - gargantuan lie that it is - would fit them like a glove. Who subscribing to such a travesty would have the moral integrity to tell them what they really are? The party leader we would expect to be most radical on such matters, Gerry Adams, made it clear on UTV on Sunday that he was emphatically not saying that George Bush was a war monger.

They arrived like conquering heroes. This is Ireland but you would be forgiven for not having noticed. A British reporter on the scene informed his ITV audience that George Bush considered it strategically advantageous to Tony Blair if both men could meet in ‘the United Kingdom.’ Behind the Hillsborough podium from where Blair and Bush spoke last Tuesday, US and British flags were draped in abundance. Not an Irish tricolour in sight. If ever a subliminal message was sent out that Ireland's anti-imperialist struggle had been comprehensively defeated this was it. Some years ago a Sinn Fein councillor commented to me on the party deciding to enter Stormont that ‘no sadder sight than that when slaves kneel down and kiss their chains.’ His words visited me on Tuesday when amongst those gathered to pay obeisance to the imperialists were those who had claimed for years to be anti-imperialist.

The Sinn Fein leadership's decision to attend the talks with the war prosecutors Bush and Blair marks how far the party has departed from its anti-imperialist days. Any suggestion that Thatcher should have been met during the war on the Malvinas would have caused apoplexy in the ranks and banishment for the originator of the idea. More concerned with keeping right wing corporate America on board than defending the rights of Iraqi children, the party leadership ignored the calls of the anti-war movement for a boycott of the two war mongers. Pleas by Richard Boyd Barrett, chairman of the Irish Anti War Movement that ‘all parties … particularly those that have opposed the war ... should boycott this meeting with Bush and not be used as propaganda pawns to bolster his image’ were ungraciously snubbed. Paul O`Connor who recently penned what was by any measure a fawning report of the recent Sinn Fein Ard Fheis told the Sunday Tribune that ‘Gerry Adams and Mark Durkan aren’t going to want to arrive on the back of a huge PSNI baton charge … If they insist on attending this meeting, we will do our damnedest to ensure they can’t get there.’ Well spoken Paul - just hope you don't get a house visit from the green shirts for such courage.

Many are expressing surprise at what has happened. But had they discerned what the peace process was about then a refusal by Sinn Fein to meet the warmongers would have been the real surprise. Set aside all the abandoned radicalism that has resulted here in the last decade, this is the outworking of the peace process at an international level. Anyone who thought there was the remotest chance that the leadership would do the honourable thing should have looked at their attendance of the St Patrick’s Day gig at Washington which was staged early to clear the decks of any minor hindrances to the onslaught on Iraq. And the lame attempt to shield inviting someone from the US embassy to attend the Ard Fheis by creating a brouhaha over having not extended a similar courtesy to the British embassy should have fooled no one.

But despite the most right wing republican leadership since Sean Russell attempting to act the ‘cute hoors’ the transparency was such that they were booed and heckled by many protestors at Hillsborough. Some party members said such a reaction was fitting. When Mitchel McLaughlin turned up at the protest he was only there for one reason. Those of us standing facing the heavily armed RUC wondered if Alex Maskey had been designated to attend the pro-war rally outside Belfast City Hall which was taking place around the same time, just to balance things out a bit. McLaughlin, it is fair to presume, hoped to convey an image of an integrated republican strategy: the leadership would be inside confronting Bush and Blair on Iraq - doubtless, a suitable hack will be found to tell us some Thursday that the Sinn Fein leadership took the issue to the negotiating table and courageously and imaginatively confronted the opposition face to face - while the grassroots were outside adding muscle to such confrontation. Institutionally and extra-parliamentary, the movement was as one in its application of pressure to Bush and Blair. The type of crap we would have expected from the SDLP many years ago and for which we would have ridiculed them. And for those Sinn Fein activists at the protest who failed to criticise their own leadership, they failed to see that they were mere pawns in an exercise designed to legitimise a leadership that in turn was legitimising Bush and Blair. The mere radical veneer that would give cover to a deepy reactionary stance.

Not that the Sinn Fein leadership were unaware of what the imperialist game plan was. Martin McGuinness had earlier stated that the war was the most momentous event of the century. Usually such language is reserved to inflate grossly overblown descriptions of what happens here. That McGuinness chose to apply it elsewhere is an acknowledgement of just how significant the war is. Gerry Adams said ‘we would be wrong not to point it out . . . the insensitivity of having a war summit which then discusses peace in the margins, of having a war summit which appears to be trying to use the Irish process as a stage or as a prop.’ And yet they adorned the visiting warmongers with a legitimacy they had no right to expect.

As abhorrent as we may find unionism there was no lack of principle or consistency on the part of David Trimble. A rabid supporter of the war on Iraq he revelled in the opportunity to laugh at Sinn Fein:

I don’t expect Gerry will be leading the masses down from Andersonstown. I may get the opportunity to tease him about why Sinn Fein, which has been so prominent in the anti-war effort, is doing nothing.

Nothing of any radical import anyway.

The Sinn Fein president gave himself a fig leaf of cover with a letter he penned to both Bush and Blair. In reality both men know that this was not for them but for internal republican optics. There was not the remotest chance of the Sinn Fein leadership putting it up to George Bush. The integrity required for that would have ensured that they never went in the first place.

There were no Irish radicals in attendance at the meeting with Bush and Blair, only those who deservedly can be termed contras. The radicals were left outside to get jostled by the renamed RUC. The Sinn Fein leaders seriously undermined the anti-war movement but will no doubt plead tactics and demand to be understood. A bit like the child who kills both parents and them asks for compassion on the grounds that he is orphaned. These leaders have killed the radicalism which spawned them. They have orphaned themselves and latched on to reactionary step parents. And ultimately the milk they shall receive in return will be as cold and bitter as that from a step mother’s breast. They should be allowed to feast on it - alone.



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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.
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Index: Current Articles

11 April 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Critique of the Anti War Movement

Liam O'Ruairc


A Diversion from the Task
Eoin O'Broin


Bush and Blair Summon the Irish Contras...
Anthony McIntyre


Not Firm Ground But Wet Sand: Prevaricating for Peace

Paul Fitzsimmons


Irish Leaders Miss Chance to Speak Out Against War
Eamon Lynch


London Update


Baghdad: First They Cheered and Then They...
Anthony McIntyre


America's Dual Mission

M. Shahid Alam


War: It Already Started
Paul de Rooij


Lacking Credibility
Bert Ward


7 April 2003


Adams Will Tell Bush He's Anti-War
Eoin O'Broin


Stand Firm
Davy Carlin


Anti-War Human Rights Activists on Trial


First We Take Basra, And Then We Take ...Basra Again
Anthony McIntyre


Belfast - Building an Anti-War Movement

Davy Carlin




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