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War dead remembered by Shannon flowers
anti-war / imperialism |
Monday July 03, 2006 00:35 by Tim Hourigan - Cosantoiri Siochana
Lillies to commemorate those who died.
On Saturday a small bunch of peace activists entered Shannon Airport and distributed flowers and petals in rememberance of all the people killed in the Iraq and Afghan wars, and calling for an end of military use of Shannon, be it the US going to Iraq, Afghanistan or Iran, the Israeli Air Force, or the Russians and Belgians arming South and Central America.
The date co-incided with the withdrawal of World Airways from Shannon. World is now routing its military flights through Leipzig in Germany. Although the Shannon option provided the most fuel effiecient route over the Atlantic, World Airways contends that it can cut out a crew change by using Leipzig and having a short route to the M.E. from Europe.
World has brought most of the 600,000 troops through Shannon for the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan.
As ye sow, so shall ye reap
Press Release, action report, and analysis.
On Saturday 1st July, at Shannon Airport, a small bunch of peace activists distributed tens of thousands of red and white flower petals in commemoration of the approx 150,000 people killed (including 46,000 children) as a result of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. The petals were distributed inside the terminal building and at the airport entrance.
Airport customers and staff responded with polite interest and discussion.
Local peace activist, retired Army Commdt, Ed Horgan was eventually escorted from the building as other peace activists continued to speak to customers, and distribute flowers inside the terminal.
The protest coincided with the first day of US Troop Carrier WORLD AIRWAYS routing its military flights through Leipzig in Germany, after abandoning Shannon as a transit point. In the past 5 years, over 600,000 US troops have used Shannon, with more than half of those on WORLD AIRWAYS flights.
Although local FF politicians have tried to blame peace activists for the departure of WORLD, and attribute blame for the airports woes on this small bunch, it was for economic reasons that WORLD abandoned Shannon, as there was no substantial pressure on World Airways from peace activists since 2003, when they temporarily pulled out following two acts of sabotage on US Navy jets bound for the war. About half the staff of the airport are in fear of redundancy following the break up of Aer Rianta.
Rather than develop a viable business plan for the airport (e.g. developing it more for freight) and making the west of Ireland more appealing to tourists and business travellers (e.g. Western Rail corridor) the government has allowed the airport to develop an unhealthy addiction to blood money from the US military. Given the unpredictable nature of wars, and the uncertainty of how long they last, this was never a reliable source of income. Aside from the moral implications of taking money for assisiting mass murder, the figures quoted for military revenue (working out at about 270 euro per dead Iraqi) ignore the associated costs, such as the fuel, security (15 million for Bush's 2004 visit) , aircraft ground fees and the waived Air Traffic Control fees (ATC charges are instead paid for by the Irish taxpayer and amounting to over 10 million euro since 2001)
Claims by local politicians and business interests that the US military use of Shannon is justified for economic reasons ignores both the economic reality of this business and the humanitarian disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan.
While the action was taking place inside the terminal, a Boeing 757 belonging to ATA (American Trans Air) and chartered to carry US troops was parked up on the apron. With the departure of World, ATA is now the largest transporter of US troops through Shannon, followed by North American Airlines. Other traffic through Shannon in recent days included a C-123 military cargo transporter seen on Thursday morning.
After the peace activists left the terminal, more flowers were distributed at the exit to the airport, and Mr. Horgan was cautioned that he may be charged with littering. Mr. Horgan, who was distributing (naturally biodegradable) petals being taken by the wind, replied that it was a peaceful protest against the deaths of innocents in Iraq, before leaving the airport.
The FF/PD government is not sure which way to spin these days on Shannon. Having been stung by the 'omission' on the part of the US to inform the Irish government about a prisoner transport, Dermot Ahern had to be seen to take a strong stance with the outgoing US Ambassador, James C. Kenny, especially given the faith previously put in the US 'absolute assurances' that no prisoners would go through Shannon without notification, and definitely no renditions.
With Shannon expecting 260 redundancies from the break up of Aer Rianta, the government would love anything to hang the blame on, and tries very hard to attribute it to peaceniks. Unfortunately, the peaceniks don't have the type of clout, much as some groups tried to claim credit for WORLD's departure, they left for their own reasons, not due to public pressure.
in a recent radio interview, a local FF politician said that WORLD had to leave for fear of having their planes bent and due to recent controversy.
It was put to him that a) no planes had been damaged since Feb 2003, and those were marked US Navy,
and that b) the recent controversy related to the CIA planes which STILL come through in the full knowledge that they will not be boarded.
He asked who would pay for the damage to these planes, and in reply he was asked, who would pay for the damage to Iraqi homes, hospitals, and families... a question that he regarded as flippant.
At the end of the day it remains to be seen how well the figures will be spun about US military use of Shannon. the media regularly quotes 'revenue' figures from the Airport Authorities, without looking at the associated costs, including those met by the taxpayer (ATC charges and security - Garda, Army and maintenance and running costs of the million euro motion detector system guarding the military parking stand by gate 42). Some will always believe that the business is keeping Shannon in the black. Others will see it as a con job, soaking up taxpayers money, and garda resources, while ignoring major crimes.
While a few may profit from this misadventure, in terms of losses, the Iraqis are getting the crappy end of the stick from Irish aid to the Pentagon.
While the departure of World Airways is to be generally welcomed, it;s not a cause for complacency. If they HAD been forced out by public pressure, then it would have been a great signal to other countries to kick them out in similar fashion, but as it happens, they left on their own timetable (if only they had such an exit strategy for Iraq) and we still have other troop flights every day as well as military cargo flights. While the carnage continues in Iraq and Afghanistan, and plans are drawn up for Iran and Syria, our government continues to ignore the reality of what is being facilitated and paid for at Shannon.
APO Inspector Benn not a fan of flowers...