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Harry Browne review of Raytheon 9 pamphlet
Review from ISN paper
Here's Harry's review from the ISN paper, RESISTANCE (March/April), no.5. Copies are still available in Connolly Books and Books Upstairs Dublin), Barracka Books (Cork) and Charlie Byrne's (Galway) or free from email@example.com
Solidarity with the Raytheon Nine
Eamonn McCann, Resisting War Crimes is Not a Crime: the Raytheon Nine(Derry: Derry Anti-War Coalition, 2008), 48pp, £2/€3.
By Harry Browne
If members of the anti-war community in Ireland thought we faced media indifference and obstruction, at least after February 2003 (and we did, to be sure), then imagine the utter frustration of the Raytheon Nine, who face trial soon.
The nine members of the Derry Anti-War Coalition who occupied the city offices of a military contractor in August 2006 included one of Ireland’s finest journalists, Eamonn McCann. But as reported in the March edition of Village magazine, a Derry judge ordered last December that there be no media reporting of the case, and, incredibly, no reporting about Raytheon at all – ‘such as their recent expansion announcement’.
This bizarre blanket ban, as grotesque and direct an infringement of press freedom as you’d expect to hear about in the ‘free world’, has hardly been remarked upon. The NUJ has kept silent; Village reports that, having previously called for the charges to be dropped and given that McCann is a member, the union feels itself ‘compromised’ in making any comment on the matter.
Luckily, the coalition published this excellent pamphlet before the judge came down heavy, and its circulation, while perhaps legally problematic in Northern Ireland and Britain, is hugely welcome for those of us who want to learn about and support the Raytheon defendants.
Not that McCann, who otherwise shows his rare journalistic chops with the writing and structure of this publication, focuses much on the defendants at all. Don’t look here for human interest on the nine, nor indeed for exploration of their political backgrounds and differences.
Those of us who were, let’s say, curious as to how this group of SWP members and (non-Sinn Féin) republicans came to coalesce around non-violent direct action don’t get more than a generic history of the campaigning and meetings that preceeded the Raytheon occupation and ‘decommissioning’.
At no point are the nine names even listed, though a photo of the accused appears on the back. It’s not about individuals, the message seems to be: these happen to be the nine men, but it could have been anyone from the coalition, which had vigorously and democratically approved such action. (The pamphlet opens with an account of a large meeting preceding it.)
The Derry occupation came as Israeli bombs rained on Lebanon. So, this pamphlet has two main subjects: what Israel has done in Lebanon and, to a lesser extent, Palestine; and what one of Israeli’s suppliers, the US-based multinational Raytheon, has been doing in Derry.
Both stories should be reasonably familiar, but McCann tells them superbly and thoroughly. Particularly useful is the latter tale, of how a pathetic set of patronage-hungry politicians ‘from both sides of the divide’ have lied their way through the last decade, pretending – way beyond what the company itself was willing to say – that Raytheon was not doing military work in Derry.
Not all the work here is McCann’s, despite the byline. Short articles by other interested parties – e.g. Jewish peace activist Joshua Ruebner, the editors of Non-Violent News – are scattered around, with scant referencing. But the pamphlet is at its best when McCann’s voice is clearest, in Derry and, finally, in Lebanon.
It ends with an extraordinarily emotionally powerful account of a Derry contingent’s visit to Qana, where the coalition presented a memorial stone. McCann quotes fellow defendant Kieran Gallagher, who is moved by the Lebanese scene to declare: ‘Fucking up Raytheon was the best thing I ever did in my life.’
And the author adds simply: ‘Me, too.’
Harry Browne is a columnist with Village magazine and a member of Anti-War Ireland.
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For more info on the Raytheon 9 and to get the pamphlet, go to: http://www.raytheon9.org/
Both AWI and the IAWM are also distributing the pamphlet in Dublin.
on page 2. But Harry is right: the message is these just happened to be the ones who ended up in there when the dust cleared. In fact, at least one other DAWC member also got in but had to leave for family reasons. The fact that the action was democratically agreed and openly planned does make it different to the kind of NVDA of, for example, the Pitstop Ploughshares people.
Why are you so eager to draw a distinction between the Raytheon action and the Pitstop Ploughshares? Is it because the SWP were so opposed to the Ploughshares action and so unsupportive as the five were dragged through the courts?
Of course, until the events at Raytheon, the SWP were opposed to any meaningful (as opposed to rhetorical) direct action around the war, regardless of whether they were mass, democratic or small-group affairs. Remember the successful pulling down of the fence at Shannon warport and the mass trespass by over 100 people in October 2002? The SWP were horrified by that as well and tried to stop people participating. No support was offered afterwards to those arrested in what was clearly a mass action. Likewise, with regard to the March 1st 2003 attempted mass direct action against the fence at Shannon, they opposed that too even though it was democratically agreed and openly organised.
The hard truth seems to be that until three SWPers were arrested for participating in the Raytheon occupation, the SWP were completely against the deployment of direct action by the anti-war movement. Then, once put in a difficult position by the action in Derry, the only way out was to stress how DIFFERENT that action was to those they had repeatedly condemned. It's expediency rather than principle.
It's not very principled and it won't wash. You should just get on with supporting your comrades, and encouraging others to do likewise, instead of drawing distinctions between yourselves and other honourable activists.
in drawing that distinction. It's about the difference between people who feel that they need to train in NVDA and plan carefully everything that is done in a fairly secretive manner versus deciding something openly and democratically in a mass meeting. There is a big difference between the NVDA of the DAWC and the Pitstop Ploughshares people and the stuff you describe in Shannon: that is that both the DAWC and Pitstop Ploughshares people knew that the result of their action woudl be that people would face long prison sentences.
None of this is to put down the Pitstop Ploughshares people; fair play to them, they inspired us in Derry. It is just to point out that there are big differences - as Harry Browne points out and as Ciaran and the others realised when they came to Derry. So, YOU stop trying to stir things, because I wasn't.
I highly recommend this booklet publish by DAWC on the Raytheon 9 action. I think it is a good resource on Raytheon, the war on Lebanon and nonviolent direct action. I hope it is widely distributed and is read before, during and after the trial. I guess I have a preference for reflection in the context of action. This was a good nonviolent direct action and this is a very good reflection.
This trial is very timely in terms of the machinations of BAe and their criminal activity free of legal accountabilty from £2billion bribe such funds to infiltrating peace and justice groups and Blair intervening on the investigations of the Serious Fraud Office, the recent challenge by mark Thomas CAAT et al to that intervention and the Americans continuing at this point their own investigations in to the shennagians of their weapons dealing competitors.
I don't agree with the criticisms expressed made about the plowshares tradition either at the meeting I spoke at in Derry shortly after the Raytheon 9 action or slightly referenced in the booklet. However, I'd rather leave that debate until after the trial.
Reality check - nine people are on trial in less than two weeks in Belfast looking at possibly years in jail for an act of nonviolent resistance to the high crimes of Raytheon and their state customers. It is time for what is left of the active anti-war movement left in this country - whatever your political persuasion - to mobilise around this trial - either by traveling to Belfast or offering visible solidarity in Dublin or wherever you are based.
There are debates and differences WITHIN the ploughshares/plowshares movement and Sharon Nepstead's soon to be published work "Prophetic Provocation: War Resistance in the Plowshares Movement" (New York: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming) deals well with these. Whatever tradition you spring from you should not fear debate, criticism and insight and one should not take it too personally.
By the by - when these actions were at their peak in the 1980's there was a distinction between plowshares actions - those who identified with the prophecy of Isaiah and Micah whether from a Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, agnostic base such as the original Plowshares 8
....and those who in their nonviolent disarmament did not identify with the prophecy. For example this crew from Earth Firsthttp://www.plowsharesactions.org/webpages/HARRIETTUBMAN.htm