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Dublin: 8 °C Monday 18 November, 2019

Mike Pence in Shannon: 'Rallying US troops on foreign soil, in a country that claims to be neutral'

Giving Mike Pence the opportunity to meet US troops at Shannon flies in the face of our neutrality, writes John Lannon.

John Lannon UL lecturer and Shannonwatch member

ON SATURDAY MORNING at Shannon Airport, US Vice President Mike Pence addressed US troops on their way to the Middle East from an Air Force Base in Colorado. He posed for photographs with the soldiers, and asked them to stay focused on their mission, before tweeting to the world about it.

The Vice President made his rallying call to the troops without seeming to notice or care that he was on foreign soil, in a country that claims to be neutral and has a proud record of peacekeeping with the United Nations.

The troops’ presence in Ireland is in breach of international laws on neutrality, and their mission, like all US military actions in the Middle East, was not sanctioned by the United Nations.

For these reasons the troops’ presence in Ireland should not be condoned or supported in any way by the Irish government.

A member of the “coalition of the willing”

Yet almost three million US troops and their weapons have passed through Shannon Airport since 2002. When Ireland became a member of the “coalition of the willing” assembled by the US for its global “war on terror” in 2001, the US troops carriers started to appear at the airport.

They were initially taking occupation forces to and from Afghanistan but before long the airport was also providing fully fledged support for a second, equally illegal, war in Iraq.

It’s not the first time that a senior American political figure has cheered on soldiers to war at Shannon. US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld addressed troops there in February 2004, and President GW Bush did the same in March 2006. But this most recent show of support for militarism  comes less than four weeks after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar stated he was fully committed to Ireland’s neutrality.

The Taoiseach was also in Shannon on Saturday, yet he failed to criticise this very overt snub of a principle Irish people have held dear for generations.

A legacy of failing states

US and Western military interventions have done little except leave a legacy of failing states and fractured societies across the Middle East, as well as causing enormous death and destruction across the region. Afghanistan and Iraq have been destroyed by US led invasions, with ordinary men, women and children left to suffer the brutal, appalling consequences.

Libya too has been brought to its knees by Western intervention. Although NATO and the US justified their mission there on humanitarian grounds, their intervention greatly magnified the death toll and left the country in crisis.

Today the US gives its full support to the Saudi Arabian bombing of Yemen that has caused the deaths of thousands of civilians, including children.

Syrian war can be traced back to US intervention

After seven years the war in Syria still rages. This has been due in part to the rise of ISIS as an instrument of terror in the Middle East, which can be traced back to US intervention in Iraq. The brutality of the Assad regime cannot be condoned, yet the armed aggression now being waged by the US in Syria is also in breach of the UN Charter.

This states that all member states shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.

Recent comments from US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson indicate that the US intends to maintain an open-ended military presence in Syria, not only to fight ISIS and al-Qaida but also to provide a bulwark against Iranian influence, to ensure the departure of the Assad regime, and to create conditions for the return of refugees.

The US has shown little respect for the plight of refugees to date, and the regime changes it enforced violently in places like Iraq and Libya have resulted in prolonged suffering and instability.

One of the countries being visited by US Vice President Pence after his Shannon stop is Israel. He has long been a supporter of a US policy that in recent months led to the designation of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to the curtailment of aid for Palestinians.

We should not be associated with this

In allowing Mike Pence to address troops at Shannon the Irish government are also condoning the arming of one of the biggest threats to peace in the Middle East, Israel, as it is a major recipient of military aid from the US. This is not something we, the Irish people should be associated with.

Independent polls have consistently shown that Irish people do not support participation in war, nor do they agree with the US military use of Shannon Airport. Most recently a 2016 Red C Poll has shown that 6 out of 10 Irish people want neutrality to be enshrined in the Constitution.

Affording Mike Pence the opportunity to meet US troops at Shannon flies in the face of those wishes.

Dr John Lannon is a member of Shannonwatch, and works as a lecturer at the University of Limerick.

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About the author:

John Lannon  / UL lecturer and Shannonwatch member

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