Ireland an accessory to international criminality

At a press conference with John Howard, the Australian Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern stumbled through a justification for the use of Shannon by American military forces in its conduct of the occupation of Iraq. He said this was authorised by UN Security Council resolutions. He had a point.

The UN Security Council has now acknowledged the occupation of Iraq by the US, Britain and their few allies and there is a semblance of legality to the continuance of these foreign troops there. There are obligations under international law resting on occupation forces and there are entitlements for other states to assist such occupations. Whether an occupation can be legal when the initial occupation was entirely illegal is another matter but lets let that issue rest for now.

Back to Bertie's justification for the use of Shannon on the basis of Security Council resolutions. He may have a point on the use of Shannon now for US military aircraft supplying the occupation forces.

But how can Bertie justify the use of Shannon in the actual invasion of Iraq? Then there was no UN Security Council resolution authorising the invasion. Yes, the Americans and the UK Attorney General (after saying the opposite initially) did claim that previous UN Security Council resolutions gave sufficient legal basis for the invasion. Bertie conceivably could have relied on that legal fudge to justify the use of Shannon in the course of the actual invasion, were it not for the following.

In the course of the debate on the UN Security Council on the famous resolution 1441, the resolution on which the US and UK claim there was a legal basis for the invasion, the Irish representative on the UN Security Council at the time, Richard Ryan, speaking on behalf of Bertie Ahern's government, said categorically, that for an invasion to take place (legally) another UN Security Council resolution would be necessary. So the position of the Irish government differed with the positions subsequently of the US and UK governments who said another UN Security Council resolution was not necessary.

So on what basis then was it lawful for Ireland to assist in the invasion of Iraq by allowing US troops engaged in the illegal invasion to use Shannon as a facility for that invasion?

We all know the answer of course: it was not lawful for Ireland to assist in the invasion but what the hell, it was the Americans who were involved and, for God's sake, we don't want to do anything to annoy them. That is a position with which a majority of the Irish people might agree, which for those of us who don't agree is disappointing. But wouldn't it be preferable if instead of now justifying continued facilitation of American forces at Shannon on the basis of legality, Bertie were to say: we don't care about legalities, we are on the side of the Americans at least for as long as (a) they are the world's superpower; (b) they continue to invest heavily in Ireland; and (c) they continue to invite us to the White House on St Patrick's Day, where we get to feel they are on the world's stage for a few delirious moments.

What then about the CIA aircraft that come through Shannon either while then involved in the illegal kidnapping of terrorist suspects and their transportation to places where they may be subjected to near drowning and other such practices (lets avoid the now contentiuns word "torture") or while these aircraft are on their way to or from such missions?

Everyone but the Americans think this is illegal. Even our Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, who has a laissez faire attitude in such matters, thinks this is illegal and monstrous. But the Minister and others think that unless it can be shown that there are kidnapped suspects on board the aircraft that come through Shannon, the facilitation of such flights is ok.

This is palpable nonsense and the focus on whether there are prisoners on board the aircraft is a diversion. A person who knowingly facilitates another in the commission of a crime, not necessarily in the very act of the crime, but immediately before or afterwards, then that person is himself/herself guilty of that crime as an accessory.

Ireland is an accessory to the commission of barbarous illegal acts in allowing Shannon and other airports here to be used by CIA planes which are known to be involved in criminality. What contorted justification would Bertie offer for that?

Vincent Browne