Newspaper watch: Ignoring public opinion on Iraq war

  • 1 November 2006
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On Saturday 28 October, some 250 people travelled to Shannon Airport to protest against its continuing use by the US military and the CIA. Their numbers were bolstered by three US military veterans, all of whom were once interrogators at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, but have since become anti-war activists. The state deployed some 150 gardaí, complete with surveillance cameras and a helicopter, to keep the protestors away from the airport. All of this happened without a mention in any national newspaper.

As the war in Iraq has progressed, the occassional nuggets of information that have managed to find their way through the propaganda have been painting a picture of a disasterous situation that is getting steadily worse. In the last month alone, the chief of the British army declared that troops should be pulled out as their presence "exacerbates security problems"; a Lancet study revealed the death toll is around 650,000 people; the US military admitted that their offensive against the insurgency in Baghdad had been a failure and that October had been the deadliest month since the invasion, with the deaths of more than 100 US soldiers; even George Bush declared that he was "not satisfied" with the situation in Iraq.

The war in Iraq has never been popular in Ireland. February 2003 saw one of the biggest protests the country has ever seen (pictured) when some 100,000 people took to the streets of Dublin against the war. Since then, all of the justifications that were offered for the invasion have been revealed for the fabrications that they were. It is now difficult to find anybody who is willing to publicly support the war. Yet, Shannon Airport has steadfastly continued to provide a convenient pitstop to hundreds of thousands of US troops, weapons and goodness-knows-what on their way to help perpetuate the bloody slaughter in Iraq. The state is willing to mobilise large numbers of security personnel to protect this arrangement whenever it is challenged.

This amazing contrast between public opinion and government action is considered such a non-issue by the media that anti-war protests no longer merit any mention at all. As the news from Iraq has become progressively worse, opposition to Ireland's facilitation of the war has become progressively less newsworthy. In August of this year, nine protestors, including journalist Eamonn McCann, occupied the Derry offices of Raytheon, a developer of US military technology, and were arrested and charged with offences that may be heard by juryless "Diplock courts". This barely merited a mention in the media.

On 26 October, Enda Kenny, the leader of the prospective opposition, was asked whether he would block the use of Shannon Airport if he got into power. He replied with a typically evasive answer about assessing such cases in light of "the particular circumstances of the day". Although Kenny's refusal to answer was covered by online news sites such as, it was not of sufficient interest to make the newspapers. It is not that the media is actively suppressing this information. It's simply not an issue because, in the pragmatic world of Irish politics, nobody would be foolish enough to pick a fight with somebody really powerful like the US president, somebody who could, moreover, do their election prospects a great deal of harm.