Thursday, January 22, 2009

Partial impartiality

Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Míchael Martin has responded to Barack Obama's recent moves to bring an end to the abhorrence of Guantanamo Bay by saying that, "“Ireland has consistently called for the closure of Guantanamo and the bringing to trial or release of detainees held there."

Funny that, considering the Fianna Fáil government, of which he is a part, didn't seem to have a problem with Shannon Airport being used for extraordinary rendition flights en route to Gitmo.

Then again, Ireland's military policy has always been a bit funny. It's the neutrality one which cracks me up every time. We don't pick sides? We don't offer help? Get real, people. Since the very moment it was enacted, Ireland's neutrality policy was rendered null and void by the actions of the government of the day. de Valera's move to implement neutrality was partly motivated by logic and reason, partly so by blind nationalistic zeal. It was a two fingers to the British, one which inevitably cost him political standing with Churchill's government.

Then again, we were a small island and a fledgling nation. We lacked the military capacity to take any sort of a stand, and the threat of invasion was real, if unfeasible. Hitler's Operation Green was seen as a back door into Britain, but that was scuppered by the fly in the ointment that was the RAF. Only for the military might and resilience of our near neighbours, we were buggered. Mind you, the Luftwaffe still managed an air strike on Dublin. Mistook us Belfast mein Arsch - we were being warned. Such a curious position we were in - the British and the Germans were complaining about our neutrality, but for entirely different reasons.

But even with this in mind, we still gave assistance to the Allies. Supplies, weather reports, favourable treatment - we were neutral in name only. We were every bit as complicit in the Allied war effort as the Allies themselves. Yet publicly, Churchill and Dev fought their little fight, and even with Dev's claim that a small little island which had withstood tyranny for centuries could stand alone, we would not have been able to make that claim only for the presence of our alleged oppressors. Geography allowed us to keep up the charade, not will or courage.

Fianna Fáil are a party which don't seem to take any lessons from history. True to form, they repeated the mistakes of their history by allowing Bush's government to use Shannon as a refueling spot for extraordinary rendition flights and troop deposits, all the while beating the neutrality drum. It's a buzzword that the public seem to have picked up on, too. Every European treaty ever sent our way, from Maastricht to Lisbon, will allegedly "compromise our neutrality." Bullshit. Our neutrality was ruined from its inception.

The best thing we could ever do is renounce this ridiculous sham we call neutrality and declare ourselves complicit in the wills of the West. We support Palestine. We are favourable towards America and Britain. Let's call a spade a spade, people. Besides, how bad could things possibly be without it?

We're too small to be considered of any strategical importance by an "enemy". We have no technology or manpower worth sending to fight in a war (though we do make surprisingly good peacekeepers. Probably because we just offer innumerate cups of tea.) To put it simply, we'd be the kids who'd be picked last on the team. But at the moment, we're just sitting on the sidelines, sulking, secretly longing to be chosen, but all the while declaring our total disinterest in proceedings.

Neutrality is unachievable, so let's stop trying to achieve it. Let's just be honest about ourselves.

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