War and peace

Donegal Democrat

I’ve been following the whole peace camp and war build-up saga for months now, and I still don’t know how I feel about it.

The most interesting observation I heard was from one of the protestors as they were closing down: “When we started, no one believed there were war planes in Shannon. Now no one doubts it.”

He had a point. The government went from pretending there was nothing happening, to pretending that everything was routine, to claiming they’d been asking for licences and handing out permission slips the whole time. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so serious.

Without getting into the rights and wrongs of the war (coming soon, on a CNN screen near you) I really do wish our government would stand up for what they believe in. I wouldn’t even care if I disagreed with everything they stood for if they did that. At least then I’d know where I stood. We really shouldn’t have to depend on an axe-wielding granny who could barely muster one hundred votes to find out what the Taoiseach is up to when it comes to the most important Foreign Affairs issue of the decade.

We’re a great people for announcing the need for national debates in this country. We regularly announce debates on our place in Europe for instance, usually just before the next Treaty is signed. The cynic in me can’t help thinking the only reason for that is became we have to have votes on Europe. But despite the 1997 election promise, we never had a referendum on joining the WEU, and so we never had a debate on neutrality.

I wouldn’t mind one. Even just a small one.

All I need is a couple of sentences from each party on where they see us heading. Maybe we want to be enthusiastic members of NATO like Tony Blair’s Britain, ready to send off the Army at the drop of a hat.

Maybe we want to be like France or Germany, members of NATO, but willing to voice criticism if we think our partners are going in the wrong direction. Maybe we want to be like the group of eight, not necessarily in NATO at all, but glad to write a fan letter if ever we’re asked. Maybe we want to be like the Swiss, or the Austrians, or the Swedes.

The truth is, I’m no longer worried what policy we follow. But I think it’s important that the government should spell one out, and not have to be shamed into it by a bunch of wild-haired peaceniks.

Neutrality

Well ok, that is an exaggeration. I do have some ideas on what policy we should follow, but that can wait another day. For today, I’m far more annoyed that we don’t ask questions anymore in this country. It has been scary watching the crosshairs shift from Osama bin Laden (remember him?) to Saddam Hussein over the past year as the war on terrorism fudged, with barely a peep of protest.

Hussein is a nasty piece of work all right, but at least hang him for his own sins. For all that he’s done (and its a grisly list) there is no evidence he ever provided support to Al Qaeda. With his own country divided on religious lines, the last thing Hussein wants to do is encourage a religious opposition movement. Al Qaeda got all the encouragement it needed from its bin Laden’s home country, Saudi Arabia.

I’m not sure entirely how Ireland’s neutrality should evolve in the coming years. It might even be time to abandon it. But we should be a bit more critical however we go. Germany and France have shown that being in NATO doesn’t mean having to accept whatever America says without question. Fair play to the peace campers for getting the debate started in Ireland.

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