The anti-war movement here has had limited success since a hundred thousand or so of us marched down O’Connell Street before the Iraq war started at all.
Ireland’s participation in the war, allowing American troops to use Shannon Airport, remains. The broad opposition of the Irish public to the war still holds, which is reflected by, and probably not because of, the anti-war movement.
I haven’t seen any polling on the Shannon issue so I’m not sure what public opinion on the subject is but I would imagine that there is a lot of ambivalence along the lines of: ‘It’s one thing to refuse to join with the US in going to war in Iraq – it’s another to stab them in the back by refusing them Shannon’. Something like that.
So while there’s not a lot we can do about the war, the anti-war movement needs to keep themselves busy.
A couple of weeks back they did just that by appealing to the public not to turn up at the Galway Airshow where there were warplanes on show. Predictably, the public ignored the call in great numbers.
Could you infer from this that the people who went to the Galway Airshow are in favour of the war? No at all. They went out of curiosity and in search of a good day out.
What the anti-war movement attempted here was a bit of censorship. They delegated to themselves the right to interpret the presence of warplanes in Galway. They behaved negatively when they could just as easily have reacted positively.
A few years back I went to the airshow in Baldonnell. There were warplanes there from all over Europe. Although, I have seen them on the telly, nothing prepares you for the real thing. They did everything, except drop the bombs. Which was a pity, because very few civilians have witnessed the destructive power of these things.
Most well-adjusted human beings can well imagine the consequences of having one of these machines visiting your neighbourhood in anger. The protesters should have welcomed any display that sheds light on the damage that weapons can wreak.
But if we want warplanes to stop dropping bombs, then protesting against warplanes is missing the target altogether.
Because warplanes don’t cause wars. Warplanes are not responsible for killing people. Warplane don’t choose to drop bombs.
The politicians who dispatch the warplanes are responsible. That’s where the protest should be aimed at.
In the TV wars that we are having the reality of war is still not reaching western audiences. It is still possible for those in authority to spin the war, which is very important to them because public opinion is very important to them.
The response of the anti-war movement should be anti-spin. Visits of military material, instead of being an opportunity for symbolic protest, give the opportunity to interpret the role of weaponry.
If the protesters had distributed pictures of demolished neighbourhoods to the public, for example, it might have changed the impact of witnessing a warplanes’ visit.