World Beyond War Holds Fourth Annual Conference in Ireland
(October 20, 20190 — I attended World Beyond War’s fourth annual conference in Limerick, Ireland, held October 5-6, 2019. The conference was well attended and included many international speakers, reports from new World Beyond War branches, and a protest at the Shannon Airport.
John Lannon, a spokesperson for Shannon Watch, told us that despite repeated claims of neutrality by recent Irish governments, approximately 2.5 million US troops have passed through Shannon airport since 2002. US troop carriers started to appear at the airport in 2001.
At first they were taking occupation forces to and from Afghanistan, but then they provided full support for the second US war in Iraq. From 2002 to 2014 a total of 2,343,353 US troops have passed through Shannon Airport. US planes are refueling there and US troops are serviced there.
Lannon explained that “95% of the military flight landings at Shannon are from the US,” but he went on to say that the Irish involvement goes much deeper than is claimed. At first, under the cover of the multinational International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Ireland was supplying troops to Afghanistan starting in 2002 to NATO-US wars and plans. Then ISAF was required to work in close consultation with the US-led “Operation Enduring Freedom” Coalition.
Lannon also reported that Ireland is directly “involved in the design, production and testing of weapons used to kill and maim and displace people from their communities and homes. While fully functioning weapons systems are not manufactured in Ireland, individual components are.”
“The human cost of the invasion and occupation of Iraq alone is estimated to be in excess of one million deaths, up to 5 million people have been displaced from their homes, and rapes and other crimes against women and girls are widespread,” Lannon said.
Realities like this are why a protest was planned on the last day of the conference at Shannon airport. We marched towards the airport but were blocked by a line of police preventing any further advance. We were carrying children’s shoes, and I found myself getting emotional over a small pair of pink sneakers, thinking of the many little children that have died in these wars.
Mairead Maguire, a 1976 Nobel Peace Laureate and co-founder of Peace People in Northern Ireland, reminded us of who the real beneficiaries of wars are. She listed the major US military firms: 1-Lockeed Martin, 2-Boeing, 3-Raytheon, 4-BAE Systems, 5-Northrop Grumman, 6-General Dynamics, 7-Airbus, 8-Thales.
She asserted: “The general public does not benefit from the massive tax expenditure incurred by these endless wars,” explaining that these profits are funneled towards the top 1%, who also own the major media. A poll commissioned by the Peace and Neutrality Alliance showed that 58% of Irish people are opposed, while 19% are in favor of the use of Shannon airport by the US troops travelling to and from Iraq, with 21% expressing no opinion. Let’s hope that more people will actively manifest their opposition in the future.
One of the demands of this conference was to close all US bases; the US has more than 800 military bases in over 160 countries, and on all continents!
The conference was well attended, and included quite a few local people. There were exciting reports of new branches of War Beyond War. One was created in the South Georgian Bay, Canada, which organized a successful International Peace Day. There was also a report from a new branch in Spain.
Of the many speakers, I will note a few specifically. Vijay Mehta, an author and peace activist from London, presented on his new book How Not to Go to War: Establishing Departments for Peace and Peace Centers Worldwide. Dennis Kucinich, former US Representative from Ohio, said of this book: “War is not inevitable. We need to create structures in our governments and societies which can avert conflict before it starts. The establishment of a Department of Peace is a powerful tool which provides programmes for education and support for community organizations to be more humane and caring.”
Foad Izadi, a professor who teaches American studies and American foreign policy at the University of Tehran, delivered a lecture on the political history of Iran. We were all aware of the possibility that the next war might be in Iran, but no strategy session was presented at this time. There were workshops to discuss the situation.
Pat Elder was there, and he spoke on his current research and activism around how the military poisons people around the world, specifically the water contamination caused by the US military use of per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in routine firefighting drills on many bases. Pat will be working with Nancy Price and WILPF-US on this topic in California, thanks to a grant they received from the Patagonia Environmental Fund.
Leah Bolger spoke of the many US bases. She just came back from a tour in Russia where she met with youth and women’s organizations. Also very active there was Liz Remmerswaal Hughes, former vice president of WILPF Aotearoa/New Zealand.
On the education tables there was the greatly appreciated A Global Security System: An Alternative to War (2018-19 edition), which can be downloaded directly. New on the table was a Peace Almanac made by David Swanson with a page for every day of the year. Each page had a peace story to inspire activists.
It was good to learn new things about peace, and to network. No, we will not sacrifice any children for arms profit: we need to move the money, divest the war system, and continue to create a culture of peace and nonviolence for the children of the world.
WILPF US Section, Friends House, PO Box 13075, Des Moines, IA 50310. Tel: 617-266-0999
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