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(en) If not now when?

From "Andrew" <andy@dojo.tao.ca>
Date Wed, 26 Feb 2003 16:18:48 +0100 (CET)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

           If not now when?

Although we don't know the details of the Bush 
and Blair war plan it seems certain we are only 
around three weeks from the official start of 
the war.  Unofficially the war has gone on for 
the last 12 years with bombs raining down on 
Iraq and a regular basis and the economic war 
credited with killing over half a million.

This coming war has got to be the least popular 
since World War One, which was also preceded by 
massive international demonstrations.  
Unfortunately in that war it was felt 
'premature' to take action in advance of the war 
and when it broke out most, under the enormous 
pressures of war, took the side of 'their 
state'.  We can rightly take great hop in the 
fact that millions of people across the world 
demonstrated against war on Fed 15.  But we also 
have to recognise that these demonstrations on 
there own have not even slowed the march to war 

Feb 15 demonstrates that the people of the world 
do not want this war.  But the fact we are going 
to war anyway reveals that nether the US not 
British government have any intention of 
listening to this message.  We are left with no 
choice but to force them to listen by attempting 
to shut down the drive to war through our own 
actions.  This is already happening across 
Europe and the US with blockades of troop 
trains, attacks on recruitment offices and 
invasions of air bases.  This level of action 
against war is probably unique in advance of war 
breaking out - and clearly represents tactics 
developed by the globalisation movement been 
taken to another terrain.  In Britain it has 
resulted in the deployment of the US National 
Guard to US military bases in Britain!

Here in Ireland it might be expected that we 
would be something of a sideshow.  Yet because 
of our dependence on US capital and our 
geographic location on the edge of Europe we 
have an opportunity to strike a blow against war 
that can provide real inspiration for those 

Our economic dependence on the US (Ireland is by 
far the largest per capita receiver of US 
investment in Europe) means that we have a 
ruling class slavishly chained to the interests 
of the US government.  Despite demonstrations of 
over 115,000 on the island on Feb 15th they are 
determined to continue to support the US war 
effort, not just in words but also in deeds.

Our geographical location has made us relatively 
essential for that war effort.  Official 
government figures revealed that something over 
20,000 US troops were flown through Shannon 
airport in the opening weeks of the year.  The 
Wall Street Journal of December 19th reported 
that in the January build up "A defense official 
said more than 50,000 U.S. ground troops are 
likely to flow into the Gulf region".  It thus 
appears over 40% of these may have come through 
Shannon airport, showing the importance of this 
airport in the US military supply chain.

As elsewhere on the globe protests against the 
war have not just been passive but have also 
involved direct action.  In Ireland almost all 
of this has been targeted on Shannon airport.  
Over half a dozen successful actions have taken 
place ranging from a large scale breach of the 
fence in October to physical attacks on planes 
as the build up to war escalated.  These actions 
and plans for further actions have had a real 
success, World Airlines was the first troop 
carrier to announce it was, for a while, not 
using Shannon. Yesterday North American Airlines 
and Miami Airline followed this.  According to 
RTE "Both said that security at the airport was 
of concern to them".

The direct actions to date have been fairly 
minor, involving no more then 150 people.  They 
had been organised either in secret or by small 
groups of friends at the protests themselves.  
Not surprisingly many people (including some of 
the organisers) felt that this was less that 
ideal.  For cynical reasons of their own some 
party political hacks used this to label these 
actions 'elitist' or more bizarrely to claim 
that while they would support mass direct action 
they couldn't support these actions.

As it became obvious not only that war was 
imminent but that opposition was overwhelming a 
debate began in the Grassroots Network Against 
War about organising a mass action whose details 
would be publicly announced in advance. It was 
reckoned that it would now be possible for 
thousands of people to take part in such an 
action.  It was also hoped that the public 
nature of the announcement would help gain the 
support of those who claimed they were merely 
against 'elitist' or small group direct actions.  
So on the morning of Feb 15th after a long 
discussion a national GNAW meeting took an 
indicative vote to publicly call for a mass 
direct action aimed at tearing down the fence at 

The plan that was later agreed is simple.  One 
group will form a line facing the fence, march 
over to it and attempt to tear it down.  Another 
group will stand behind them as observers in 
solidarity with the action.  Full details at 

Not being stupid I recognised the possibility 
that for cynical party political reasons and 
straightforward control freakery some would 
still oppose that plan.  But with war imminent 
March1st represents the last chance for such a 
mass action before the outbreak of war.  This 
could not be expected to win over the die-hard 
'law and order' brigade but it might be expected 
that those organisations that claim to be 
'revolutionary' would recognise that this was 
the moment to act (or at least not to get in the 

Alas that is not how things seem to be.  Now we 
are being told that such an action is 
'premature'.  But with war likely to formally 
break out only days after March 1st the question 
must be asked 'if not now, when'.  With the 
government going ahead with refuelling despite 
100,000 marching in Dublin against it we have to 
ask what level of active public opposition is 
required before these 'revolutionaries' consider 
direct action to be justified.  We are at five 
minutes to midnight friends; the time to act is 

Alongside this excuse, which at least can be 
honestly argued for come a range of miserable 
evasions that do their authors no credit.  With 
three troop carrying airlines already gone from 
Shannon they seek to assert that such actions 
cannot work!  They mutter darkly about state 
repression, about soldiers with guns, armoured 
cars with plastic bullets and the special 
branch.  What should we conclude from this, that 
we should avoid effective opposition in case a 
cornered state strikes back?  'The great only 
appear great because we are on our knees,' it 
appears these 'revolutionaries' advise us to 
stay there lest we anger them.

Worst of all perhaps is the argument that direct 
action will alienate people from the anti-war 
movements.  This ignores the fact that a good 
part of the movement building in this country 
happened through the publicity following on from 
the various direct actions, in particular the 
physical attacks on planes at Shannon.  How 
quickly they forget that the time the media was 
ringing them for a change was in the aftermath 
of these actions, actions they were careful to 
avoid supporting.  How quickly they forget that 
when 100,000 marched in Dublin national coverage 
had already been given to the fence being torn 
down at Shannon and the disarming of planes.  I 
don't argue that every one of these people 
supports these acts but they are quite capable 
of understanding them in the light of the mass 
deaths that war in Iraq will cause.  When they 
marched in Dublin they marched AFTER all these 
events had taken place.

There is a poisonous insert to this argument.  
This is that the direct actions will somehow 
stop workers in Shannon striking against 
refuelling.  The sad truth is that while all of 
us would recognise such action to be the most 
effective in stopping refuelling there is little 
evidence of it being about to happen.  There is 
little evidence in fact that it is any more they 
a 'pie in the sky' slogan some left groups throw 
around to pretend they have an alternative.

Some people in GNAW have been talking to Shannon 
workers.  We know that those who work as cops at 
the airport don't like the direct actions 
because every breach of security gets them into 
trouble for failing to prevent it.  We know that 
most workers there fear effective action against 
military refuelling because some of the jobs at 
the airport may depend on this refuelling.  For 
these reasons there is little or no talk in 
support of anti-refuelling strike action by 
workers at Shannon.  The war is just days away, 
things can change but to put all our eggs in the 
'workers must strike' basket seems foolish, to 
say the least.  Particularly if it means failing 
to take action that has been proved capable of 
driving out the troop carriers.

We can say this to the workers at Shannon.  If 
they take strike action against the war then 
they do so in a situation where the mass of the 
population will support them.  Those of us in 
the anti-war movements will owe them solidarity. 
Beyond this the vast majority who oppose the war 
should be open to the argument that any loss of 
income at the airport should be made up by the 
state or that equivalent jobs should be created 
in the area. 

On the other hand if the Shannon workers 
continue to agree with their bosses in insisting 
that war work is essential for jobs then where 
will that leave them after the war?  This war is 
all about the same forces of corporate 
globalisation that are privatising and slashing 
airlines and ground services across Europe.  
Militancy and public solidarity are the only 
weapons Shannon workers have to defend their 
jobs in the long term, sacrificing both for 
short term gain (won at the expense of those who 
will die in Iraq) is no way forward.

Direct action in Shannon has worked.  Three out 
of four of the airlines ferrying troops through 
the airport have withdrawn citing "security 
concerns'.  Each and every action has catapulted 
refuelling into the headlines and ensured that 
the following day people talk about Irish 
involvement in the war at work, at school and in 
the pub.  And these were small actions.  Now we 
are talking of an action that should involve 

Some are even saying that the action planned for 
Shannon is just posturing because the plan has 
been made public.  Let's leave aside the fact 
that these same people were earlier condemning 
direct action for being 'secretive'!  Let's 
leave aside the fact that those organising 
Saturdays action have already taken direct 
action at Shannon on several occasions already 
and several have been arrested there.  We have 
nothing to prove in terms of our willingness to 

Leaving all that aside I agree there is no 
guarantee that the planned action can take 
place.  The previous actions depended on very 
small numbers of determined people to carry them 
out.  Indeed in two cases they just involved the 
one person who carried them out.  That sort of 
action required a level of secrecy, it worked 
because the Gardai did not know what to expect.

In proposing and organising a public plan we 
recognised that this was not something that the 
one hundred or so people involved in GNAW could 
carry through.  We recognise that the Gardai can 
easily mobilise the numbers required to stop so 
few.  This plan could only possibly work if 
thousands of people who will march against war 
are prepared to act against war on this 
occasion.  And that includes YOU.

At Shannon on March 1st look out for the pink 
flags and the while flags.  Within a couple of 
weeks a war will start in which tens of 
thousands (at least) will die in Iraq.  On 
Saturday consider whether the eve of war is 
indeed the moment to act.  If you consider the 
risk to be worthwhile on that day join us at the 
white flags.  If you support us but are unable 
to take the risk of arrest (and there are lots 
of reasons why many people will not) then join 
us, as a solidarity observer, at the pink flags.


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