Shannon Peace Camp – gone but not forgotten

HARD to believe it’s a decade ago, but the recent cold snap of weather certainly brought it all back home.

Remember January 2003, when Dubya was desperately looking for a way to avenge 9/11, when his military lobby and supporters – who mass produce weapons, so as the events of Newtown and Aurora are part and parcel of the American dream, albeit turned into a nightmare for the massacres of the innocents – were hungry for war.

But hey, mass producing weapons that can cause massive destruction is a good thing if you’re the good guys – and we know the propaganda that tells us the United States has always been for good and against evil.

It’s why mass producing weapons for over the counter sales is good, whatever about the collateral damage of all the blood, death and mayhem. But weapons of mass destruction. For Uncle Sam yes, for their allies yes, but others never.

So it was that Dubya found out that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. QED revenge for 9/11. QED finding a patsy, or in keeping with Dubya’s southern roots, an Uncle Tom type who does as he’s told, toes his Republican Party line that there’s weapons of mass destruction out there and they’re in Iraq.

QED Tony Blair, who had that stage of his political and theological evolution was well down the road towards his conversion to Catholicism; now for the detour down Weapons of Mass Destruction Avenue. For war. For good. Against evil.

At least that was the scripture according to the ‘good book’ – that he probably read upside down – penned by Dubya post 9/11.

Hence the huge build up of troops heading for the gulf states in late 2002 and early 2003, with Ireland living up to its ‘Ireland of the Welcomes’ moniker with the big céad míle fáilte isteach being extended in Shannon.

But not everyone were disciples of Dubya’s doctrine and that’s why January 2003 became a hugely significant month for those who railed against the US military’s view of the world.

There was the United Nations that subsequently claimed, through its Director General Kofi Annan, that the invasion and subsequent war was illegal.

There was the Shannon Peace Camp – born on January 6, 2003, and closed (more shut down) on February 3, 2003 – that became a beacon for those who railed against American imperialism, war and most specifically of all, the use of Shannon Airport as a US Military Airbase.

It was a big tent on the approach road to road to Shannon – the Big Top within a hundred or so yards from the perimeter fence of the airport that at once became a meeting place for the objector, consciencess, direct action or otherwise. A place for the other coalition of the willing – those against the invasion, the war and the use of Shannon.

Luka Bloom called in one day and sang “I am not at war with anyone”, which became the Peace Camp anthem. Green Party TD John Gormley was another caller, pledging his support for what the peace camp was trying to achieve – until he was in government four years later that is.

Future president Michael D Higgins also walked by, walking the walk from Shannon town centre to the airport and talked the talk during a protest march against the use in Shannon, just like he walked and talked in 1984 when Ronald Reagan came to Shannon in 1984.

I was there on the final night, it was memorable in a few different ways.

It was a Monday, just after 8pm and the street lights on the main road near the Big Top had failed. It was an eerie metaphor for what would happen later. Pallets covered in chicken wire for grip cut a route to the Big Top.

On entry the peace activists were in special session in the wake of members of the Catholic Worker Movement to scale the perimeter fence and attack a plane with a hammer. “Nothing to do with us,” protested a peace camper.

But it had everything to do with them, because the Big Top was the symbol of the overall protest and that’s why just after 9pm a couple of members of the Aer Rianta Police moved in.

“Take this,” one says. “No I don’t want it,” replies a peace camper. “What is it,” says another peace camper. “A High Court injunction,” comes the reply. “Why.” “No comment.”

It was the last stand of the Shannon Peace Camp – after a sleepless night in the Big Top the process of taking down the tent began soon after noon.

“The media and the Government attention of the peace camp is deflecting away from what the real issue is in Shannon. This is about the planes landing at Shannon and build-up of American troops. We’re closing the peace camp,” said a spokesperson.

Gone, but not forgotten, because for those few weeks the Shannon Peace Camp shone a light. Not on those who still think that Shannon’s future lies in more military planes and traffic, but that lobby were never going to see the light were they.

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