TEN SIMPLE STEPS IN INVASION VENTURE

Diarmuid Breatnach

Scene from Rambo film promoting USA-aided Islamic fundamentalist insurgency against Soviet puppet Afghanistan Government (Photo sourced: Internet)
  1. Foster Islamic fundamentalist groups and arm them to overthrow a competitor’s puppet government. Use a nearby ally as a conduit.
  2. Portray the fundamentalist insurgency as a liberation war and keep supplying them with weapons, training, through your nearby ally. This might cost as much as US$20 billion. Have a film made about it in which a former male porn film star is the USA hero with the local fundamentalist Islamic militias (underplay the Islamic part).
  3. When they’ve overthrown the competitor’s puppet, attempt to instal your own puppet instead.
  4. When your Islamic fundamentalist warlords don’t accept this and become a problem, invade the country. You have to get lots of your own soldiers killed because you armed and trained the opposition, they have grown more powerful and why should anyone fight them for you?
  5. Keep telling the relatives of your dead soldiers (and those not yet dead) that they are fighting for democracy and to protect their homes (although they are nowhere near their homes).
  6. Set up your own puppet regime, build a local army, let your investors back home in to gobble up what they can, dispense bribes (even to notorious warlords, torturers, murderers).
  7. Use airpower to bomb your previous allies, even though you will be killing a lot of uninvolved people (and even though airpower didn’t work in the end for the other’s puppet government)
  8. When it’s clear you are not going to win without an even more massive investment of money and your soldiers’ lives (which will make your politicians unpopular at home), pull out. Leave your puppets and local employees behind (shoot some as they try to get on your planes).
  9. Then blame your puppet government for running. Blame the puppet army soldiers for surrendering, ignoring the fact that thousands of them have been killed even when you gave them air cover and that was then withdrawn or that surrounded units fought on for days on promises of relieving columns that never came.
  10. You might lose some superpower status and get criticised at home. BUT your arms industry has increased its profits at least TEN TIMES since the invasion. After all, who really matters in all this?
  11. Get ready for your next adventure.
US troops in Afghanistan marching towards evacuation helicopter (Photo sourced: Internet)
Afghan people climb on plane Kabul Airport Photo- Wakil Kohsar / AFP 16 Aug 2021
Afghans crowd the tarmac of Kabul airport to flee the country. Photo- AFP
Taliban fighters take control of Afghan presidential palace in Kabul after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country. Photo- AP/Zabi Karimi
U.S soldiers take a position to guard along a perimeter at the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. Picture- AP Photo/Shekib Rahmani
USA President justifying USA pullout of Afghanistan and blaming Afghan people (Photo sourced: Internet)

FURTHER READING

Quick overview of Afghanistan history (without listing USA support for Taliban: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/how-centuries-of-strife-shaped-modern-afghanistan

US support for Taliban: https://www.jstor.org/stable/29768089

https://www.democracynow.org/shows/2021/8/17# (For Afghanistan jump to Haran Rahoumi at 17.19 mins. on video to 31.4 mins; and again to from 37mins. with Azmat Khan to 46mins. In my opinion much more informative than ex-US Col. Amy Wright, now in Codepink, Vets for Peace.)

https://www.foxnews.com/world/taliban-fighters-execute-22-afghan-commandos

THREAT TO IRAN OVER NUCLEAR EXPANSION?

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

Iran has informed the International Atomic Agency that it is stepping up its uranium enrichment to 20% purity, which significantly exceeds that set by the restrictive 2015 Agreement and which according to media reports places it one step away from achieving weapons grade. This has set off concerns and what might even be interpreted as threats from other states but whether we agree with the existence of nuclear weapons or not, what gives some states the right to have them and to tell others that they can’t?

Iran entered into that Agreement in exchange for ending of the economic blockade on it by the USA. However, recently Trump withdrew the USA from the Agreement, leaving little incentive for Iran to continue restricting its development of nuclear fuel.

Three big European powers signed a public call on Iran to return to the Agreement levels in the hope that Biden will bring the USA back into the Agreement (which he has indicated he will). Meanwhile, some media are reporting that a similar step by Iran prior to the Agreement led Israel to prepare to launch a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. And Israel is in fact believed to have assassinated Iran’s foremost nuclear scientist, Mohseh Fakhrizadeh last year.

Map showing states with estimated numbers of nuclear warheads. (Source image: Arms Control Association)

NUCLEAR WEAPONS GATEKEEPERS

Whether we agree with any state having a nuclear arsenal (and I don’t), what gives some states the right to dictate to others that they can’t have them? And what is the record of these “nuclear weapon gatekeepers”? The partners in the 2015 Agreement were: USA, UK, Germany, France, Russia and China. These are, if we believe the slant of much of the mass media, the states that are justified in telling others that they cannot be permitted to have nuclear weapons.

The USA is one of the states with most nuclear weapons in the world (according to some estimates, Russia has the most, followed by the USA), a state which has been involved in wars of aggression against other peoples and states almost since its creation (10 directly – not through proxies — in the last 20 years alone). Furthermore, it is the only state to have attacked another with not only one but two weapons of mass destruction, causing at least a million casualties of mostly civilians.

Map showing estimated US troops officially based in the Middle East in January 2020 (Source image: Newsweek)

The European states that made that public call on Iran are Germany, France and Britain, of which only Germany does not have nuclear weapons of its own (though it permits them to be sited there). The reason that Germany does not have them is probably because its European neighbours and in particular world powers France and the UK would not allow them to have them, with memories of two world wars in four decades during the last century.

France and the UK are imperialist states with massive armed forces which, when they have not been at war with the other, have attacked nations and peoples across the globe.

The other owners of nuclear weapons are Russia, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea. And Israel, a Zionist occupation-settler state established through ethnic cleansing and which, since its inception, has been at war with its neighbours. And massively supported by the USA, financially, militarily and politically.

IRAN

The Islamic Republic of Iran, on the other hand, has been at war with no-one since it came into existence except Iraq, when the Western powers were supporting Saddam Hussein and all his atrocities because he was attacking Iran. Saddam attacked Iran very soon after the latter’s revolutionary change of regime but within three months its offensive stalled and it began to get pushed back despite the support of the Western powers (including the supply of chemical weapons by the USA and Germany) and the international isolation of the Iranian clerical leadership. Nevertheless the war lasted eight years and was extremely draining for Iran, in particular since it was also facing US-led economic and financial sanctions.

Currently Iran has full diplomatic relations with 97 states and although it has some territorial disputes with the United Arab Emirates in the Gulf and some Caspian sea disputes with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, along with some outstanding issues from the Iraq-Iran war, these are being dealt with on the whole peacefully.

In the midst of slanted or even hysterical “reporting” — or beating of war drums — we should be aware of these facts.

End.

USA Ally States with Bases Surrounding Iran. (Source image: Internet)

NOTE: NOT “NATIONS”

By the way, the news report headline “European nations urge Iran” etc. (see below) is inaccurate: France and Britain (sic, actually the UK) are not “nations” but states, each one containing a number of nations and for example in a number of sporting bodies the existence of nations within the UK is recognised. That a number of such states are permitted to call themselves “nations” for membership of various bodies does not change that fact and journalists should be more exact in using the term.

End.

SOURCES:

https://www.breakingnews.ie/world/european-nations-urge-iran-to-reverse-nuclear-enrichment-move-1060347.html

Assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-55128970

Nuclear weapons sited in Germany: https://www.defensenews.com/global/europe/2020/05/11/nato-chief-backs-german-vow-to-keep-war-ready-us-nukes/

List states with nuclear weapons: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_states_with_nuclear_weapons

THE CAULDRON CALLING THE KETTLE BLACK

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Total reading time: 5 mins.)

It is reported in the news today that Trump has ordered the deregistration on the Stock Exchange of three China companies in the belief that they are basically fronts for the Chinese military. It is reported also that the incumbent, Joe Biden, is unlikely to take a different line and that “US officials have complained that China’s ruling Communist Party takes advantage of access to American technology and investment to expand its military, already one of the world’s biggest and most heavily armed.”

China’s military may indeed be one of the world’s biggest and most heavily armed but there is no question of which power is the most heavily-armed, far above all others: the USA. According to statistics supplied by an EU armed forces comparison site (see SOURCES below), China spends $288 billion on its military, which is much more than doubled by the USA’s $610 billions. And the USA’s military share of its GDP (Gross Domestic Production), at %3.1 is way ahead that of China’s 1.9%.

One of the few areas in which China’s military outstrips the USA’s is in active personnel, at 2,300,000 against 1,281,900. Which is hardly surprising, as China’s population is more than four times that of the USA’s (1.43 billion, compared with 329 million). And that too would account for its reservist imbalance, 8,000,000 versus the USA’s 811,000.

China Type99 Tank. Armoured vehicles and numbers of personnel are the few areas in which China outstrips the USA. (Photo source: Internet)

Another area in which the Chinese military outstrips the USA’s is in tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery, self-propelled artillery and rocket artillery (that last by not so large a margin). But the USA has three times the total military aircraft of China, twice the number of attack aircraft, nearly four times the number of multirole aircraft and over four times the number of helicopters. Only in fighter aircraft does China outnumber the US’s and that by a significant amount: 1,150 against 587 – but multirole aircraft, of which the USA has 2,192, are designed for air-to-air combat as well as missile launching against ground targets.

In naval power, although China’s total of 780 looks impressive next to the USA’s 437, the USA has 20 aircraft carriers while China has …. two. The USA is not bothered with frigates or corvettes, of which China has respectively 54 and 42 but the USA’s 85 destroyers are more than double China’s 36. In submarines they are not far off level pegging, with China’s 76 against the USA’s 71.

The USA has 20 aircraft carriers while China has just two. This hi-tech US carrier cost $13 Billion. (Photo source: Internet)

These figures tell us that the USA far outranks China in military hardware and also that its military production per head of population is vastly greater than China’s. But when we look at the type of weapons in which one predominates over another (without regard to quality or modernity), it tells us something else: the USA is far better fitted for long-range warfare than is China. No state is safe from long-range attack by the USA military but many parts of the world are relatively secure from such an attack by China’s current military capability.

Furthermore, in a war between both powers, the USA would rely on hitting China from afar with bombing raids from air bases in countries with US-friendly regimes (e.g Pakistan, Indonesia, Australia, Thailand, Philippines, South Korea, Japan) and from its fleet of aircraft carriers.

China could perhaps overrun the USA’s defences on the ground but how could their troops and vehicles reach America?

Of course, the USA vastly outnumbers China in nuclear warheads too: 6,500 against 280.

MILITARISATION OF THE ECONOMY

Lenin and others wrote that increasingly in the capitalist countries, finance capital had become merged with industrial and whereas finance had earlier fed industrial development, it was towards the end of the 19th Century deserting industry at home to invest in super-profits available through exploitation of natural resources and labour power in the developing world. Countries that had large colonial territories and foreign investment preferments or monopolies were neglecting their industries in the time of imperialism while capitalist countries without the same outlets were concentrating their capital on modernising their production models and methods.

In the USA, finance capital merged long ago with industrial but, since WW2, with military expenditure also. But not only merged — the military side has come to dominate. Not necessarily in actual production statistics, though these are pretty high – according to industrial analyst Louise Echitelle writing in 2017, Roughly 10% of the $2.2 trillion in factory output in the United States goes into the production of weapons sold mainly to the Defense Department for use by the armed forces. But in addition, over half the World’s arms sales in 2013, according to a SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) pie chart quoted by Wikipedia, were by the USA and this share is likely to have increased since.

USA’s multirole fighters far outnumber China’s. This is the F-15E Strike Eagle. (Photo source: Internet)

Military production is publicly funded in Government purchasing and also in allocation of production sites – Echitelle wrote three years ago that the bidding to get a major company to locate in a municipality

“can sometimes top $100 million per factory location. A manufacturer who finally accepts a municipality’s bid collects tax breaks, a gift of land on which to put a factory and sometimes the cost of building and equipping the factory itself at taxpayers’ expense.”

Share of arms sales by state in 2013: chart by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Photo source: Wikipedia)

Incidentally, that level of reliance on military production also makes for a militarisation of the labour force, a binding of workers and trade unions to military production. This will be reflected also in cultural products such as war films (documentaries of US Wars, fictional or semi-fictional war films, Sci-Fi with US military in the future), war games and novels, USA Armed Forces Day barbecues and street parties on the third Saturday of each May, all together resulting in social support for war, invasion of other countries and …. further military expenditure.

Although the figures here have concentrated on military production and its public funding in the USA, one has to take into account many other aspects, such as that expended on raising and educating a child to military age and all that is involved in that huge investment over a period of 18 years or so.

Another factor in the calculation is what is not being produced because of the concentration on military production and its secure source of public funding. Or no longer being produced. Echitelle points out that at the end of WW2, US industry produced cars and appliances, clothing, shoes, houses and furnishings for the home market and exported many of them too. The reliance on military spending in production facility and its public funding has seen the US give way to foreign competitors in those consumer goods not only abroad but in its domestic economy too. On the other hand, China is increasingly producing such goods for its huge home market and even exporting some, for example in communication technology products.

One does not need to be a supporter of the Chinese regime to burst out laughing at the irony when a US President or US officials accuse the Chinese of militarising their economy.

End.

SOURCES

https://www.breakingnews.ie/world/new-york-stock-exchange-to-delist-three-chinese-companies-under-trump-order-1058223.html

https://armedforces.eu/compare/country_China_vs_USA

WHEN WE EUROPEANS FLED AS REFUGEES TO SYRIA

Alberto Sicilia in Publico.es, translated by D.Breatnach

Alberto Sicilia in Publico.es, translated by D.Breatnach
(Reading time: 3 minutes)
For original version in Castillian (Spanish) click on link.

Greece today suspended the right to asylum. An unprecedented measure in the history of Europe.

How soon we forget. During World War II, thousands of Greeks crossed the Mediterranean in the opposite direction and sought refuge in Middle Eastern countries. That was the most accessible route of escape from Nazi troops.

Map of camp sites for European Refugees WW2 (Image source: Publico.blogs. es)

A program called “Organization for Refugees in the Middle East”, launched in 1942 and led by the United Kingdom, helped tens of thousands of Greeks, Poles and Yugoslavs escape eastbound.

The refugees were taken to camps located in Syria, Egypt and Palestine. The city of Aleppo, (yes, you have not misread, Aleppo) became one of the main reception centers.

A number of official reports on the state of the camps were written in March 1944. A study conducted by Public International Radio includes the protocol for the entry of refugees and their daily lives:

Photo source: Publico.blogs. es

“Once registered, newcomers made their way through a thorough medical inspection. The refugees were heading to what were often makeshift hospital facilities, usually tents, but occasionally empty buildings reused for medical care, where clothes and shoes were removed and they were washed until the authorities believed they were sufficiently disinfected.

Some refugees, such as the Greeks who arrived at the Aleppo camp from the Dodecanese islands in 1944, could expect medical inspections to become part of their daily routine.

Photo source: Publico.blogs. es

After medical officials were satisfied that they were healthy enough to join the rest of the camp, refugees were divided into homes for families, unaccompanied children, single men and single women. Once assigned to a particular section of the camp, refugees enjoyed few opportunities to venture outside. From time to time they could leave under the supervision of camp officials.

When refugees in the Aleppo camp made the multi-mile trip to the city, for example, they could visit shops to buy basic supplies, watch a movie at the local cinema, or simply distract themselves from the monotony of country life.

Although the camp at Moses Wells [in Egypt], located on more than 100 acres of desert, was not within walking distance of a city, refugees were allowed to spend time each day bathing in the nearby Red Sea. “

Photo source: Publico.blogs. es

The “Organization for Refugees in the Middle East” was part of a network of refugee camps around the world that were administered by governments and international NGOs.

And refugees arrived not only in the Arab region: Iran received 200,000 Poles between 1939 and 1941.

Have we forgotten so quickly?

 

Photo source: Publico.blogs. es

Photo source: Publico.blogs. es

Original text in Spanish here

A LIFE CELEBRATED – SOCIALIST, REPUBLICAN, TRADE UNION ACTIVIST

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 10 minutes)

A packed function room at Club an Múinteoirí (Teachers’ Club) in Dublin last night heard speakers, including Arthur Scargill and the Cuban Ambassador, praise some of the highlights of the life of irish activist Des Bonass (died 26 September last year). The meeting was chaired by Colm Kinsella of Unite.

          Strangely, up to yesterday afternoon, many socialist, Republican and trade union activists seemed unaware of the event, organised by Bonass’ branch of the trade union Unite. I only learned of it myself when Arthur Scargill and Nell Myles stopped at our weekly Save Moore Street From Demolition campaign stall earlier in the day and explained that he was in Dublin in order to speak at an event that evening.

Section of capacity crowd at event
(Photo: Labhrain Ní Dhúgáin)

The event was scheduled to begin at 7.30pm but by that time there were less than a dozen people present, arousing fear in some quarters that the attendance would be poor. As time went on, the side room leading off the main room was closed and the chairs removed. Some more people arrived and then as if by magic by 8.30 the room was packed, with extra seating being made available for people who arrived even after that.

IRISH TRADE UNIONISTS AND CUBAN AMBASSADOR

          John Douglas (former General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, currently General Secretary of Mandate trade union) spoke of how he had come to know Des Bonass when Douglas was a member of the Amalgamated Transport & General Workers’ Union (now part of UNITE), a section catering for bar workers which at the time represented a great many in the trade. He related how the bar workers would come off late shift and go to a union meeting around midnight, a meeting that sometimes would not finish until five a.m! Bonass had asked Douglas for a space to address the union members in support of the British miners, after which he had come away with buckets overflowing with financial contributions from the barmen.

John Douglas of MANDATE speaking.
(Photo: Labhrain Ní Dhúgáin)

Douglas also related that Bonass was in support of women’s right to choose abortion at a time when that would not have received popular support in Ireland and went on to speak about the strike against TESCO and how Bonass had brought Scargill to a number of picket lines around the city, raising their morale and drawing media attention.

Des Derwin (Executive Member of Dublin Council of Trade Unions and Vice-Chair of SIPTU Dublin District Council) gave what seemed a comprehensive list of the activities of Des Bonass down through the years, including how he had actively supported the struggles in the H-Blocks in the Six Counties and of the Palestinian people, as well as the struggle of the Dunne’s Stores strikers. Unknown to many, perhaps, Bonass had been a founder of People Before Profit and the Unemployed Workers’ Movement.

Des Derwin of SIPTU and DCTU.
(Photo: Labhrain Ní Dhúgáin)

When the Irish Labour Party conference had voted to go into coalition government, Bonass and Matt Merrigan had walked out together, after they had seen Noel Browne leave the room. The media thought Bonass and Merrigan had led a protest walkout, whereas they said they had followed Noel Browne. When Brown appeared in the lobby, the reporters asked him why he had led the walkout, which he adamantly denied, saying he had only left the conference to go to the toilet!

Subsequently Bonass and Merrigan had founded the Irish branch of the Socialist Labour Party. The Dublin Council of Irish Trade Unions had been another of his areas of activity and Bonass had been President of the organisation; he had also been active in Unite the union.

Also a supporter of internationalist causes, Bonass had been against such as the Chilean coup, for Nicaragua and Cuba, against the South African Apartheid regime and the invasion of Iraq.

Cuban Ambassador speaking at event.
(Photo: Labhrain Ní Dhúgáin)

          Hugo René Milanés, Cuban Ambassador to Ireland, expressed his gratitude to Des Bonass for the latter’s support for Cuba and in particular “against the Yanqui blockade” and for working for socialism throughout his life.

SCARGILL, BRITISH TRADE UNIONIST

          Arthur Scargill, ex-President of National Union of Mineworkers (Britain) spoke about Des Bonass’ support for the NUM, particularly those of South Wales, when they were in the big strike of 1984-’85 and how Bonass had agreed to receive money from the NUM to keep it safe from the British State’s sequestration. At first, the money had been couriered by Nell Myles, an NUM official (who was present at the meeting) and delivered to the ATGWU office in Parnell Square; on one occasion she had been mugged on her way but the money stolen was her personal money and not the union funds, which were safely delivered. Six months later, Scargill himself came to Dublin and Des Bonass accompanied him to a Dublin branch of a bank with a holdall stuffed full of a lot more money but the alarmed branch manager referred them to the bank’s head office, where the money was safely stored.

Scargill speaking
(Photo: Labhrain Ní Dhúgáin)

Des Bonass brought Arthur Scargill around to many Dublin pickets during the TESCO strike organised by the MANDATE union, which had been welcomed by the strikers and which had lifted their spirits. He had been happy to attend, Scargill said and related a journalist asking him about his reaction to a bomb threat against TESCO. To laughter and applause from the meeting’s audience, Scargill related his response to the journalist, that neither he nor the TESCO strikers could have anything to with any such bomb inside as they would never cross a picket line! Des Bonass had also got Scargill a spot on the popular Gay Byrne show, where he had been confronted with a Margaret Thatcher impersonator.

Bonass had been a founder of the Irish branch of the Socialist Labour Party which Scargill had founded in Britain as founded by James Connolly.

Paying tribute to the moral and practical support of the Irish people for the NUM’s struggle, Scargill said that their support in ratio to union members in Ireland had been the highest of all and went on to reveal that he and Nell both had Irish ancestry on both parental sides, referring also to the history of oppression of Irish people by the British State. Scargill talked about the financial contributions but also how Irish families had taken in miner’s children for holiday breaks, as British trade unionists had wanted to take in Irish children during the 1913 Lockout.

Later on in his speech, Scargill declared himself a firm follower of the “11th Commandment: Thou shalt not cross a picket line!” (loud applause) and went on to talk about the determination of the Thatcher Government to break the NUM and its leadership. Thatcher and Government personnel had claimed at the time that they had not intervened in the strike, which was allegedly between the NUM and the National Coal Board but Scargill stated that was a lie and the truth had emerged in documentation over the years, available on the Internet to anyone who wished to check it. “Unjust laws have to be broken” he said also because “if we hadn’t done that, women would not have the vote; we would not have trade unions!” He paid tribute to the Levellers, the Tolpuddle Martyrs and the Suffragettes.

Scargill emphasised that the best way to celebrate the life of Des Bonass and to honour his memory is to continue the struggle for the principles that Des Bonass upheld, then finished his speech to a standing ovation from those present.

Scargill and myself after the formal part of the evening.
(Photo: Labhrain Ní Dhúgáin)

Colm Kinsella then welcomed the last speaker, Ciarán Bonass. Ciarán announced that he was the son of Des Bonass and talked about what the family had learned from his father as they had also supported him in his activism. Thanking all the speakers and all others present on his family’s behalf, his mother Eileen and sisters Mairéad and Deirdre, along with in-laws and grandchildren, he ended his contribution to loud applause from the attendance.

Colm Kinsella announced that their branch of Unite was now named “the Des Bonass Branch of Unite” in Des Bonass’ honour, thanked all the speakers and the attendance and invited people to partake of refreshments while listening to labour and other songs performed by Richie Brown (of Unite) and friends.

End.

Des Bonass at European Day of Action Against Cuts protest 2010 (Photo: Paula Geraghty in Indymedia)

IRISH REPUBLICAN, SOCIALIST, ANTI-RACIST, TRADE UNION FOUNDER: MICHAEL J. QUILL

“A man the ages will remember.” -Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Kevin Rooney (reprinted by kind permission of author).

Michael J. Quill and Martin Luther King at a trade union conference, USA, 1961, to which Quill had invited ML King.
(Photo source: Internet)

Michael Joseph Quill was born in Gortloughera, near Kilgarvan Co. Kerry on 18 September, 1905. His parents were John Daniel Quill and Margaret (née Lynch). Fighting injustice seemed to be in his blood. He remembered: “My father knew where every fight against an eviction had taken place in all the parishes around”. His Irish-speaking family’s home served as headquarters for the No. 2 Kerry Brigade Of The Irish Republican Army during the War Of Independence Of 1919-1921. His uncle’s house was so well known for rebel activity, it is said that the Black and Tans in the area referred to the house as “Liberty Hall”; a reference to James Connolly’s ITGWU Union Headquarters in Dublin which was to prove prophetic.

IRISH REPUBLICAN ACTIVITY

          While still a boy of 14, Michael was a dispatch rider for the IRA during the War of Independence. He served in 3rd Battalion of the No. 2 Kerry Brigade. Once on a scouting mission, he stumbled on a patrol of Black and tans asleep in a ditch. He stole all their ammunition without rousing them. He eventually graduated to carrying a rifle and organized a group of about thirty boys in the village into an IRA scout group, and drilled several times a week.

When the Civil War began in 1921, Quill joined the Republican side which opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty that ended the War Of Independence. He took part in the re-capture of the town of Kenmare from The Free State Army in August of 1922, one of few Republican victories. He was said to have been involved in robbing a bank for the IRA during the war. He was much affected by the brutality and violence dished out by the Government Forces (Free Staters) to his Republican comrades in Kerry who were captured.

Michael J. Quill Centre, Kilgarvan, Co. Kerry, Ireland
(Photo source: Internet)

The worst atrocity was the Ballyseedy massacre where eight Republican prisoners were killed by being tied to a landmine, which was then detonated. In March of 1923, at total of 23 Republican prisoners in Kerry were killed in similar manner, or summarily executed by shooting on different occasions. Another five were officially executed by firing squad. The most of any county.

His mother died in September 1923. The local priest refused to request a temporary amnesty so that Michael and his brother John could attend her funeral without risking arrest by National troops. It left a lasting bitterness in him toward the Catholic Church.

During the Wars, he met many prominent Republican leaders of the time who passed through his area; including Eamon de Valera, Liam Lynch, Tom Barry, Liam Deasy, Dan Breen, Erskine Childers among them. While still young, he conversed with these great minds.

EMIGRATION TO THE USA

          After the war, Quill found opportunities limited for him as he had supported the losing side. He was also blacklisted after a sit-in strike with his brother John at a saw mill in Kenmare. He emigrated to the US, arriving on 16 March, 1926 in New York, where he stayed with an aunt on 104th Street in East Harlem (New York).

He hustled to make a living working a series of menial jobs which included what was called “bootlegging”: smuggling alcohol during Prohibition, during which time the sale of alcohol was illegal in the US. He worked passing coal and peddling roach powder and religious articles in Pennsylvania coal country. While there he wrote his father his observation that “the cows and pigs in Kerry were better housed and fed than were the miners’ children in America.”

Quill returned to New York and met a young Kerry woman named Maria Theresa O’Neill, known as Mollie who came from Cahersiveen. With the onset of the Great Depression she became unemployed and decided to return to Ireland. She and Quill maintained a patient long-distance courtship, keeping in touch with weekly letters.

Quill found employment with the IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit) railroad in 1929. He worked several jobs before becoming a ticket agent. The IRT, the largest transit company in New York attracted employment from many Irishmen; particularly Republican veterans of the Irish Civil War like Quill. There was a joke that IRT stood for “Irish Republican Transit”. Their advantage over other immigrant groups was that they already spoke English. Coming from mostly farm land, they were also able for the twelve to fourteen-hour days demanded of them seven days a week. About half of the employees were Irish.

Moving from station to station, he got to know many of the employees. Along with deplorable working conditions, Quill also observed discrimination based on racism and bigotry, which he hated. He said: “During those twelve hour nights we’d chat about the motormen, conductors, guards etc. whose conditions were even worse. They had to work a ‘spread’ of 16 hours each day in order to get 10 hours pay. Negro workers could get jobs only as porters. They were subjected to treatment that makes Little Rock (Arkansas) and Birmingham (Alabama) seem liberal and respectable by comparison. I also saw Catholic ticket agents fired by Catholic bosses for going to Mass early in the morning while the porter ‘covered’ the booth for half an hour. Protestant bosses fired Protestant workers for similar crimes, going to Church. The Jewish workers had no trouble with the subway bosses. Jews were denied employment in the transit lines”.

INFLUENCED BY CONNOLLY’S WRITINGS

          While working a 12-hour overnight shift, Quill passed the time with reading to supplement his education, which had ended with National school. The main influence on his political thinking was James Connolly. Connolly had also organised unions in New York, where he lived for a few years before returning to Dublin where he was executed in 1916 for his part in the Easter Rising.

Michael J. Quill speaking at a conference with the image of James Connolly, whose writings he admired, on the wall behind him, uncomfortably perhaps next to the flag of the USA.
(Photo source: Internet)

Quill’s second wife Shirley later wrote: “Connolly’s two basic theories were to guide Mike Quill’s thinking for the next three decades: that economic power precedes and conditions political power, and that the only satisfactory expression of the workers’ demands is to be found politically in a separate and independent labour party, and economically in the industrial union.” He then set about organizing a union. He stood on his soap box during lunch hour in power-houses and shops all over the city.

Quill recalled: “We were no experts in the field of labor organization, but we had something in common with our fellow workers; we were all poor, we were all overworked, we were all victims of the 84 hour week. In fact, we were all so low down on the economic and social ladder that we had nowhere to go but up.”

Quill and some of his fellow Irish immigrants became involved in Irish Worker’s Clubs that were established by James Gralton, and were affiliated with the American Communist Party. Gralton’s political views got him deported from Ireland in 1933 as an “undesirable alien”; even though he was born in Co. Leitrim because of pressure from the Catholic Church. This made him the only Irishman ever to be deported by the Irish government.

Quill didn’t find much difference in the attitude of Irish-American Organisations that were Catholic church-based. Quill recalled: “We went to the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, but they would have nothing to do with the idea of organizing Irishmen into a legitimate union. We went to the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and they threw us out of their meeting hall. They wanted no part of Irish rebels or Irish rabble. That was the reception we got from those conservative descendants of Ireland’s revolutionists of a hundred years ago.”

Making no bones or apologies, he said “I worked with the Communists. In 1933 I would have made a pact with the Devil himself if he could have given us the money, the mimeograph machines and the manpower to launch the Transport Workers Union. The Communist Party needed me, and I needed them. I knew what the transit workers needed. The men craved dignity, longed to be treated like human beings. The time had come to get off our knees and fight back.”

FOUNDING A TRADE UNION

          On 12 April 1934, Quill, along with six other Irishmen including Thomas H. O’Shea and Austin Hogan from Co. Cork, and Gerald O’Reilly from Co. Meath formed the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU). All seven including Quill were members of Clan na Gael, an Irish Republican organisation that succeeded the Fenian Brotherhood as the American branch of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB). They were said to have initially applied the rules and practices of secrecy from that tradition. Quill was to remain a silent financial supporter of the Republican cause in Ireland his whole life.

Like Quill, they were all influenced by Connolly’s ideas and writings; in particular, Connolly’s 1910 pamphlet “The Axe To The Root” where he wrote specifically about a recent 1910 transit workers strike in New York that had failed, known as the New York Express Strike.

Connolly wrote: “It was not the scabs (strikebreakers, replacements) however, who turned the scale against the strikers in favour of the masters. That service to capital was performed by good union men with union cards in their pockets. These men were the engineers in their power-houses which supplied the electric power to run their cars, and without whom all the scabs combined could not have run a single trip.”

The very name of the union was a tip of the hat to James Larkin and James Connolly’s Irish Transport & General Workers Union (ITGWU). In fact the word “Transit” is more normally used than “Transport” regarding that industry in the US. Thomas H. O’Shea was the Union’s first president, followed by Quill, who would remain president for the remainder of his life.

The Union began with a membership of 400, then eventually represented all 14,000 IRT workers. An African-American porter named Clarence King was elected to the first TWU executive board. In 1937 there was a sit-down strike on the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit (BMT); the second-largest Transit company in New York. Two BMT employees at the Kent Avenue Brooklyn station were fired for union activity. The 500 members of TWU in the company secured their re-instatement. It eventually represented all BMT employees as well.

Quill began to involve himself in city politics and was elected to the New York City Council in 1937 representing the American Labor Party. His whole career people loved or hated him, with no middle ground. He returned to Ireland to marry Mollie on 26 December 1937. They would return to New York to live, where she bore a son; John Daniel Quill, named after Michael’s father. Theirs proved to be an unhappy marriage of convenience. Quill filled this void first with drink, later with extramarital romance.

While in Ireland, he met with Michael O’Riordan from Co. Cork, who was headed to Spain to fight for the Spanish Republic in that country’s Civil War; which side Quill supported. Michael Lehane, the child of a neighbor from Kilgarvan, also went to Spain to fight fascism.

AGAINST ANTI-SEMITISM

          In 1939, he organized a rally against anti-semitism in a heavily Irish neighborhood in The South Bronx attended by four thousand. This was in response to Father Charles Coughlin’s anti-semitic campaign preaching to New York’s Irish. Fr. Coughlin was born in Canada of Irish parents, but moved to the US. He began radio broadcasting in 1926 in response to a Ku Klux Klan anti-catholic attack on his church in Michigan, but moved into political commentary and also moved far to the political right. Fr. Coughlin’s sympathies to the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini got him removed from the air later in 1939.

Having little use for the church, this is how Quill summed up his personal philosophy: “I believe in the Corporal Works Of Mercy, the Ten Commandments, the American Declaration Of Independence and James Connolly’s outline of a socialist society. Most of my life I’ve been called a lunatic because I believe that I am my brother’s keeper. I organise poor and exploited workers, I fight for the civil rights of minorities, and I believe in peace. It appears to have become old-fashioned to make social commitments; to want a world free of war, poverty and disease. This is my religion.”

TESTIFYING AT MC CARTHY HEARINGS

          In April of 1940, former TWU President and founder Thomas O’Shea; who had been earlier been ousted from the union testified against his former fellow union leaders including Quill. He alleged that the union was in complete control of the communist party and their goal was to promote revolution through strikes. Quill testified in the US House Of Representatives before the House Committee on Un-American Activities and denied these allegations, calling O’Shea a “stool pigeon.” He told Chairman Martin Dies: “You are afraid to hear the truth about our union. You can’t take it, but the American labour movement will live.”

Also in 1940, the city purchased the BMT and IRT. This put Quill in the path of every New York mayor from then on, beginning with Italian-American Republican Fiorello LaGuardia. Years ahead of his time, in 1944, Quill introduced a bill in the City Council to establish free childcare centers for working mothers. Also in 1944, he ended a TWU wildcat (unauthorised) strike in Philadelphia initiated by a racist reaction to a contract that secured promotions to conductor for eight black porters.

After World War II and the Holocaust, Quill said “We licked the race haters in Europe, but the millions of Jewish dead cannot be restored to life”. He was re-elected to the City Council also in 1945. His election campaign manager was Shirley Ukin, a fiery former communist born in Brooklyn Of Russian-Jewish parents with whom he began a longtime affair. She had worked with him in TWU from the beginning. In the late 40’s the union expanded to include airline workers, utility workers and railroad workers.

Also after the war, under pressure from the government on communists in the labor movement but mostly his own dissatisfaction and mistrust caused him to purge the communists out of the Union. In 1948 he secured a large increase for subway workers from Democratic Mayor William O’Dwyer, a native of Bohola, Co. Mayo.

In the 50’s he supported the candidacy of Democrat Robert F. Wagner for mayor. Wagner’s German-born father, a US Senator for New York (Democrat 1927-1949) had authored the Wagner Act Of 1935 that created the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which protected workers’ rights to organise and strike.

Quill’s past relationship with the communist party continued to be criticised. He was nicknamed “Red Mike”. Wagner was elected to three terms and his administration was able to come to collective bargaining agreements with the TWU.

IN THE US TRADE UNION MOVEMENT AGAINST RACISM

          Mollie died August 16, 1959. In 1961 he married Shirley; his longtime girlfriend who had previously been married and divorced twice. She would later carry on his union work and write his biography. Also in 1961, Quill received a letter from twenty-five TWU members in Tennessee protesting the Union’s support for Civil Rights and de-segregation. He responded by inviting a prominent black Civil Rights leader to address the Union Convention, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whom he admired.

He introduced Dr. King as “The man who is entrusted with the banner of American liberty that was taken from Lincoln when he was shot 95 years ago.” This was indeed high praise as the only two pictures in Quill’s office were of President Abraham Lincoln and James Connolly. The two became friends. As far back as 1938, Quill made a statement much like Dr. King’s famous speeches: “If we, black and white, Catholic and non-Catholic, Jew and gentile, are good enough to slave and sweat together, then we are good enough to unite and fight together”.

In November 1965, John Lindsay was elected Mayor. The aristocratic Protestant Republican whose name he intentionally mispronounced as “Linsley” immediately rubbed Quill the wrong way. Quill quipped: “we explored his mind (Lindsay) yesterday and found nothing there.” This was amid the union negotiating a raise for its members due to inflation caused by the War in Vietnam, of which Quill was typically an early critic.

STRIKE!

          The TWU had always threatened a strike that could cripple the city of New York, the largest in the US; a city of 8 million where many people’s commutes involve travel across rivers. Manhattan, the center of commerce is an island. Quill knew and stated that this was from where came the union’s power. Quill had seen many Mayors come and go and such a situation had always been averted.

Before he took office, Lindsay felt empowered and entitled to “call their bluff”. He felt such a strike was illegal as it would endanger public safety as transportation is a public utility. He also seemed to feel the union was incapable of pulling it off as history had shown. Irish-American newspaper journalist Jimmy Breslin observed: “[Lindsay] was talking down to old Mike Quill, and when Mike Quill looked up at John Lindsay he saw the Church of England. Within an hour, we had one hell of a transit strike.”

Lindsay was sworn in on 1 January 1966. The same day, 33,000 members of the TWU announced a strike and 2,000 members of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) also joined them. This demonstrated James Connolly’s lesson from “Axe To The Root” put into action.

(Photo source: Internet)

A legal injunction was issued to stop the strike along with an order for the arrest of Quill and eight others: Matthew Guinan, Frank Sheehan, Daniel Gilmartin, Ellis Van Riper, and Mark Kavanagh of the TWU and John Rowland, William Mangus, and Frank Kleess of the ATU) effective at 1am January 4th.

Quill tore up the injunction and famously said in his thick Kerry accent: “The judge can drop dead in his black robes. I don’t care if I rot in jail. I will not call off the strike.” Only two hours after being imprisoned; Quill who was sixty years old and had health issues with his heart, suffered a heart attack and was sent to Bellevue Hospital. He had ignored all medical advice from his doctors and the strain of the battle was taking its toll. Ironically, he had to wait two hours for an ambulance because the strike had indeed brought the city to a grinding halt.

Right-wing newspaper Daily News headline and photo showing Mike Quill tearing up a court order.
(Photo source: Internet)

 

15,000 workers picketed City Hall on 10 January. The strike ended on 13 January with a huge victory. The TWU had secured the workers a package worth $60 million. Hourly wages rose from $3.18 to $4.14 per hour. Quill seemed to be on the mend and was released from the hospital on 25 January. Quill died in his sleep of congestive heart failure on 28 January. Like ancient Irish High King Brian Boru, he had won his greatest victory at the cost of his own life. His coffin was draped in the Irish

Pickets during the January 1961 strike of the TWU.
(Photo source: Internet)

tricolour.

Scene from TWU strike Jan 1966.
Pickets during the January 1961 strike of the TWU.
(Photo source: Internet)

Pickets during the January 1966 strike of the TWU.
(Photo source: Internet)

Upon his death, the TWU Express newspaper reported: “Mike Quill did not hesitate or equivocate. He died as he lived fighting the good fight for the TWU and its members.” His friend Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said of him: “Mike Quill was a fighter for decent things all his life: Irish independence, labor organization, and racial equality. He spent his life ripping the chains of bondage off his fellow man. When the totality of a man’s life is consumed with enriching the lives of others, this is a man the ages will remember. This is a man who has passed on but who has not died.”

Aerial view of Michael J Quill cultural & sports centre in East Durham, NY, USA.
(Photo source: Internet)

In 1987, The Michael J. Quill Cultural & Sports Centre was opened in the predominantly Irish-American hamlet of East Durham, NY featuring an authentic Irish cottage and the largest scale map of Ireland in the world. There is also a Michael J. Quill centre in Kilgarvan, Co. Kerry. In 1999, the MTA named the West Side bus garage the Michael J. Quill Depot. The TWU today has a diverse membership of over 100,000.

Kevin Rooney©️

*Originally posted by K. Rooney September 23, 2018

POSTSCRIPT

by Diarmuid Breatnach

In 1964 the TWU offered the Irish Government to carefully remove Nelson’s Column in O’Connell Street.  Quill wrote that the scale of the statue and its location would give the impression to visitors that the Irish looked up to Nelson and that it meant to them what the Statue of Liberty meant to US citizens.  The TWU volunteered to pay for its removal and its replacement with a more appropriate one among which they included Pearse, Connolly or Larkin.

A British soldier stands guard over the shell of the GPO after the 1916 Rising behind him. Nelson’s Pillar is to the right of the photo. In 1966 a Republican explosion left only the stump, later removed by the State.
(Photo source: Dublin Libraries)

The Irish Government passed the letter to Dublin Corporation (now DCC) who claimed that since the column was managed by a Trust, the Corporation had no power to remove it.

Two years later, the 50th anniversary year of the Easter Rising, a ‘dissident’ group of the IRA, Saor Éire, took matters into their own hands and demolished the structure, commonly known as Nelson’t Pillar.

End.

Plaque on the Manhattan depot named in honour of Michael J. Quill.
Pickets during the January 1961 strike of the TWU.
(Photo source: Internet)

 

 

FURTHER READING

 

 

 

 

Red Mike Quill and Nelson’s Pillar.

A COWARD’S CURSE

A poem by Scarecrow.

“No need for a blood sacrifice”, I hear you say…

“Unnecessary violence. Dead innocent children of

a badly thought-out revolution.

Home rule was on the way.” Really?

Defeated three times by those who made the promises …

What trust you must have in our oppressor!

An Englishman’s empty hollow word, and his deeds … full,

Dublin’s main street, then Sackville, now O’Connell, showing British artillery and fire damage 1916.
(Image sourced: Internet)

Ripe with Irish blood and you trust them.

As still, to-day, our North, a thousand years, lies wrapped in chains.

 

You, in your suit — and your middle class condescending education.

may sound profound in your leafy suburban period home:

Well fed, well watered, well waxed and shod.

 

You dare to preach: “No mandate”. For a revolution?

Plauseless re-writing of history

To suit an establishment bent on bending

To the power that was, and still does.

When did power ever concede willingly?

When did power ever concede to power?

When did power ever concede without blood?

Never, is the answer.

 

Yet pundits heap plaudits upon our enemy.

Praise at every turn. Entertain us with lies. Re-write history.

Ensure the next generations forget, and fall into

a slumber of cheap aristocratic swaddling.

Devoid of meaning, soothing unsettled questioning minds.

Endless obfuscation with mirrors and smoke to thwart newcomers

to this one truly remarkable moment of Irish life.

It was “doomed to fail”…. Did I hear you right?

So, don’t even try? Sit and wait, for the greediest hand

To throw crumbs at you? Give up, let the rot eat

Deeper into the psyche, burn into the soul.

 

Easy …. condemning, from your comfort, fools for company ….

Sweeping, arrogant, baseless statements …

by fat, lazy, unburdened donkeys …

Always the carrot, never the stick … and preach.

Fat, and warm, surrounded with servant-jesters,

Condemn those who have provided the foundation to build this new Nation.

From which you stand today and look, mealy-mouthed … across the water.

at the old empire for guidance on how to think.

 

Inhabitants of Dublin tenement house
(Image sourced: Internet)

Not a word from you about starvation. The death toll.

The mortality rate. The worst poverty on all this planet,

in this falling squalid Empire you speak of so lovingly.

Never the smell of fetid flesh, falling, rotting and falling

from living children even before they die … for want of a piece

of bread, from your mouth.

The squalid rancid overcrowding in crumbling Dublin.

As the poorest and lowest, coughing themselves to death.

100 souls in a single house, a toilet, a tap, no furniture, sleep on the floor.

Enough straw for only a cat …. in England’s ‘Second City’…

is four-star accommodation, by your records.

 

Festering dysentery, cholera, typhus and tuberculosis, every dying breath laboured.

The endless hungry crying of little children…the eternal ‘slumber song’ of the slum.

… And worse again, how horrible that sound, in the silence …. when even they give up…

 

”It’s safer in Flanders Fields, than in Dublin’s slums”

was your recruitment cry …

Where the strongest Irishmen bartered themselves to

serve their enemy, for a meal, and committed murder for the Crown.

Won your war for you….Won all your bloody wars for you…

Cost them their souls,

their dignity, sanity, their families, their heritage… Hunger, hunger, hunger…

Died in thousands .. Two of every Three Irishmen, in the English Army …

No condemnation from you for the sea of Irish blood spilt by the Crown?

For the Crown?

Soldiers of British Army, WW1, blinded by gas.
(Colour-enhanced image sourced: Internet)

 

“No need for blood sacrifice”?

What fool today preaches such compliance,

Washing centuries of Irish blood from England’s hands?

Blood: Imperial currency.

What ignorance today speaks such nonsense?

Those who condemn the oppressed. And exaltation for the oppressor?

The agitator, dictator, the sadist, savage, the sick cruel impostor.

Clothed in Ermine and Fur … Dripping in stolen gold and poached Diamonds.

Ignore the strains of ‘Our nearest neighbour’ to

strip all wealth, dignity, labour, song, dreams and aspiration,

from every beating Irish heart, no matter the cost, no matter the pain,

no matter the suffering. Empty the fields. Steal the food from the mouth

Of a hungry nation. Watch as millions starve, while you

… dine on our bounty.

 

It’s easy, stand back and act like you slew a giant —

when that giant is already dead

which took an empire to bring down.

 

What callous fool will today condemn those who sought to better their lot:

to stand tall, bear arms against their barbaric persecutors.?

To bring an end to their own subjugation and slavery.

End their tormentor’s grip. Their torturer’s whip.

End the deliberate impoverishment of their own lives ..

What fool would dare condemn any man or woman this right?

What person would judge guilty, this father, mother son or daughter …

who sought a better life for all, at the risk of losing his own?

 

I’ll tell you:

A coward.

The kind of man who licks the boot that kicks him.

Kisses the foot on his neck.

A man with no blood in his veins, or heart beating in his chest.

A man who thinks that power comes from the Throne and not his own people.

A man who would sacrifice all for a clap on the back from a gloved hand.

Or kiss, on bended knee, a stolen ring.

A compromised man, a weak crawling man.

A man without empathy for his own people.

A man who would see his own suffer, if he would gain

just a little affection from his oppressor ….

A traitor.

 

Scarecrow May/2016.

U.S. VETERANS STILL FIGHTING – BUT NOW AGAINST THE MACHINE

Clive Sulish

DUBLIN AUDIENCE AT AFRI PUBLIC MEETING CHARMED AND INSPIRED BY FORMER MEMBERS OF USA ARMED FORCES WHO ARE ON TRIAL FOR BREACH OF SHANNON AIRPORT SECURITY ZONE.

Veterans for Peace Members Ken Mayers and Tarak Kauff, US-based anti-war campaigners, last Wednesday evening clearly impressed members of a Dublin audience by their dedication. Both men are awaiting trial in Ireland for exposing U.S. war crimes and the violation of Irish neutrality at Shannon Airport and are at liberty only within the jurisdiction of the Irish State on a combined bail of €5,000.

          The bail was paid by anti-war campaigner Ed Horgan, a former army commandant and UN peace keeper and the sum is twice the amount of criminal damage they are accused of having caused to the airport’s perimeter fence, as well as unlawfully trespassing into a taxiway. They did so in order to inspect a US plane to ensure it was not carrying war material or personnel, in violation of Ireland’s Constitutional neutrality. Campaigners have long demanded that the Irish State itself carry out these inspections but despite evidence that the State’s neutrality is indeed being violated by US Planes landing at Shannon, successive Irish governments have insisted in taking USA Government denials on trust.

oznor
Tarak Kauff addressing the audience at the public meeting organised by Afri.

The public meeting was opened by Joe Murray, Coordinator of Afri and Emer Lynam, newly-elected Vice-Chairperson of Afri Ireland, introduced the speakers.

The elderly campaigners, in their “Veterans for Peace” sweatshirts, addressed the audience about the reasons for their actions and their commitment to opposing US militarism which they stated was a major cause of misery around the world, including to serving members of the military themselves (quoting a figure of 22 suicides per day), along with being a major cause of world pollution. Ken Mayers explained that the USA has 800 military bases around the world in addition to its 400 on its own territory, the infrastructure, fuel expenditure and waste of the total which he stated is a major cause of pollution. (This is presumably without even taking into account the use of nuclear-generated power and disposal of radioactive material, or depleted uranium projectiles, such as used in Iraq or the Agent Orange defoliant used in the Vietnam War.)

Both men belong to an organisation called Veterans for Peace which campaigns against the US militarisation of the economy, war, interference in the affairs of other states and for better treatment of veterans. Recently they also supported a campaign against concentration camps for migrants along the US-Mexico border.

13 DAYS IN JAIL THEN BAIL ON CONDITION THEY DON’T APPROACH ANY AIRPORTS

          Ken Mayers, 82 years of age and Tarak Kauff 77, spent 13 days on remand in Limerick jail, where their toilet did not flush unless they poured buckets of water into it. Other than that, they said they were treated well and the other prisoners treated them “like celebrities”.

The reason for their bail being refused during that period was Garda objections that they would flee the jurisdiction. Tarak Kauff exposed the illogicality of this fear to the Dublin audience, explaining that they had taken their action at Shannon knowing that they would be arrested and wanting to use the trial to expose what was going on at Shannon airport: “For us not to attend that trial, they would have to physically drag us away from there!”

ken-mayer-standing-speaking.jpg
Ken Mayer of US Veterans for Peace, addressing the public meeting

They were eventually granted bail on condition they remain within the Irish state and having to surrender their passports, due to Garda objections again that they might flee, also not to approach any airports. On July 10th the High Court turned down their appeal against these conditions, though the judge said that he might review that decision if the case were to be moved to the Dublin District Court, where the waiting list was much longer. The defendants and their solicitor, Michael Finucane, will be seeking to have the case heard outside Clare, where it is believed a fair trial relating to a Shannon protest is unlikely. A trial date is expected in September or October.

oznor

THEY POSTPONED MY HONEYMOON”

          Ed Horgan took the floor after Mayers and Kauff to speak about the one million total of children killed in the Middle East as a result of war and sanctions and urged action to prevent further loss of children’s lives.

Then Emer Lynam opened the meeting to questions.

In reply to questions from the audience about the cost to themselves, Ken Mayers revealed he was due to be on his honeymoon by now with his bride.

Ken Mayers was born in New York City and grew up on Long Island. From Princeton University he entered the US military as a Second Lieutenant in the US Marine Corps, rising to Major until he left the organisation in 1966 in disgust with US foreign policy. In Berkeley University, California he gained a PhD in political science where, according to the AFRI event page, he became a peace and justice activist, which he has been ever since and six years on the Veterans For Peace (USA) Board of Directors, five of them as national treasurer.

Tarak Kauff, ex-military too and also from New York, said that he missed his wife and daughter but both were supportive of what he was doing, being activists also (see short letter from his wife in Links and References). According to Afri’s FB page, he’s a former U.S. Army paratrooper (1959 – 1962), a member of Veterans For Peace, the managing editor of VFP’s quarterly newspaper Peace in Our Times and was a member of the VFP National Board of Directors for six years. He has organized and led delegations of veterans to Okinawa; Jeju Island, South Korea; Palestine; Ferguson, Missouri; Standing Rock …. and Ireland.

Asked what kept them going, they stated the importance to act against injustice. Kauff in particular declared that “to resist is human” and that he wished to be fully human. He said that no-one could tell another what he or she could do but one only had have the courage to ask oneself that question …. and then the courage to act upon the answer.

sdr
Section of audience at the public meeting

IRISH PEOPLE JUST COME UP AND SHAKE OUR HANDS, THANK US FOR WHAT WE ARE DOING”

          Both expressed gratitude and a degree of amazement at the warmth of their welcome and appreciation by members of the Irish public. Kauff gave an instance of the Lisdoonvarna pub where the management would not accept payment for their food and drinks. “People just come up to us and shake our hands and thank us for what we’re doing,” the veteran said, “and we don’t get that in the USA.”

Donations from the public fund them and, at the moment, they live in student accommodation at Limerick University, rent free – though they will need to find alternative accommodation in September.

oznor

 

oznor
Emer Lynam, Vice-Chairperson Afri.

Asked about popular feeling in the USA, Ken Mayer explained that the US public are exposed to a systematic system of propaganda and misinformation. However their anti-war organisation is very wide with many members and that there were optimistic signs with popular protest about the treatment of migrants along the US-Mexican border and fuel pipeline resistance in New York State and in Standing Rock. However, a little later, Tarak Kauff said that the outlook was not promising but that not resisting was no choice — even if he knew the world was going to end next week, he would feel he had to resist in order to fulfill his human potential.

Earlier in their presentations, Kauff alluded to Ireland’s historic struggle to overthrow its powerful oppressor and called people to oppose the most powerful enemy in the world today – the US State. He said that a stance taken by the Irish Government today would have a strong progressive ripple-effect around the world.

RESISTANCE IN MUSIC AND SONG

          Music for the evening was provided by veteran campaigner John Maguire who sang a song he had composed back at the first demonstration at Shannon airport, with a chorus that the audience soon got the hang of and joined in.

oznor
Musical accompaniment on the evening, l-r: Paul O’Toole, Nimal Blake, RoJ (Roger Whelan).

RoJ performed a song also of his own composition, accompanied by Paul O’Toole on guitar and Nimal Blake on cajón. Later, O’Toole also sang a song of his own, about the child who lost both his arms to US imperialist ‘smart-targeted’ bombing, then going on to sing one of Dylan’s numbers. Both RoJ and O’Toole are long-time professional performers and have produced CDs of their material.

All performers were warmly applauded.

The evening was a fund-raiser and it could be seen that the collection bucket, although covered, was stuffed with notes. Ken and Tarak also have a Fund Me appeal and Afri is also receiving some donations for them through the Internet.

End.

mde
A line up of activists, military veterans and musicians

LINKS AND REFERENCES:

Event notification by Afri: https://www.facebook.com/events/344492786248155/

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/surprisingly-humane-elderly-us-veterans-arrested-at-shannon-describe-their-prison-stay-1.3843401

http://www.stopthesewars.org/kenandtarak/

Letter to the Broadsheet by Ellen Davidson, wife of Tarak Kauff: https://www.broadsheet.ie/2019/04/03/story-of-why/

Summary of events and explanation by Ken Mayers: http://claredaly.ie/us-veterans-for-peace-forced-to-remain-in-ireland-pending-trial/

US Veterans for Peace: https://www.veteransforpeace.org/

Suicides in US Military: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_military_veteran_suicide

mde
The huge banner “US War Machine Out of Shannon” (sadly, out of focus)

SOLIDARITY RALLIES – REFUGEES, ASYLUM SEEKERS AND THE SUDANESE

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Less than 5 minutes reading time)

A number of solidarity demonstrations took place in Dublin City centre last week.

On the evening of 20th June, officially World Refugee Day, a rally calling for the closure of the Direct Provision Centres and to Stop Deportations was held outside the Dáil (Irish Parliament). A number of speakers, some of them refugees and asylum seekers, addressed the crowd. However, the amplification was so weak that only those very near them could hear what they said.

Demonstrators against the Direct Provision system and against deportations outside the Irish Parliament, the Dáil.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Explanatory text from the organisers: “Despite the number of displaced people increasing year-on-year, the amount of people permitted to seek asylum in Europe has fallen by 10% since 2017. Thousands are forced to climb razor wire fences and entrust their lives to people smugglers as governments continue to close their doors. Accounts of overcrowded camps, lack of sanitation, and torture at the hands of police and militia groups from those who do manage to enter are growing more frequent.

In Ireland, asylum seekers are forced to wait for years in privatised, isolated centres as the Department of Justice & Equality comes up with reasons to reject and deport them, where they are treated as cargo to be shipped ‘back to where they came from’.

Section of the crowd supporting the rally outside the Dáil, the Irish Parliament.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)


Mobilisation against direct provision — introduced as a ‘temporary solution’ in 2000 — has increased in recent years yet significant moves by our representatives to abolish it remain to be seen. Our newly elected MEPs similarly show little interest in confronting the EU’s dehumanising regulations.

Join us as we demand action. For an end to direct provision and deportations. For freedom of movement for all and an end to Fortress Europe.”

Another section of the crowd supporting the rally against the Direct Provision centres and against deportations, under a heavy rain shower.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Though a number of supporting organisations were listed — STUDENTS AGAINST DIRECT PROVISION, MOVEMENT OF ASYLUM SEEKERS IN IRELAND, MIGRANTS AND ETHNIC MINORITIES FOR REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE, REFUGEE AND MIGRANT SOLIDARITY IRELAND, SAY NO TO DIRECT PROVISION IN IRELAND, UNION OF STUDENTS IN IRELAND it seemed as though the core organisers were from the People Before Profit organisation.

The supporters were subjected to a number of very heavy rain showers but most remained until the scheduled end of the event.

On Saturday afternoon, 22nd June, a rally in support of the Sudanese people was held on the central pedestrian reservation in O’Connell Street, Dublin city’s main street. They too were addressed by a number of speakers but it was not always possible to hear who they were or all that they had to say.

View of section of the crowd at the Sudanes solidarity rally in O’Connell Street.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

According to aid NGO, Concer, “Over 46.5% of the Republic of Sudan’s population is living below the poverty line and 5.5 million are in need of humanitarian assistance.” A war has been raging there since 2013 in which an estimated 400,000 people are estimated to have died.

According to Wikipedia: “More than 4 million people have been displaced, with about 1.8 million internally displaced and about 2.5 million having fled to neighboring countries, especially Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda. This makes it the world’s third-largest refugee population after Syria and Afghanistan. About 86% of the refugees are women and children.”

A view of another section of the Sudanese solidarity rally (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The core organisers of this event seemed to be a youth group of the Socialist Party although it also appeared that the Sudanese community had organised to support it through their own networks.

end.

 

One of the speakers at the Sudanese solidarity event (Photo: D.Breatnach)

A WALK THROUGH DESTRUCTION AND HOPE – Aleppo, Syria

Diarmuid Breatnach

On Saturday 8th June, The Starry Plough Historical Society put on a remarkable event: an exhibition of photos from Aleppo with a real-time audio explanation of each by the photographer, community worker Antoine Makdis, speaking from Aleppo itself.  Please note all but one of the images are photos taken by me of those being shown on the screen, hence the poor quality of the image but it is Antoine’s story of each that is of  most importance.

Audience and presenter in Ireland in contact with Antoine Makdis in Aleppo. (Photo: D.Breatnach

          Aleppo is a many-centuries-old city in the north of Syria which for five years was fought over in the war between Jihadists and the Syrian national army. Antoine Makdis is a Syrian community worker who also takes documentary photographs. The city was once the principal one in the region, being on the midway spot on Silk Road for caravans, between Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean but the development of the Suez Canal reduced its trade importance hugely. There was also political rivalry between Aleppo-based interests and those in Damascus, as to whether to gravitate towards allegiance with Iraq or with Egypt.

However, the city has nevertheless been famed for its antiquity and its ancient buildings, as well as for its edible produce and cuisine. Sadly, the city was riven by war between 2012 and 20161, suffering huge destruction to its ancient buildings and communal spaces and with high loss of life too.  

This man was looking for where the remains of his shop were in the souq.

Aleppo won  the “Islamic City of Culture” title in 2006.  Its western suburbs contain “the Dead Cities” with remains of many cultures which have Unesco World Heritage status since 2011 under the title “Ancient Villages of Syria”.  The city has the largest covered market-souq in the world and ancient buildings of worship, not only for Moslems but also for Christians and Jews.

This man and his mother took the long way home from their shopping. When Antoine asked them why, they replied that they “are walking their memories” through the souq.

Shopkeepers selling their products at a higher price early in the day and dropping as time goes on, then sometimes giving away free at the end of day.

For the first time, fish being sold again. This fishmonger is famous in Aleppo now.

His shop was destroyed but instead of giving up, he runs a stall in front of the ruins.

Wikepedia: “Aleppo lies about 120 km (75 miles) inland from the Mediterranean Sea on a plateau 280 m (1,250 ft) above sea level, 45 km (28 miles) east of the Syrian-Turkish border checkpoint of Bab al-Hawa. The city is surrounded by farmlands to the north and west, widely cultivated with olive and pistachio trees. To the east, Aleppo approaches the dry areas of the Syrian Desert.”

Before the recent war in Syria the population of the city was 4.6 million, making it the most populous city in Syria but it is probably so no longer. According to some sources it is one of the cities in longest continuous human occupation, possibly since 6th millennium BC.

If I recall correctly, this is what remains of the popular children’s toy shop in the city.

This is what remains of a popular square which had a tree and many couples met here first.

Fans of a British soccer team. “What did you do during the war?” Antoine asked them.
“We played football.”

DOCUMENTING THE EFFECTS OF WAR AND BEGINNINGS OF RECOVERY

          After the fighting in the city ceased, Antoine walked around taking photos, documenting not only terrible damage but the efforts of people to recover and the voluntary work done by some people to help people recover the city.

The Dublin event was organised by the Starry Plough Historical Society. A screen displayed the photographs while a presenter conversed with Antoine Makdis on a link-up and the latter talked about each photo, why he took it and what it meant to him.

I think this is a photo of school being reopened. Many of us, like Antoine, were reluctant attenders at school but these kids really look forward to it after the war.

This one also of kids going to school these days, I think.

“I wanted to show the world my beloved city Aleppo, through my eyes”, the photographer wrote in an introduction published on the event page. “This city that suffered a lot from the war and at the same time is cleaning the dust of battles from it’s magical robe to rise again as the oldest and most beautiful city in the world. That year, Aleppo started to recover after the unification of the parts of the city. And I started to publish these pictures on facebook, writing sometimes stories about the photos and most of the times keeping the picture taken unaccompanied by words.”

The event promotion on FB posted that it would be “… non-political, free to attend and open to all (respectful behavior to others is mandatory however).” At the time I questioned how anything could be non-political, to say nothing of photos taken in what was a war zone fought over definite political objectives. I do think I was correct in doubting that possibility and, at times, it was clear that Antoine was grateful for the Syrian National Army for ridding his city of the jihadists and that is entirely understandable.

Sadly, as the last photo was being discussed, I had to leave to attend another event and so was unable to participate in discussion with the photographer, or to thank and congratulate him for his work and what seemed to me a deep humanity underlying it.

Workers are hired to clear the rubble but funds to pay them only stretch to half a day. This worker does a full day, half for free, to help bring the city back to life.

This man voluntarily cleans houses left filthy by the jihadists so that people can move back in, Antoine told us.  Behind him, a building has collapsed spectacularly resembling geological strata pushed up at one end by tectonic plates movement.

 

This kid called his donkey by his brother’s name. He goes around collecting and delivering items and gives a lift to anyone who wants it.

ALEPPO WAR BACKGROUND

          The uprising against Assad may have had genuine democratic or socialist component and it would not be surprising, given the history of the Syrian State, if they were suppressed with unreasonable force.

This woman, Antoine told us, lost her husband and had 12 children to care for. The street she had to go on to get food for the children was overlooked by snipers in combat each end of the street but she went each day. A hero.

In Aleppo, there had been a demonstration against Assad in August 2011, some months after they had occurred elsewhere in Syria. Syrian State forces had suppressed that demonstration with the loss of two lives. Two months later, there was a large pro-regime demonstration.

The jihadists began to attack Government forces and others with bombs the following year. In February two suicide car bombs hit security compounds, killing four civilians, 13 Army, 11 Police and injuring 235. Another bomb in March 2012 killed two police and one civilian and injured 30 residents of the area. In July the “Free Syrian Army” besieged the city and penetrated into a section so that the war was then fought house to house until it stabilised into war between the section held by the FSA and the other, held by the Syrian National Army, separated by a no-man’s land.

The FSA were by this time undoubtedly mostly jihadists, i.e followers of the call of “jihad” or religious war. Jihadists are operating in various parts of the world and have undoubtedly been funded by Western Powers, chiefly the USA, along with in many cases sections of the Saudi Arabian royal ruling class.

I am unsure whether this is the old dangerous or the new safer Aleppo road. The old one was often ambushed by the FSA and severed heads were sometimes left along it. Antoine lost two former school mates on that road.

One of the many such sights on the old road.

The strategists of the USA have felt for years that it was necessary to have the rulers of a number of Middle Eastern states overthrown and replaced with regimes friendly to them.

The USA began seriously funding jihadists in Afghanistan to counter the Russian military and political presence there from the end of 1979 to early 1989 (they even sent them Rambo2!). Al Qaeda was created then by the USA, the organisation’s leadership drawing also on support from ruling circles in Saudi Arabia.

The CIA strategists developed a theory that religious zealots could be used to counter the influence of socialists and anti-imperialist democrats. Like Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, Al Qaeda later turned against it creator, the USA, of which the most spectacular incident was the hijacked airplane attacks on the Twin Towers and on the Pentagon in September 11, 2001.

“This is not a happy picture,” Antoine said. These children imagined themselves soldiers and had formed a platoon, with different ranks among them.

The monster has found a life of its own and has bred many offspring (the organisation variously known as ISIS/ ISIL/ Islamic State/ DAESH being the most notorious) and continues to be an ongoing danger to the people of the world. The various groups often fight among themselves for dominance and this was the case between ISIS in Syria and the imperialist-backed FSA.

Dr. Frankenstein has not entirely given up on his creation, believing it can be used in a controlled way from time to time wherever in the Middle East the political situation threatens the foreign interests of the USA.

End.

She wants to study to become an architect, to reconstruct her ruined home, the ancient building behind her.

The lingerie shop is back in business

Contrasting styles of women

With the water supply damaged, people had to go to water tanks supplied. Here an Armenian Christian and an Arab chat while collecting water.

With electricity supply reconnected, he can have light in his shop again.

Each day these two take walks through once-familiar districts. The one on the right is developing Alzheimer’s and his friend talks to him about what they see.

Antoine heard this child singing “Old Mac Donald” with some of the words in Arabic but he was too shy to be photographed. Cycling is the best way to get through most the rubble.

A couple, perhaps newly-returned, walk through Aleppo carrying their baby between them.

 

REFERENCES AND FURTHER INFORMATION

Aleppo: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleppo

Hosting organisation of Starry Plough Historical Society: https://www.facebook.com/AIAIreland2/?eid=ARCsOcnqMgynuedzFgI4HifYpeJQu8cLd7JbEn9W4z3FFaWcVisIQg2vPOEaFUNNYDWMYKHs88Y0kKTs

FOOTNOTES

1Known as The Battle for Aleppo

2In the film Rambo III, the actor Sylvester Stallone plays a USA special forces fighter aiding the humble Afghanis in overthrowing the Russian occupation.