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Ireland and Extraordinary Rendition

Letter to the Editor, Irish Times – published 17th June 2006

A chara, – Tom Ward (June 13th) is more than ready, as is the Irish Government, to accept without question the assurances of US Secretary of State Dr Condoleezza Rice that Shannon Airport is not being used for “extreme [sic] rendition” flights. Like the Government, Mr Ward clearly considers this to be good enough. It is not, and there are number of pertinent reasons.

Firstly, as Jim Loughran writes in the current issue of the Amnesty International quarterly, “rendition thrives on secrecy”. It would be wholly contrary to the interests of the US government, undermining the entire rendition programme, to admit the use of Shannon, whether or not it takes place. Therefore, simple verbal assurances cannot, and should not, be automatically considered reliable or sufficient, but must be examined in the context of American interests. And American military interests have been clearly served by the use of Shannon Airport, since the Vietnam War.

Secondly, we must examine the credentials of those who make such claims.

This is the same Condoleezza Rice who, as National Security Advisor, offered knowingly misleading assurances in July 2003 that Iraq was attempting to acquire uranium from Africa. It has since been shown that she was aware, when making these declarations, that they were groundless.

This is the same US government which repeatedly told the world that it knew Iraq to have WMDs (until it became clear that it knew no such thing), the same government which then changed its case for going to war, regardless that the new justification violated Iraqi sovereignty, and thus international law.

This is the same US government which has significantly narrowed its definition of torture to include only actions that threaten organ failure or death, thus exempting a plethora of practices considered torturous, and therefore illegal, by the rest of the world. Trusting unquestionably such a demonstrably untrustworthy collective is either naove or convenient.

Finally, our own Government refuses to examine US planes on the grounds that it would be (in the words of Mr Ward) “an unwarranted and hostile act” against a friendly nation. This is absolutely not the case. There may not be any proof of rendition, but there certainly is enough evidence to justify an empirical verification of Dr Rice’s promises. Were the Irish Government to institute, as security procedure in these volatile times, routine examinations of all foreign private aircraft, would it not illustrate Ireland’s commitment to global security and human rights? It need not be as a presumption of guilt.

Does the US exempt citizens of “friendly nations” from its security procedures on the grounds that it might be construed as a hostile act? Certainly not, otherwise there would be no Saudis languishing uncharged in Guantánamo Bay, nor any Australians for that matter. Why, then, should Ireland then cringe at imposing its security measures on the US? Surely a country like the United States, which prides itself on its commitment to justice and freedom, should applaud such efforts. Unless, of course, it does have something to hide.

All of which leads me to believe that the knee-jerk acceptance of Dr Rice’s assertion has little to do with trust, and more to do with an obsequious commitment, not to justice and freedom, but to self-interest. It is not that the Government believes Dr Rice to be telling the truth. It is rather that it doesn’t want to know. However, wilful ignorance does not absolve complicity. – Yours, etc,

DAMIEN MURPHY, Mountjoy Street, Dublin 7.

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