The recent letter to the Wall Street Journal entitled “Europe and America Must Stand Together” scripted the following truths: “The real bond between the United States and Europe is the values we share: democracy, individual freedom, human rights and the Rule of Law. . . . Thanks in large part to American bravery, generosity and farsightedness, Europe was set free from the . . . tyranny that devastated our continent in the 20th Century. . . . The Iraqi regime and its weapons of mass destruction represent a clear threat to world security.” The letter was signed by Spain, Britain, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Poland, and Portugal.
In lieu of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s signature, we were treated to the equivocation of Foreign Minister Brian Cowen, indicating that the Irish government might deny the use of Shannon to U.S. military aircraft should Washington proceed to war without United Nations endorsement. At the White House, on March 13, Ahern was a trove of jingoistic-sounding quotes. His statement indicating that the Irish government is prepared to allow the U.S. military continued use of Shannon was no doubt greeted with loud applause. Lost in the plaudits were the qualifying utterances of the “matter being an issue for public opinion,” and that the final decision would be made by the Dail. Essentially, Ahern’s White House punchline, far from being an announcement of a bold departure, was merely a glossed up statement of the status quo.
Cowen’s verbiage and Ahern’s feints were prompted by a political chameleon’s eye on the contrived polls, the recent peace rallies comprising the usual assortment of Yankee bashers, and the disproportionately vocal anti-Americanism of the Dublin 4 intelligentsia.
There comes a defining moment in history, when the times demand that the political charade be suspended and that elected leaders step forward and lead. Such a moment has been thrust upon us. Ahern and Cowen should emulate President Bush and Secretary of State Powell, who have chosen arduous principle over ephemeral popularity. Their example should be the political courage of Tony Blair and Jose Aznar. Their inspiration should be the fledgling democracies of Eastern and Central Europe.
Where is the taoiseach’s defining, forthright address to the Irish nation, evoking the historic blood relationship between Ireland and America, citing the essential underpinning of the economy by U.S. corporate investment, explaining the criticality of Irish American tourist dollars, recollecting how Ireland has prospered under the U.S. security umbrella and expounding on the integral Irish-American component in crucial endeavors, from the peace process to immigration relief?
Ahern needs to emphasize that the values of Western civilization do not come cost free. Sometimes war is the only resort to preserve them. That may be a difficult concept to grasp for an establishment that has spent the last 30 years revising, sanitizing and marginalizing the history of the Irish freedom struggle.
Ireland’s infatuation with the UN has always smacked of hypocrisy. While the establishment fed its chimera of moral superiority by dispatching troops to defend Congolese, Cypriots and Lebanese, 60 miles north of Dublin, Irish nationalists were living as Kafirs in an ideologically apartheid statelet. The rights of Northern nationalists were never in vogue in the sanctimonious salons of Dublin 4. Now the sophisticates are prepared to recklessly consign Iraq and the international order to an insecure, volatile future.
One of the few redeeming figures has been Fianna Fail’s Willie O’Dea. In the Dail debate on the motion demanding that the government immediately deny Shannon to U.S. military aircraft, O’Dea emphatically declared himself “unashamedly” for the U.S. He, and other rural Fianna Fail TDs, understand that anti-American sentiment is diametrically opposed to the opinion of the “plain” people of Ireland.
As for Sinn Fein, a creature of Irish-American munificence, its conduct has been perfidious. Following its alleged flirtation with FARC and its fawning liaison with Castro’s Cuba, the party’s socialist agenda is glaringly exposed.
How the coddling of FARC, Fidel or Saddam can facilitate the demilitarization of South Armagh or the defense of the Short Strand is a mystery indeed. As we picture Tony Blair standing shoulder to shoulder with the United States, it is ironic that those who enthusiastically join in the anti-American jihad are among the first to whine about the special Anglo-American relationship overshadowing the Irish-American dimension.
Meanwhile, former Fine Gael taoisigh Garret Fitzgerald and John Bruton have treated us to pompous, stultifying newspaper columns of boilerplate, cliched Eurospeak, wagging the finger at the “American Cowboy” at the behest of les enfants du Vichy.
“The U.S. has no better friend in Europe than Poland,” President Bush said recently. Would that he could say the same of Ireland? The ouster of Saddam will be followed by a major realignment of U.S. foreign policy. The warm sentiment recently expressed toward Ireland in the Oval Office will quickly evaporate, unless Ahern’s shamrock diplomacy translates into moral and tangible support. Dublin can no longer evade the question: Will it be Boston or Berlin?
As grim economic reality intrudes upon the Celtic Tiger fantasy, the Irish-American community will invariably go back to Congress. Let’s hope that accusations of Irish perfidiousness are not ringing in our ears. We know that the green xard will be going to Willie from Warsaw. Will there be one for Paddy from Ballydehob?
The opinions expressed represent those of the writer, not necessarily those of the Irish Echo.