International Conference Delegates Protest at US Military Use of Shannon Airport

From November 16th to 18th a historic conference was held at Liberty Hall in Dublin. It was the first International Conference Against US/NATO Military Bases, hosted by the Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA). It was attended by delegates from 35 countries who came together to debate issues relevant to their own country and to the world.

The conference was mindful of the fact that Shannon Airport, located on the other side of the country, is a de facto US military base. Close to three million US troops and their weapons have passed through the airport since 2002 on their way to and from wars in the Middle East. On Monday November 19th several of the delegates visited Shannon and staged an impromptu protest against the US military use of the airport.

The Dublin conference brought together over 300 activists who are all deeply concerned by the normalisation of war and its impact on people, the environment, and national economies. While all foreign military bases are opposed, the increasingly aggressive and expansionist actions of US/NATO forces is particularly frightening. The raging wars in the Middle East, the expansive militarization of the African continent via AFRICOM, the burgeoning arms race devastating national economies, the bellicose language replacing diplomatic negotiations, the economic crises facing country after country, and the destruction of the global environment through war and unfettered exploitation have all created crises that can lead to unimaginable catastrophe and war. The only way this can be slowed down or stopped is by popular global opposition.

The United States maintains the highest number of military bases outside its territory, estimated at almost 1000 (95% of all foreign military bases in the world). At present there are US military bases in every Persian Gulf country except Iran. These bases are centres of aggressive military actions, threats of political and economic expansion, sabotage and espionage, and crimes against local populations. They are also the largest users of fossil fuel in the world, heavily contributing to environmental degradation.

At the same time NATO is aggressively expanding further to the east to safeguard control of energy resources and pipelines, while the European Union is advancing its own militarized agenda through mechanisms like Permanent Structural Cooperation (PESCO). PESCO is part of the European Union's security and defence policy (CSDP) and is paving the way for the creation of a European army.

Speakers at the conference included Dr Aleide Guevara, Member of Cuban National Assembly; Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, Sinn Féin Defense Spokesperson; Clare Daly TD; Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize Winner; MK Aida Touma-Sliman, Peace and Solidarity Committee, Israel; Ajamu Baraka, National Coordinator, Black Alliance for Peace and 2016 Green Party candidate for vice president of the United States; Myriam Parada Avila, Executive Director, School of Peace Foundation, Colombia; and David Swanson, Director, World Beyond War; Campaign Coordinator for RootsAction.org.

In openint the conference on Saturday morning, Dr Guevara emphasises the importance of working together, particularly with the victims of social injustice. She said that the world does not need weapons; what it needs is medicines, food - and solidarity.

The devastating impact of US/NATO military bases in Okinawa, Jeju Island Korea, Cyprus, Greece, Colombia, Czech Republic, Italy, Germany and othr parts of the world was described at the conference. So too were topics like the history of colonial interference in Africa, movements for social justice in LAtin America, the oppression of the people of Palestine, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and ongoing efforts to oppose NATO ("the armed tool of imperialism"). Spcial mention was made on a number of occasions to the base that the US has illegally occupied for over a century at Guantánamo Bay. Its existence constitutes a violation of international law and the Cuban people's right to sovereignty. Since 1959 the government and people of Cuba have demanded that the government of the United States return the Guantánamo territory to Cuba. 

Shannonwatch were delighted to take part in the conference, and we look forward to continued constructive engagement with fellow activists working to close other US military bases around the world.

To see recordings of the live streaming of the conference visit the website of the Global Campaign Against US/NATO Military Bases at http://nousnatobases.org/

For photographs from the conference see www.stopthesewars.org/ellen-davidson

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