Public Disquiet over U.S. Military Evident at Shannon

Shannonwatch activists were joined by friends and anti-war colleagues from around Ireland at the regular second-Sunday-of-the-month vigil at Shannon airport on December 12th. We were delighted to be joined also by U.S. peace activist Chuck Fager who spoke at the Quaker Meeting House in Limerick later in the evening.

The recent wikileaks releases concerning Shannon, the U.S. military and renditions have re-focused attention on the Irish government's acquiesence to the Americans in the early part of this decade. However it is important to remember that these activities are still continuing, and that military and CIA planes still use Shannon. Sunday's vigil met with a huge amount of support from passing motorists, confirming what we - and the Irish government - have known for the past decade: that Shannon and Ireland's participation in war activities does not have widespread public support.

Shannonwatch will continue to express this opposition to the militarization of Shannon despite the efforts of the Gardai to restrict peaceful protest there. Their refusal to allow any expression of anti-war or anti-torture views within the airport is in stark contrast to their willingness to provide secure, unimpeded passage for munitions and suspect CIA aircraft. It also demonstrates their uneasiness - or more probably the uneasiness of the country's political leadership - with any public debate over the military use of Shannon.

Chuck Fager who attended Sunday's vigil at Shannon is no stranger to making renditions and war a live topic of debate. Living in the U.S. state of North Carolina, which he describes as a crossroads for a lot of the rendition networks, Chuck has been Director of Quaker House in Fayetteville since 2001. Fayetteville is beside Fort Bragg, a military base that describes itself as "one of the U.S.'s most combat ready and active military installations". At his talk in the Quaker Meeting House in Limerick on Sunday night Chuck spoke in particular about one the most secretive of the many secret groups based at Fort Bragg, the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). They have been behind the so-called black sites at Bagram and elsewhere around the world where some of the worst U.S. torture practices took place.

Chuck has also been actively involved with a grassroots coalition of peace and human rights activists, religious groups, and others called North Carolina Stop Torture Now. North Carolina has been a key part of the CIA's secret off-shore torture program, and over the year North Carolina Stop Torture Now have been working to expose the truth about one CIA-linked company in particular, Aero Contractors. Aero has its headquarters in Johnston County airport, Smithfield (North Carolina).  North Carolina Stop Torture Now has been campaigning since 2005 at local, state, and federal levels for an end to the practice of extraordinary rendition to torture, and for an investigation of Aero Contractors. The company has operated CIA aircraft like N168D, which is registered to a North Carolina company called Devon Holding and Leasing Inc. The European Parliament investigation into the CIA’s terrorist rendition program confirmed that Devon is a CIA shell company.

Shannonwatch and North Carolina Stop Torture Now have worked together over the years to identify and track rendition aircraft like N168D. Both organisations have raised questions over the activities of aircraft suspected of involvement in torture and kidnapping. One of the key messages from Chuck's talk - that accountability today stops torture tomorrow - is one we share, and will continue to work towards on both sides of the Atlantic.

Shannonwatch are grateful to Chuck for sharing his experiences and insights with us during his brief visit to Limerick, and to the Quakers for hosting his talk.


Link to Quaker House, Fayetteville here.


Link to Chuck's blog here.

Link to North Carolina - Stop Torture Now here.

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