On Irish Complicity with Imperialism and Colonialism

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According to recent news reports, the Irish government is considering sending Irish Defence Forces troops to Mali to aid in the training of the Malian military, as part of the intervention by Western powers, led by the French, in Mali’s internal conflict with Islamist militants. Despite the benevolent sounding nature of this exercise, if it indeed comes to pass, it will in fact be just the latest in a long line of collaborations that successive Irish governments have undertaken with the Western imperialist powers, to further the agenda of those powers in establishing political, economic and military dominance over the world’s poorest, yet most resource-rich, countries.

The story of the conflict in Mali, as told in the Western media, is the usual formula of the noble West intervening to help save another poor backward African nation from the evils of Islamic radicalism, and restore democracy and freedom. This fairytale would at this stage in the ‘War on Terror’ be utterly laughable if it were not for the deadly serious consequences of its acceptance by the populations of the Western countries.

The conflict in Mali is in fact, and unsurprisingly, quite a bit more complex than we are told on the news; it has its roots in the decades-old fight by the indigenous Tuareg peoples of North Africa for independence from a number of states in the region. But with the fall of Muammar Gaddafi and the destruction of the Libyan state by NATO and the West in 2011, the conflict in Mali took on a new dimension – the increasing hold of Islamic fundamentalist forces in the north of the country, sometimes allied with the Tuaregs, sometimes in conflict with them, but massively strengthened by the abundant flood of weapons throughout North Africa as a result of the instability caused by the destruction of Libya. Essentially, the ‘Islamist problem’ facing Mali and other countries in the region is largely a result of the policies of the West of arming and supporting these groups to do their dirty work; thus the argument of ‘rescuing’ Mali from the evil Muslims becomes a bit fallacious. One has only to look at the situation in Syria at the moment, where Islamic fundamentalist rebels are supported, armed, funded, trained and co-ordinated by the West and its allies to see the glaring hypocrisy of the French argument for intervention.

As for restoring democracy in Mali, it would be a fair argument to make for intervention if there was any democracy there to restore. The elected government of Mali was toppled in a military coup in 2012 led by an officer named Amadou Sanogo, who received extensive military training in various fields in the United States throughout his military career, in Georgia, Virginia and Texas. Yet, when this coup took place, there was no intervention by Western military forces to restore democracy. Other than hand-wringing, the cutting off of some development aid, and standard pronouncements on the apparently undesirable nature of military coups in Africa, the ‘international community’ did nothing. One could speculate that Sanogo is now the West’s favoured military strongman in the country, the latest in a long list of corrupt puppet rulers used to maintain the neo-colonial interest of the Western powers on the continent; even though historical parallels make this very likely, it would still only be speculation.

Thus, from a glance at the facts, we can safely conclude that the French intervention in Mali, along with the continuing Western proxy wars in Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and other countries, is simply one more step along the road of Western re-colonisation of Africa and Middle-East, to plunder their resources and ensure that up-and-coming global capitalist powers such as Russia and China do not get their foot in the door first. Africa was, is and will be a key battleground in the resource wars of the 21st century, and, as always, it is the poorest, most downtrodden people of the world who live there that will have to suffer and die for the power games of the rich countries.

So where does Ireland fit into this global chess game? Historically, Ireland has always occupied the same position as the countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Indeed, Ireland is unique in the world, as the only white, Western, European nation to feel the boot of colonialism and imperialism on its neck, and for far longer than many others. Ireland, alone of the European nations, has been the colonised, and not the coloniser, the oppressed, and not the oppressor; and this places us firmly in the camp of the other oppressed nations of the world. Ireland has more in common with Vietnam than it does with Britain, would ideally be more at home in the company of Africa, Asia and Latin American than with the butchers and exploiters of the United States, France or Germany.

Would that it were actually so. For today, Ireland, more than almost any other of the nations who share our historical experiences, has been subsumed and incorporated into the very same Western power structure that for so long ground our people into the dirt and pillaged our country. Our unique position, as a European nation, has also meant that we lie in the heart of one of the new, emerging imperialist powers, the European Union. Our joining of the EEC in 1973 was the first step on a road that few who voted for it at the time could see leading to where it is today. The various treaties of ever-increasing EU economic and military integration, the likes of the Maastricht, Nice and Lisbon treaties, have meant that the EU is more and more becoming a monolithic economic and military power in its own right, allied to the United States and a new bulwark against rising capitalist powers in the East.

The results are obvious: the participation of Irish Defence Forces troops in integrated EU military exercises and trial-runs for future wars, so-called ‘peacekeeping’ missions abroad, the participation of Irish soldiers in training local forces to defend the new US client state in Afghanistan, the current government’s knee-jerk support of the so-called rebels in Libya and now in Syria in blatant ignorance of the facts, and of course, who could forget successive Irish governments’ criminal refusal to stop the US military using Shannon airport as essentially their own airfield for their imperialist adventures in the Middle East and elsewhere? Who knows how many hundreds of thousands of US troops, how many tens of thousands of tons of weapons and equipment, how many secret CIA rendition flights, have really passed through Irish soil, willingly facilitated by Irish governments, on their way to slaughter innocent people and pillage their resources for the profit of the capitalist system? We could cite many more examples of Irish complicity in imperialist adventures, but we have neither the time nor the space.

And so, Irish troops could soon be on their way to Mali, to help train the army of a country that will invariably take on the role of another puppet state in Africa, run for the benefit of the imperialists, its resources hoovered up by foreign corporations. The Malian army, like others on the continent, will in all likelihood be used to crush any real resistance by the people of Mali to the rape of their country by the West, that will also likely come when the pro-French sentiments of the population have faded away and the truth becomes apparent. Malian forces have already been accused of atrocities in the areas they have occupied. They will also be used to mop up the nuisance elements in large part created by the West’s scheming elsewhere in the region, namely the Islamists; and Irish military personnel will play their part in training up such a force.

Perhaps the Irish government actually believes that it is doing the ‘right thing’ in sending Irish soldiers to train Western proxy forces in Africa. Perhaps they actually do believe that the benevolent West really does have the best interests of the poor African people at heart. Or, as is more likely, perhaps the Irish government, like Irish governments before them and certainly after them, have readily accepted the Irish state’s new role as a small cog in a much larger imperialist war machine, the European Union, in return for the scraps and crumbs from the capitalists’ table that keep our pathetic economy, an insignificant little tax haven for the mega-rich corporations of the US and Europe, labouring on.

In conclusion: Irish troops have no place in Mali, or anywhere else in Africa, or indeed anywhere else but in Ireland. Ireland itself, as a country, has no place in the power games of the very same imperialists that for hundreds of years have kept our country subservient, downtrodden and strangled economically, culturally and socially. Ireland’s place is not curled up under the table of the oppressors of the world, begging to be praised – it is with the oppressed peoples of the world, resisting the very imperialism and neo-colonialism that today is taking place in Mali and all across Africa and the Middle East.