by Roger Cole, 17 July 2008
ON JUNE 9th, days before the Irish people voted to reject the Lisbon Treaty, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute published its compendium on military spending. Its main findings show that world military spending in 2007 was $1,339 billion, arms sales by the largest 100 arms companies in 2006 increased by 8 per cent in nominal terms over 2005 and many arms control and non-proliferation agreements are faltering or making little progress. The No vote by the Irish people was a major victory not just for the Irish peace movement, including Pana, the Peace and Neutrality Alliance, but also for the European and international peace movement.
The reason is that the issues of Irish independence, the militarisation of the EU and the commitment to Irish neutrality were central to the No vote.
The Irish Times /TSN mrbi polls carried out in the week before the vote where responses were unprompted and respondents were allowed to give more than one answer, showed safeguarding Irish neutrality (between 22 to 25 per cent) and keeping Ireland's power and identity ( between 18 to 24 per cent) were the main reasons for the result.
The alliance had campaigned for Irish independence, democracy and neutrality, which show that our case for a No vote was central to this great victory of the Irish people.
This is especially so as other organisations that campaigned for a No vote, such as Libertas, never mentioned neutrality and their main issue, that of safeguarding Ireland's corporate tax, was given as a reason by only 5-12 per cent. Now Nicolas Sarkozy, France's president and the current president of the European Council, is paying us a visit seven days after celebrating the anniversary of the French Revolution. Since Wolfe Tone, who wrote a pamphlet in favour of Irish neutrality in 1790 is one of our heroes, it would be reasonable to suggest the alliance and Sarkozy are inspired by the same events.
However, the revolution gave birth not just to the traditions of liberty, equality and fraternity, but also to Napoleonic imperialism. There are no prizes for guessing which tradition Sarkozy belongs to.
Indeed, in a leaked diplomatic memo, a senior Irish civil servant. concerned about Sarkozy, said that he did not want the referendum to take place while France held the EU presidency.
As he continues to attack the French social model, his popularity with the French people has declined, probably mirroring his growing popularity among the Yes campaigners in Ireland, the vast majority of whom are enthusiastic supporters of his militaristic, neo-liberal agenda.
He seeks to massively accelerate the process of the militarisation of the EU and to establish a 60,000-strong EU army; to improve the maritime and air support for this army; expand the existing EU planning cell into a full EU military headquarters, double the funds for France's military space assets up to €700 million a year and give a priority via the European War (Defence) Agency to seek the "harmonisation" of the European armaments companies and review the European security and defence policy that already commits the EU states to pre-emptive war in accordance with the Bush doctrine.
Not content with accelerating the militarisation of the EU, Sarkozy also wants to integrate France into the Nato military structures and to intensify the links between the nuclear armed military alliance and EU military structures.
All this drive towards war and more wars is happening at a time when Nato, EU and US military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are under pressure, the wars are spreading into Pakistan and yet another war is threatening to start in Iran. At the same time, the growing cost of all these wars is causing the possible collapse of the western neo-liberal capitalist system.
Faced with this, the Irish people, far from being "out of our minds" in rejecting this horrific vista, have shown to the world a rare glimpse of sanity and reality by voting No to Sarkozy and his treaty. The irony is that it is the global peace movement and the alliance that are the realists. It is our message of inclusive dialogue, negotiations and social justice that will provide the means by which global stability and sustainable growth can be restored.
It is war and the threat of war that is creating the economic crisis: "disaster capitalism" as Naomi Klein calls it. The Irish No vote was a tremendous decision that echoes the historic vote 90 years ago when the Irish people's vote in favour of the Irish Republic marked the beginning of the end of the British Empire. Far from examining why people voted No, the Irish media's time would be better spent asking why people voted Yes.
Let there be no doubt whatsoever, if the Irish people are forced to vote again over this imperialist charter, the No vote will reach 64 per cent. A real Irish taoiseach, a republican taoiseach, would tell Sarkozy that on July 21st.
Roger Cole is chairman of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance