The Galway Alliance Against War marked the 7th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan yesterday, Thursday 20th November and called on the Irish government to withdraw Irish troops from this occupied country. Ireland’s involvement in this conflict does not stop at Shannon airport. Irish officers are presently working alongside NATO forces in Kabul and some of those soldiers are known to come from Galway’s Liam Mellows barracks.


Irish officers with experience of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) from their time in Lebanon are involved in assisting NATO. Specifically their task is to try and prove a link between these Taliban weapons and Hizbullah and Iran, so as to give the US a “reason” to bomb Tehran.


Tom Clonan writing in the Irish Times in October had a more benign take on Irish involvement in Afghanistan, but he also stated that a senior Irish officer is currently deployed in “counter-propaganda operations” there - an equally sinister development and one that Mr Clonan did not elaborate on. One wonders was Irish involvement in this illegal occupation of Afghanistan ever discussed in the Dail?


GAAW came into existence to oppose this specific war. A war waged by the most powerful country in the world against one of the poorest and underdeveloped. In the past 29 years, Afghanistan has been a victim of the superpowers - first, the senseless and brutal Soviet invasion in December 1979 and then the US invasion in 2001. The war waged by Washington will fail just like Moscow’s adventure. But it is the Afghani people who will suffer most. It is not war the Afghans need but help - a third of the children suffer malnutrition, life expectancy is only 44 years and the country is one of the most underdeveloped lands in the world.


It is also 7 years this month that Galway Alliance Against War was formed. Our peace group has developed sound ties with the Irish Anti-War Movement over the years and has raised funds in solidarity with Mary Kelly, the Pitstop Ploughshares and the Raytheon 9 as well as contributing to a project in Lebanon brought to our attention by Caoimhe Butterly.


But during those 7 long years, GAAW has been waging its own struggle in Galway against the militaristic Salthill War Show. That campaign won us a lot of friends, but also a lot of enemies. Amongst the latter were the usual suspects, the rightwing politicians and the local gombeens. The Gardaí, of course, were on hand in 2006 with their pins to try and scupper our 99 Red Balloon Peace Event – in fact their intervention had the direct opposite effect, garnering our campaign even more support. In 2007, the Gardaí had a low profile, even though they banned our balloon event. But at one of GAAW’s peace vigils a senior Garda assaulted one of our members. But that is par for the course, as are attacks from former leftists: A former member of Militant by the name of Kevin Higgins decided to attack members of GAAW in a “poem” entitled “The Annual Salthill Air Show Protest”. As the title of Mr Higgins’ poem suggests he never believed GAAW could win its campaign against that obscenity. Alas, he was wrong! Last summer there was no War Show and only in the last week it has been confirmed there won’t be another ever again!


Anniversaries are an appropriate time to raise issues: earlier this year we held a vigil on the 6th anniversary of the Iraq war and last January GAAW had intended to have Liam Mellows don an orange suit in solidarity with those incarcerated in Guantanamo – a camp that was opened in January 2002. The local gombeens were aghast at this idea, but so too were the silly zealots of RSF. Without doubt if it had been a green suit the latter wouldn’t have been so outraged. However, the issue of Guantanamo and Ireland’s role in supporting “extraordinary rendition” was given a good airing in the local media. 


So yesterday’s marking of the Afghan war was also used by GAAW to mark the 7th anniversary of our peace campaigning, but we don’t view it as a happy occasion. However, there were balloons, black ones.