Wednesday 26 October 2016

Tackling the tyrants who create the refugee crisis

Published 06/09/2015 | 02:30

Illustration by Jim Cogan
Illustration by Jim Cogan

Last week some political commentators took a 'let's be realistic' stance against economic migrants - whom they did not distinguish from political refugees.

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They then struck brave poses, claiming their stand was not popular. In fact it was exactly what Insular Ireland wanted to hear.

Insular Ireland - we don't know whether it's a majority or a minority - is always ready to read excuses for its own lack of empathy.

Insular Ireland's idea of an ideal opening line is this: "Terrible about the toddlers, but we must not let our hearts rule our heads".

Yes we must. It was heads not hearts that led to Hitler's Holocaust and Stalin's Gulags.

Pundits who pander to Insular Ireland's prejudices also play to Insular Ireland's ignorance.

They do so by conflating bona fide refugees, for whom there is much public sympathy, with picky economic migrants.

But 70pc of those who entered Europe by boat this year are not economic migrants but refugees.

They have a legal right to asylum because they are in fear of their lives from war, rape and persecution in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

The refugee crisis is not caused by economic pressure but by four armed tyrannies.

These are ISIL and Al-Qaida in Syria and Northern Iraq, the Taliban and Al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Al-Shabab in Somalia and Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria.

So if Insular Ireland, and its EU counterparts, really want to stem the stream of refugees it must tackle these four fascistic forces.

That means that the EU will eventually be forced to pressurise the UN to show more teeth in tackling tyrannies like ISIS - or show its own teeth.

When that day dawns, as it must, we will find that Insular Ireland, citing neutrality, is against the use of armed force abroad.

But Insular Ireland can't have it both ways. The river of refugees will become a flood unless the EU shows an edged sword.

Neutrality was meant to keep us out of world wars. Not wimp out of the war on warlords and criminal gangs.

We were not always so weak about taking arms against tyranny. In the 1930s, a few fearless socialists fought in the International Brigade defending Spanish democracy against fascism.

In World War Two, thousands fought Hitler in British uniforms. In 1960, we sent troops to the Belgian Congo.

Carrying out the anti-colonial line of Conor Cruise O Brien, we took on the Belgian puppet regime of Katanga.

We lost 24 soldiers in the Congo, when we had only a population of 2.8m people. The equivalent of the USA losing 2,700 troops today.

But nobody in Ireland whinged. We were proud of our soldiers who died for the right of strangers to be free. Just as we are proud of our UN service today.

The time is coming when Irish troops will again have to take up arms against fascists, to free suffering people, and end mass migration to Europe

That's what makes the recent White Paper on Defence so timely - and some of the Twitter reaction to the RTE film Recruits so worrying.

The White Paper was widely and rightly welcomed. Defence Minister Simon Coveney chose well in making John Minihan chair of the advisory panels.

But within a week of the White Paper we got Twitter tantrums about Recruits. The two chief complaints were about alleged bullying and "bad" language.

The first whinge is hardly worth dwelling on. Every army in the world uses a similar training regime.

This stress training is not meant to "break" soldiers in the psychological sense, but rather to break them of two bourgeois habits.

Individualism and arguing the toss with authority figures could be lethal in combat.

Responding reflexively to shouted orders also helps shocked soldiers to stay focused in the fog of battle.

But when battle, or simulated battle, is over, soldiers return to their bolshie selves - as we saw repeatedly on Recruits.

Critics who charged the NCOs with bullying missed one crucial point: those taking part were freely submitting to the hard training regime. They could leave at any time. We saw some of them go. So what was going on ?

The Defence Force training courses are actually a form of drama. Both NCOs and recruits use rhetorical language to produce a good play.

But while the plot's the thing, the principal actors can walk off the stage any time they wish.

Alternatively, they can write themselves a new role. Recruit Duffy from Waterford did this by bravely finishing the full course and then going home.

In sum, the training turned out both team players like Private Sally Kehoe as well as individualists like Duffy.

That is to say, it turned out thinking soldiers. But not just soldiers.

The self- discipline of submitting freely to severe training also equips men and women for demanding roles in civilian life.

Learning not to answer back is a bonus when dealing with a pesky public. So is courtesy, a can-do attitude and a mental and moral toughness of spirit.

So much for the stupid charges of bullying. Let me now turn to "bad language".

Studies have shown there are three practical benefits from swearing - apart from creating artificial stress for training purposes.

First, swearing helps people bond. Workers swearing at their bosses are building solidarity with each other.

Second, studies also show that swearing helps people to stand pain. So if you hit your thumb with a hammer swearing will help to abate the agony.

Finally, swearing is the succinct shorthand of soldiers. Paul Fussell, in his book Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War gives an enjoyable example

An airman is working on the engine of a Wellington bomber when his wrench suddenly slips.

He flings the wrench away. "F***! The f***ing f***er's f***ed." His comrades knew he had skinned his knuckles.

Let me return to refugees. We cannot celebrate 1916 and forget what one of its leaders said about our duty to the politically persecuted.

James Connolly wanted a Republic, the "mere mention of whose name would be a beacon-light to the oppressed of every land."


Last thoughts on the McCarthy Cup. My money is on Galway.

Napoleon said a battle was a door. To win, hit the weakest hinge.

Playing Tipp, Galway learned its weak hinge was not controlling Seamus Callanan. TJ Reid poses the same problem today.

So if Galway have figured out how to restrain Reid, to strengthen its weak hinge, my money was well spent.

Galway always had grit. The last five minutes against Tipperary showed granite too.

Kilkenny has always treated Galway as its top sparring partner. Today Galway can profit from that long apprenticeship.

Today it can take the cream away from the Cats.

Sunday Independent

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