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Eamonn McCann is a founder of the1960s civil rights movement in Northern Ireland, a veteran socialist and trade unionist, and one of Ireland’s most widely read journalists. He is the author of War and an Irish Town, Bloody Sunday in Derry: What Really Happened and other books.
In 2006, as a response to Israel’s savage war on Lebanon, Eamonn and other members of the Derry Antiwar Coalition organized an occupation of a local facility of Raytheon, the U.S.-based weapons maker and world’s largest producer of guided missiles. Nine activists were arrested and charged with vandalizing the building. They are on trial now, and could face time in prison if convicted.
IN JULY 2006, members of the Derry Antiwar Coalition organized a protest, occupation and decommissioning of the local Raytheon facility there. Why did you decide to take action?
OUR MOTIVATION was to prevent war crimes. Israel’s bombardment was causing carnage and destruction in Lebanon, and we knew they were using Raytheon manufactured bombs.
We were particularly outraged by the bombing of the town of Qana. Israel dropped a bomb on one complex there, killing 28 people, the majority of them women and children, crushed and suffocated beneath the rubble.
We believed this required an immediate response. We decided to take action to disrupt, delay and hamper Raytheon’s ability, in whatever way possible, to deliver weapons of mass destruction to Israel and participate in war crimes.
AS THE number of dead and maimed in the Middle East mounts, Raytheon recently announced a further growth of revenues and profits. How do you view Raytheon’s relationship to war crimes?
RAYTHEON, LIKE all arms companies, profits from bloodshed. And after all, if there were no wars, governments would not feel the need to buy the high-tech munitions that Raytheon manufactures.
Raytheon is one of the many companies that fuels war for profit. But the Raytheon company also has a political agenda. Adam Cherill, the business manager of Raytheon, if my memory is correct, has said that the Palestinian people have no connection to the land of Palestine–that they have no culture, no society and no historical ties to the land. Now, that is not a commercial statement. That is a political statement.
The Raytheon company is closely tied to the top brass of the Pentagon. So they are complicit in everything that happens in the Middle East. In particular, they are complicit in war crimes committed through the use of Raytheon munitions.
We know that towards the end of the Israeli-Lebanon conflict in the summer of 2006, Raytheon rushed so-called bunker-buster bombs. They delivered a rush-order, of these bombs just a short time before the war ended so that Israel could continue bombing.
Israel had dropped so many bombs over southern Lebanon, south Beirut and elsewhere that they were actually running out of supplies. Raytheon rushed two Airbus transport planes from the United States to Israel in order to replenish supplies, even though, at that point, it was known that their munitions were being used to bomb civilians, to target ambulances and civilian infrastructure. So this is a company which is knowingly involved in war crimes.
THE TRIAL of the Raytheon 9 began last week in Belfast. The trial was moved from Derry, and the presiding judge imposed a media gag on all discussion of the case. Why?
THE TRIAL was moved to Belfast because the judge reckoned that there would be sympathy for the Raytheon 9 in Derry, because the defendants were well known to a wide range of people in Derry.
Now, there also could have been hostility to the defendants in Derry. I wouldn’t rule this out, because all the main parties in Derry and in the local area were all sharply condemnatory of the Raytheon 9.
But anyway, the judge transferred it to Belfast and imposed a media gag because, he said, the coverage of the case would in itself have the potential to prejudice the jury’s decisions.
This was complete nonsense. Cases trialed in Northern Ireland are regularly covered in advance of the actual trial. It was completely out of order. So it was an absolutely meaningless reason for imposing the media gag. What it did was take the issue of the Raytheon 9 and anything controversial for the Raytheon company itself out of the public arena. And it meant that the media didn’t even report on developments at the Raytheon plant, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the case.
THE RAYTHEON 9 has received tremendous support in Ireland and around the world. Among the many who have spoken out in your defense are Noam Chomsky, George Galloway, Tony Benn, Christy Moore and George Monbiot. Yet none of the local political parties or their representatives have come to your defense. This is no surprise from the right-wing parties, but Sinn Fein, especially during the 1980s, prided itself on support for national liberation struggles in Central America and the Middle East, viewing itself in solidarity with all anti-imperialist struggles.
NONE OF the mainstream parties–none of the four parties which form the new executive of Northern Ireland–has supported the Raytheon 9. And this is despite the fact that Sinn Fein, in particular, has always presented itself as a socialist organization, as an anti-imperialist organization.
But the truth is that the closer Sinn Fein got to power, the more they ditched their supposed socialist principles that would involve any anti-American activity.
Sinn Fein is determined to maintain the friendship of the Bush administration. Indeed, Martin McGuiness, the vice president of Sinn Fein, personally invited George Bush to visit Northern Ireland in June this year, in a couple weeks’ time. And he has publicly described George Bush as a "friend of Ireland" and "a man of peace."
So the Sinn Fein party is not just compromised on its supposed anti-imperialist, socialist credentials, but it seems to have moved to the other side. Not really an uncommon thing for a nationalist organization once achieving office.
IN 1968, you helped spark the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland and resistance to the British-supported sectarian state. Today, you are still fighting against injustice.
THERE’S A straight line from 40 years ago to what is happening today. In 1968, we were outraged by the U.S. war in Vietnam and inspired by the Black struggle for civil rights. We were moved by this. In Ireland, we were fighting against local injustices, but we viewed ourselves and our struggles as part of an international struggle.
Today, we continue to fight against local injustices in Ireland, but we also see it as connected to a global struggle. There’s never been a contradiction between fighting local injustices and fighting injustice in the world.
The U.S. is attempting to violently dominate the Middle East and control the oil there. Iraq and Lebanon, as well as Palestine, are at the frontline of this struggle. The location of struggle may have changed, but the struggle for liberation and justice continues.
SHAUN HARKIN writes for the Socialist Worker, where this interview originally appeared.
What you can do
For information on how to support the Raytheon 9 and for daily updates on the trial, visit the Support the Raytheon 9 Web site.