In 2006 an Irish jury decided that ex-seminarian Damien Moran was not guilty of criminal damage for his part in the ‘disarmament’ of a US Navy plane in February 2003.
But that acquittal wasn’t good enough for the good people providing ‘Homeland Security’ at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, who on Sunday questioned Moran, then stuck him on a plane straight back to Europe.
The 27-year-old ex-seminarian was due to visit his brother in Virginia, and to speak at an anti-war event in Nebraska. But when the Homeland Security officer scanned his Irish passport, his arrest came up on the computer–though the information on file seemed pretty half-baked and did not, apparently, include the fact of his acquittal.
Moran, then part of the Dublin Catholic Worker community, was one of the five ‘Pitstop Ploughshares’ who did $2.5 million of damage to a Navy C-40A being used to transport cargo through Ireland’s Shannon Airport during the build-up to the invasion of Iraq. In a case that has been detailed here previously here on Counterpunch, the five were quickly and unanimously acquitted by a Dublin jury in July 2006 after their defence argued they had ‘lawful excuse’ to take action against American military equipment in light of what the US was doing in Iraq.
Irish citizens, no longer seen as very likely to migrate illegally to the US in light of ‘Celtic Tiger’ prosperity, normally travel into the country without much fuss on a ‘visa waiver’ program. Those intent on exploiting the cheap dollar to buy iPods or Manhattan real estate are waved straight through. But it seems a peace activist is a different story.
“Deportation is the least of your worries!” one Homeland Security officer shouted at Moran. Indeed, under US law in the age of Bush, Moran might well have been subject to arrest and detention for his action in Ireland. In reality, however, the prospect of an orange jumpsuit for a well-mannered young white man who was the subject of a sympathetic TV documentary in Ireland after his acquittal is politically highly unlikely. The words ‘diplomatic incident’ spring to mind.
Moran’s deportation is nonetheless a blow to those US activists who want to build solidarity with their equivalents abroad. The Global Network Against Weapons in Space and Moran himself shared the cost of his trip, and that money is now gone without hope of recovery.
“The juxtaposition of my being refused entry the US to speak on the grave need for military divestment and social investment and the official celebrations of the life of Martin Luther King Jr. should not go amiss,” he said. “I was barred from entering due to my act of dissent at Shannon five years ago against disastrous militaristic policies at home and abroad. There is no room for dissenters’ perspectives in America today.”
A somewhat bewildered and jetlagged Moran is now back in Warsaw, Poland, where he has been living and struggling for peace for most of the period since his acquittal. His experience of a few hours’ temporary detention at O’Hare, shared with fellow human-beings of various Latino, Arab and Asian hues, has been a further education, if he needed it, in the skewed sense of justice that plagues America and the wider world today.
Damien Moran can be contacted on dbamoran [at] yahoo.com
HARRY BROWNE lectures in Dublin Institute of Technology and writes for Village magazine. Email firstname.lastname@example.org