Opportunity not Lost
Americans abroad cannot be blamed for not knowing what they are not told about
The truth-telling of Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange and their treatment by the Trump administration are high-lighted in a fine article in Counter Punch which is timely. Less pleasing is the vulgar caricature of Donald Trump at the top of the article.
Last night I attended the protest in Dublin and decided to pick on some of the issues that would not be mentioned elsewhere. There are very many Trump issues that were going to be highlighted including climate change, misogyny, Palestine etc, So my placard had US misuse of Shannon airport at the top and then Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange and the Kings Bay Seven (in that order).
In the middle of the speeches I noticed a couple with red Trump-like caps holding small US flags and decided to approach them. Welcoming them to Ireland I remarked that we appeared to have different points of view and they replied that they were supporters of President Trump. As they were looking at my placard it gave me an unexpected opportunity to explain the headings there. From the platform they had heard many mentions of Shannon and asked me what Shannon meant and why it was a matter of controversy. They listened patiently while I told them that it was a civilian Irish airport through which a quarter of a million US troops had passed in the last five years alone and that at present they were aiding US backed wars in Yemen and elsewhere.
"But Manning is free now isn't he" (sic), one of them asked, looking at the second item on the placard. Again, with patience and respect they listened as I informed them that Chelsea had been returned to prison because she had refused as a matter of principle to testify against her fellow whistle-blower, Julian Assange.
Needless to say they believed that Julian Assange was still in the Ecuadorian embassy and were shocked to hear that he was in Belmarsh prison having been dragged out of the Embassy and sentenced to twelve months and that he was waiting to be be extradited to the US to face felony charges and a long prison sentence.
I was delighted when they asked me what did "FREE THE KINGS BAY SEVEN" mean. They didn't know that Kings Bay was a nuclear submarine base in Georgia USA or the extent of the nuclear capabilities which it controls there. Again they listened without hostility as I told them that on 4 April 2018, commemorating Martin Luther King, seven conscientious people, Liz McAlister, Clare Grady, Martha Hennessy, Carmen Trotta, Fr Steve Kelly, Mark Colville and Patrick O'Neill, - all totally opposed to nuclear weapons and war - entered the base, symbolically disabled a missile, poured a little of their own blood around and said prayers until they were arrested. Four are still in prison (after 15 months) awaiting trial; the other three are on bail, with ankle monitors. I believe they were genuinely shocked at these last revelations.
We parted as good friends - both of them offering me their hands to shake not once but twice and I renewing my good wishes for their happy sojourn in Ireland for the rest of their holiday.
Again the ugly effigy of "baby" Trump floating above the Dublin platform was as offensive to me as it was to them. As someone who has spent much of my time countering bullying, I regard name-calling and offensive pictures and effigies of individuals as part of that genre. If we stuck to basic issues as Lawrence Davidson has done in his Counter Punch article, the results, in my opinion, would be far more powerful and effective.