Written on: 1. 11. 2022 in the category: Uncategorized


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The Minister for Defence Simon Coveney recently announced during a visit to the Middle East: ‘I am acutely conscious that, since 1978, the Irish Defence Forces have become an integral part of the community of this part of south Lebanon. This is exemplified by the humanitarian activities with which the Defence Forces have been involved in …for many years, including support to the orphanage at Tibnin, medical clinics run for local people as well as support provided towards water distribution and water purification projects.’

There you have Irish defence policy in a nutshell (though not a shell-case, because we have virtually none). Patriotic men and women who join the Defence Forces of this Republic have now become integrated into the Lebanese welfare state via UNIFIL, or the United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon, and not just a few weeks or months but for nearly half a century. But how is running an orphanage part of the duties of Irish Army? Why is there even an orphanage in an Arab town the size of Birr, especially since Tibnin is a tight-knit society where the intimate connections between families and clans should eliminate the very concept of “orphans”? And when and how did the word “interim” acquire the meaning “almost five decades”?

Yet far from this preposterous mission being a matter of regret, the Minister for Defence is actually proud of it. Indeed, Not-Remotely-For-Defence defines how successive Irish administrations – and by now, the Irish people overall – have come to regard the role of the Permanent Defence Forces. What should be the existential issue of any independent state – the arming of a body of men who are authorised to use lethal force in the protection of that state – is now probably viewed by most people as reactionary and militaristic. The PDF is now seen as offshore wing of the HSE, whose members might possibly have had some part-time experience with firearms.

This childish view of the purpose of the military was probably why Coveney was not torn limb from limb after announcing that Ireland would not be supplying lethal weaponry to Ukraine because the idea “made him feel uncomfortable”.

Yes, perhaps most Irish people today probably believe the fantasy that the Army exists to make the Minister for Defence and themselves feel comfortable. Happily, the Army still does not believe such fictions. The particular skill-set of any real army – such as ours remains, despite the wishes of our politicians – is a kill-set, which is why the Ranger Wing regularly parachutes into Hereford to train with the SAS.

The duty of the Army of this Republic begins at home, not in the wadis of Southern Lebanon. Why were Irish soldiers deployed on Middle East peace-keeping operations from 1978 onwards and not on peace-enforcing operations on the Border with Northern Ireland? Why, after the Anglo-Irish Agreement was the Army of the Republic still being deployed around Tbnin and not around South Armagh to quell the terrorist-fascist insurgency against local unionists, who by the existing terms of the Irish constitution were as Irish as the people of Kerry?

Moreover, southern Lebanon is not just any troubled hotspot. It is home to one of the most dangerous terrorist movements in the world, Hezbollah: the Army of Allah. This is not merely an enemy of Israel but an international terrorist group with a long reach. In 1994, Hezbollah terrorists murdered 84 people in a bomb attack on a Jewish cultural centre in Buenos Aires. Argentina is home to South America’s largest population of Jews, and the cultural centre was an easy target for Shia neo-Nazis with a taste for genocide. The next day, a Lebanese suicide bomber brought down a commuter airliner in Panama with 20 other people aboard, killing them all: twelve of the dead were either Israelis or Jewish, and apparently were the “reason” for the bombing. But the mass murder of twelve Jews in a small commuter plane in Panama by a Lebanese suicide bomber who had arrived on a forged British passport indicates remarkable intelligence as well as a random ruthlessness and a perplexing set of priorities.

Hezbollah is not merely a client of Iran, it would happily detonate a nuclear bomb in Israel, regardless of the cost to Lebanon, provided it kills lots of Jews. One of Hezbollah’s Lebanese allies is the Amal political and paramilitary movement, and the base of Amal’s leader Nabih Berri is none other than Tibnin, where – we are told proudly by our Minister for Defence – the Army of this Republic is essentially running a welfare state for the locals.

The brainless cliché within the Department of Foreign Affairs – whose fingerprints are usually to be found over any policies with an anti-Israel intent – is that such projects are a productive exercise in “soft power”. This is a right-on euphemism for “influence”, and within the idiotic corridors of Iveagh House there is still, twenty-one years after 9/11, the deranged belief that Islamic fundamentalists can be wooed into the harbours of democratic civility, the rule of law and women’s rights by being nice to them, giving them schools and hospitals and possibly even opening up Islamic Jihad Faculties in our colleges.

As it happens, the other day I rediscovered Dervla Murphy’s account of her bicycle ride across Iran and Afghanistan nearly  sixty years ago. She cycled with her daughter to the Afghan university city of Herat, once a centre of wine-making. “There were no restrictions about me visiting the mosque…I sat on the shady side of courtyard for almost an hour, enjoying the mosaics and the gold of the brickwork glowing against the blue of the sky.” Later she got a police-permit to go to Kandahar, but she went by bus because of the bandits. Before she left, she slept in a dormitory for men, and was untroubled, even when she forgetfully leapt out of bed stark naked and did her early morning toilet in the field. At Ghazni, she drank so much wine that she fell into a besotted coma, and later at a police station was fed vodka. In Kabul, she found that women and girls went unveiled there and learnt over a glass of scotch that the sale of alcohol was notionally illegal, a ban she found was ignored everywhere.

“Not for the first time,” she wrote, “I am astonished and humbled by the tolerance of Muslims, who so easily accept the fact that my standards differ from theirs yet give me no feeling of being regarded as inferior…I think it is fair to say that the modern Muslim…shows less prejudice towards other religions than we Christians do….”

The idea of a Dervla Murphy cycling in her shorts through an Islamic society today is not merely absurd, but phantasmagorical. Herat is now a closed city. Barbers will cut their customers’ hair solely in an approved Islamic style, and morality police enforce clothing restrictions on both sexes, but especially on women. Kandahar is now the very embodiment of western equivocation and cowardice, where just over a year ago the US surrendered an airbase containing billions of dollars’ worth military hardware to Taliban.

There is a skein of connective tissue between Kandahar, Kyiv and Tbnin. Why would Putin not believe that the US administration had lost the will to resist aggression? Why would Hezbollah not believe that the Irish are gullible idiots, when regardless of what Hezbollah gets up to, the Army of this Republic continues to provide a welfare state in Tbnin, as they have done for nearly half a century?

They need us, goes the plaint. No, they don’t. Southern Lebanon is not some backward hole being brought into the modern world by the Army’s enlightened ministrations. It was once the heart of the Phoenician civilisation and the site of the wedding feast at Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine. The people there had plumbing, aqueducts, homes with upper storeys and straight, hardcore roads when the people of Ireland lived in huts of wattle and daub in communities connected by winding tracks and it would take the Irish another two millennia to discover the joys of purpose-made roads, piped water and houses with stairs.

Still, isn’t it wonderful that the scandalously underfunded Defence Forces are nonetheless able to lift some of the financial burden from the shoulders of one of the world’s most violently anti-Semitic terrorist organisations? Isn’t it wonderful that one reason why the Army is still there is because of the ceaseless terrorist activities against Israel by Hezbollah, whose civil infrastructure is meanwhile being partly supplied by the Army? Isn’t it wonderful that our Minister for Defence boasts that the Army has now become an “integral” part of the welfare state of Southern Lebanon? Isn’t it wonderful that our political culture engages in endless cycles of self-congratulation on being repeatedly duped by an enemy that (understandably) despises everything that we stand for?

If you’re looking for examples of “irredeemable military stupidity masquerading as virtue”, the foregoing paragraph supplies some of them. Most of the rest exist within that infinitely flexible and utterly unprincipled term “neutrality”.

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