Skip to comments.Forgive the US all it's done for us
Posted on 02/16/2003 12:13:27 AM PST by MadIvan
Brendan O'Connor posits that Ireland's mystifying level of anti-Americanism is because they've done us so many favours
WELL, folks, we've had our fun. Now it's time to wake up and smell the coffee. And you know what? It's Starbucks coffee and it comes with a slice of Mom's apple pie.
The small minority of anti-American so-called "peace protesters" in this country have had their few weeks of running around and imagining it's the Sixties. But the psychedelic dreamland of alleged neutrality is over now.
Reality is kicking in and it's time for us to get off the fence. The Pythonesque peace protesters who exercise pacifism with hatchets and by shouting down anyone who disagrees with them should get a firm answer from someone to their equally Pythonesque question, "What have the Americans ever done for us?"
Here's the short answer. Offhand, there's democracy, World War Two, economic success, the peace process, green cards and a better way of life. Let's stop indulging ourselves that we're independent or neutral. Like it or not, we live in America's world, with a freedom and prosperity that is made possibly only by America.
And you know what? If there is a war we want to survive, we want to be protected, we want air cover. And who do you reckon is our best bet? Do you think Saddam will protect us for our principled stance on neutrality? Or perhaps we should look to the French, who handed over Jews to the Nazis, who handed over their own capital city without firing a shot, whose tanks are said to have only one gear and that's reverse. The most the French have ever done to deter foreigners is to be ignorant to tourists in Paris. Interesting to see that they've hooked up with their old friends the Germans on this occasion. But then again, unlike us and the Americans, continental Europe doesn't really have much of a democratic heritage.
There was an excruciating moment on last Wednesday's BBC debate about the war. Jon Snow went through a map of Europe which was coloured in to show who was for or against America. And one country remained uncoloured. In fact, Snow didn't even mention the one European country that has the greatest personal and blood ties with America. Never mind don't mention the war. This was a case of don't mention the big green elephant in the kitchen that is neutral Ireland.
Of course, we usually like to play our cards close to our chests until it's all over and then enjoy living the American dream. America might not agree with our peace protesters, but Americans have fought to the death for their right to protest. Look, we've indulged the protesters' hippy fantasies for long enough. Things are getting real now and honking for peace isn't going to help anyone.
Denis Halliday was right when he characterised Bertie Ahern's attitude to this war as gutless. Because instead of slithering around trying to find a non-position that will fool all the people all the time, it's time Bertie and Brian Cowen and Mary Harney decided to do a bit of straight talking and tell it like it is. Why deny it, why be ashamed of it? We support America and what it stands for. We are much closer to Boston than to Berlin. America is the next parish and most of us probably have more friends and family there than we do in the next parish on the other side.
Bertie and co will find they are richly rewarded if they show some leadership on this. Because as soon as Bertie makes a stand and legitimises the admission of this country's special relationship with America, he'll find the people support him they just needed to be told it was OK.
The silent majority in this country, who benefit in all kinds of ways from our special relationship with America, have been cowed into submission by a bunch of ill-informed but highly vocal anarchists and left-wing public intellectuals who have attempted to claim the moral high ground for themselves and anyone who is anti-American. The ordinary decent people of Ireland, who are overwhelmingly pro-American and pro-democracy, need a bit of leadership, so they can speak out and break cover. And they will thank Bertie if he has the courage to offer this leadership.
There was a huge fuss last week when the Irish Times reported that Bertie and Cowen were privately pro-American and that we would support the Americans no matter what. In typical fashion, Bertie dismissed this report with a joke about someone having too much to drink. In his mealy-mouthed handling of it, Bertie missed a golden opportunity to come out and say what a lot of people are waiting for him to say, that, yes, we do support America what the hell else do you expect us to do?
The alternative seems to be that a division emerges between Europe and America and we go anti-American. How quickly do you think they'll get on the phone to tell us how it is? How soon before we hear from our friends and relatives in America, the tens of thousands of people in this country who work for American companies and the other million of Americans who are proud to call themselves Irish? Someone once observed that if there is ever a struggle for the loyalty of hyphenated Irish-Americans, they will lean very firmly towards the American side of the hyphen.
Just look at the likes of Niall O'Dowd or Peter King, two icons of republican Irish America. Both have been sending strong signals to their friends in the republican movement here that this is a war to be supported. Peter King even did a bit of a roadshow on radio stations here and in Britain last week.
Watch now as Irish republicans begin to subtly move their position on the war. Bertie could afford to do the same. Instead of continuing to cast around for a politically expedient position, he could signal to us, as our leader, that of course we support America, and thus he could form rather than follow public opinion.
If Bertie is still afraid, then perhaps he should look at some of the signs that public opinion in this country is becoming increasingly pro-American and anti-Saddam. The peace camp at Shannon was shut down, discredited. Take the temperature in the media: Look at the laceration of Michael D Higgins on the Late Late Show, the decimation of Denis Halliday on Liveline last week.
And if 20,000 people marched for peace yesterday, so what? Think of the other four million. Look at Labour subtly shifting its position to become more pro-American, a sure sign of where public opinion lies.
Bertie can also take some succour from Friday's MRBI poll. Despite his allegedly unpopular defence of the use of Shannon, his personal satisfaction ratings are down just one per cent, which is balanced out by the fact that his dissatisfaction ratings are also down one per cent since October. This represents a loss of just a few per cent of previous levels of support. Satisfaction with the Government, despite its pro-American stance, is down just two per cent.
Contrast this with attitudes to the Green Party, which has been vocal in its defence of peace protesters and its vilification of America. The Greens are also down two per cent but coming from a base of six per cent support this means the Greens have lost one-third of their support since October. Trevor Sargent, who disgraced himself on the Shannon issue, has lost seven per cent in his satisfaction ratings. Again, coming from a base of 36 per cent, this means Sargent has lost one-fifth of his support. Dissatisfaction with Sargent is also up one-fifth. With the war in Iraq as the central news issue when these polls were taken, on Monday and Tuesday, we can be sure that policy on America was a big influencing factor.
Charlie Wolf, who broadcasts on Cork's excellent Red FM, perhaps the fastest-growing radio station in the country, asked me recently, rather plaintively, why some people here seem to hate America so much. I think he was genuinely shocked by some people's aggression towards America. Beyond the usual answers about it being the fashionable viewpoint among the public intellectuals and students and others who have the time to be vocal about these things, I wasn't sure what to say. And then I realised, perhaps for the first time, that it could be as simple as never forgiving a favour. They marched in Dublin yesterday only because America fought for their right to do so. Ten per cent of us work directly for American companies, in well-paid jobs. I don't need to go on with all the other favours America has done for us. Perhaps it's time we forgave them. And perhaps it's time that Bertie and co showed a bit of balls and leadership, and announced we've forgiven them.
Perhaps, just perhaps, a the ultimate measure of our success as a nation will be when all the peoples of the world are free to protest against us.
Maybe when freedom becomes the universal, the US becomes irrelevent.
Thank you Ivan for posting these great articles, it's nice to know what the other side thinks .. it's sad that our media here doesn't tell us
I have not seen this. Where?
This is clip from an article in a Canadian paper: "...the list of countries joining the U.S.-led coalition is already long -- and includes not only such traditional American allies as Britain and Australia, but also a remarkable crew of central and Eastern European nations. We say "remarkable" because many of these willing freedom fighters have only just recently been liberated from the yolk of despotism themselves. While pampered welfare states such as Canada, Germany and France are cringing on the sidelines, Ceausescu's children are offering to help defend the West and bring freedom to Iraq."
I think they have just been spoiled too long. They have also taken democracy and socialized it. The effect of that has been that the popular opinion is the rule, instead of a government and laws. The general public is, in most cases, uninformed or misinformed about any given subject and is too easily swayed by emotion.
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