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THE visits by Queen Elizabeth II and President Barack Obama as respective heads of state of Britain and the United States pose a challenge for peace activists to distinguish between genuine efforts to promote peace and justice.
While some Irish people have reservations about the visit of Queen Elizabeth, speaking on my own behalf I welcome this visit because I believe it is timely and a very genuine effort to promote peace between Britain and Ireland and within Ireland itself. The queen is also not a decision-maker in matters of British Government policy. She is a ceremonial head of state and as such represents the British people more than the British government.
The visit by US President Barack Obama falls into a more complex category. His election was widely welcomed across the world. While his policies of ending the Iraq war and promising to end the Afghan war are to be welcomed, his failure to close Guantanamo prison or to unequivocally end all forms of torture are regrettable.
More serious however, are the decisions by the US government led by Obama to substitute unlawful extrajudicial killings for the previous so-called “extraordinary rendition” and torture policies of the US government. While torture is a heinous crime, killing and mur, are far more serious, because killing an individual removes all the human rights of that individual, without any possibility of restorative justice.
While the removal of Osama Bin Laden as an international terrorist is welcome, this could and should have been achieved by his imprisonment and trial at the International Criminal Court, and not by extrajudicial killing.
While we should continue to criticise all involvement in unjustified wars, it is our primary responsibility as Irish citizens to challenge Irish complicity in unjustified wars, and to promote peace in Ireland and elsewhere.
The difference is that the US is using Shannon airport as a military logistics base for these wars, thereby breaching Irish neutrality, while Britain has, for the most part even during World War II, avoided breaching Irish neutrality.
It is for these reasons that I welcome the visit of the British head of state, while criticising the visit of the US head of state, while the United States continues to abuse Irish neutrality with the ongoing complicity of the Irish Government.
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