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Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Anti-war activist Ciaron O’Reilly: conventional protests are 'a dead end' - The Guardian

“If you’re anti-war and you’re part of the movement, it doesn’t mean you have to go to prison, but you have to be sensitive to where resistance is coming from, because solidarity is needed there.
“Most resistance in both the Gulf war and the recent invasion [of Iraq in 2003] came out of the US and also the British military.”
O’Reilly regards an absence of solidarity with the imprisoned US army whistleblower Chelsea Manning – as well as Assange, Snowden and hundreds of conscientious objectors – as the signal failure of a long-hobbled peace movement.

A file picture shows Ciaron O’Reilly with supporters on the day he was sentenced to 13 months in jail for his role in the peace protest that disabled the B-52 plane at a New York air force base in 1991. Photograph: Handout

Lighter moments have included brokering a meeting between Assange and the punk rock polemicist Jello Biafra at the Ecuadorian embassy in 2013.
O’Reilly first had to convince the former Dead Kennedys singer that he was not a “fantasist” – “how does [Assange] know I even exist?” Biafra had said to him – and that he was not trying to convert him to Catholicism.
“I said, ‘We’ve already got 1.3 billion people’,” O’Reilly says.
While waiting to meet Biafra outside the embassy, O’Reilly – chomping on a Cuban cigar left half-smoked by a Saudi prince in an ashtray at an exclusive restaurant nearby – found himself stared down by plainclothes British security men.
The subsequent meeting with the WikiLeaks founder and punk rocker proved “hilarious”, O’Reilly says, running overtime as three highly talkative men went at it. Assange proved hospitable and “very curious” about punk, probably seeing the value of an ally from the world of music, he says.
O’Reilly knows the value of support.
Before 1991, he had done time at Brisbane’s notorious Boggo Road jail as a result of activism honed since he had been a high school student joining protest marches under the repressive Queensland government of Joh Bjelke-Petersen. The site of his last haircut in 1988, the Victorian-era jail did not even have plumbing – prisoners were given buckets for toilets.
In a Texas county jail following his US conviction, as the sole “gringo” in one of seven cages each holding mostly Mexican prisoners, O’Reilly “came close to having a breakdown” in the first month.
“What literally saved my arse was how much support mail I got. I ended up with 1,800 letters from 27 different countries,” he says.

That jail stint was followed by another in 2003 over a multimillion-dollar smash-up of a US navy warplane – this time in Ireland’s Limerick prison, which gave him flashbacks to Boggo Road.
It was in Ireland while doing social work that O’Reilly encountered former members of the Irish Republican Army, who him a firsthand account of the motives of terrorists.
He is “wary of articulating” the idea lest he be accused of sympathising, but says preoccupation with “the ideology of Islam strips out 14 years of history as though we haven’t killed a million kids in Iraq” through bombs and sanctions.
“Killing innocent people and children is a strategy that I totally disagree with as a pacifist, but you ask the ‘why they did that’ and the story is, British soldiers came to their home and humiliated their parents, kidnapped their brother, destroyed the home they were raised in,” he says.
“That drives people literally crazy. That’s why [jihadists] turn up in Paris, New York, London. They’re here because we were there [in the Middle East]. It doesn’t justify it, but you can understand it. I don’t know where people get the idea that you can bomb and humiliate people and not expect them to try and hit you back.”
The results of war in Iraq became “more personal and less abstract” for O’Reilly since 1991, when he had no personal ties to the region.
His godson Griffin has been traumatised by his experience as a soldier under the direction of the US occupation in Iraq, which made him “feel like the secret police”, O’Reilly says.
An Iraqi friend of O’Reilly was shot five times by US forces as a civilian walking down the street. Another friend he met working in a homeless shelter in Ireland survived the bombing of the UN building in Baghdad by al-Qaida in 2003.

Gulf War

Ciaron O’Reilly says most resistance in the Gulf war and the 2003 invasion of Iraq came from the US and British military. Photograph: Peter Turnley/Corbis

Twenty-five years after the Griffiss incursion, O’Reilly and his three co-conspirators remain “engaged in peace and justice”.

Susan Frankel and Bill Streit, who took hammers to the B-52, have three children together and continued their activism, which has earned Streit, a former priest, more jail time.
Moana Cole, who took to the runway with O’Reilly, is a criminal barrister doing legal aid work for the Maori community in New Zealand.
“We’ve all come out a lot stronger. It’s basically solidarity and spirituality that sustains you,” O’Reilly says.
The B-52 was out of commission for the duration of the first Gulf war.
But its fleet, older than O’Reilly’s 55 years, remains “the workhorse for American power”, ready for deployment in Iraq and Syria.
However, the base was closed down, later serving as an ironic venue for the Woodstock festival.
The security breach led to six of the air force base staff, including the commander, being court-martialled – a fact that may explain the apparent nervousness of a local air force base security chief who approached O’Reilly in recent years to sound him out about plans for action when US military hardware made a flying visit.


The group’s exploits are recorded in an exhibition of Brisbane peace-protest relics now on display at the Queensland state library, including a Courier-Mail front page poster declaring “Aussie Radicals Smash B52 Jet”.

O’Reilly still has the handle of the hammer that tore up the tarmac – handed back to him by the FBI in what he says was a perverse commitment to “the sanctity of private property over human life”.
He still gets the occasional visit from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, whose main concerns seem to be the Pine Gap US base and the Amberley airforce base, west of Brisbane.
The spooks see in O’Reilly a war opponent not content to simply join conventional demonstrations, which he calls “a dead end really, marching up and down empty streets like a strange dance”.
“You should actually go to places like Amberley and Gallipoli barracks [in Brisbane],” he says.
“You’d be more effective with 100 people at the gates there than with 10,000 in the city of Brisbane.
“You can’t have a peace movement with a gentlemen’s agreement where they have a war, and they say, ‘you can have your protest as long as we can have our war’.
“That’s the gentlemen’s agreement that we didn’t stick to.”


Those Reuters journalist went to photograph an American Humvee being attacked by the Mahdi Army. In fact, he photographed that vehicle three times. One of those photos occupied the now empty eighteenth position on the resource page at “Collateral Murder” website until Assange removed it.
Regardless of the situation, those pilots could not engage any of those men in that open courtyard unless they identify some type of weapons. When they engaged the ten men on the corner, three were carrying weapons - one carried an AK47, one an RPG, and one held an additional RPG round.
There were dozens of these gun-site videos on the internet. Every one as horrible as “Collateral Murder.” So what’s the big deal - why was Manning arrested in the first place?]

source:  https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/jan/07/anti-war-activist-ciaron-oreilly-explains-why-conventional-protests-are-pointless