Dáil debates

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Afghanistan Crisis: Statements


5:12 pm

Photo of Chris AndrewsChris Andrews (Dublin Bay South, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I welcome the recent announcement by the Government of the provision of 500 additional places for Afghan families here. The Minister stated that the people are very welcome and I wholeheartedly agree. They will add a great deal to Irish society and culture and will be a welcome addition. Following on from Deputy Martin Kenny's comments on that figure of 500, it is important it not be stuck to and adhered to rigidly. We have to be flexible and open to changes. I have no doubt the Minister believes the same and I would like to hear a commitment from him in that regard.

The Afghan people have known nothing but war and occupation since the 1970s and it appears painfully clear the US never learned from the mistakes of previous wars. Since invading Afghanistan in 2001, the US has spent €2.3 trillion on the war, much of which was siphoned away by rampant institutionalised corruption. The US pursued a policy that prioritised spending on tanks, guns and bombers, rather than focusing on advancing and improving the lives of ordinary Afghans, both rural and urban. For all the trillions of euro spent, Afghanistan still has one of the smallest formal economies on the planet. Today, 10 million children are in need of emergency assistance, with many of them suffering from severe malnutrition. Countries can be occupied by sheer brute military force, but that alone cannot create the new progressive nation so many Afghans have dreamed of. Sadly, for the moment, that hope has been lost.

Senator Higgins recently organised a briefing on events in Afghanistan and the accounts from some of the contributors were harrowing. US and NATO war crimes in the region, and a lack of accountability for those who carried out these crimes, played into the hands of the extremist Taliban and kept much of the rural population cautious about US and NATO forces. Many of these war crimes only became public knowledge to us in the West thanks to the likes of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, people who risked everything to shine a light on the dark, shadowy actions of the US Government. Julian Assange has been incarcerated in Belmarsh Prison in London since 2019, even though his sentence has long been served. The UN special rapporteur on torture examined Mr. Assange in prison and concluded that he showed all the symptoms typical of prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma. The question must be asked as to how long it will be before Ireland and the EU speak out and say enough is enough and demand that Julian Assange be freed.

This State's co-operation in respect of war in Iraq and Afghanistan has cast a dark shadow over our proud legacy of peacekeeping. Since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, more than 10,000 military and military-contracted aircraft have passed through Shannon Airport, carrying some 3 million US soldiers and an untold number of weapons. Indeed, according to research, the airport has been used on a number of occasions by the US Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, during extraordinary rendition to carry prisoners to CIA black sites for advanced interrogation - more commonly known as torture. As Eduardo Galeano put it, every time the US "saves" a country, it converts it into either a madhouse or a cemetery. Time and again, these words have proven true.

I compliment the Minister's office and Irish Aid for the commitment of these agencies and the delivery of overseas aid. The circumstances in which they work is difficult and challenging and it is important to acknowledge the contribution they have made to both Ireland and these deeply challenged communities throughout the world.


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