Wednesday, July 26, 2006

It's not just Shannon

Wednesday's Daily Telegraph reports that that the accelerated shipment of precision-guided weapons from the US to Israel over the weekend passed through Prestwick Airport in Scotland. It's not clear what legal issues are raised by this, although the transparent end-use intentions for these weapons might at least pose moral problems for a self-styled Gladstonian like Tony Blair. One unresolved issue in the controversy surrounding the use of Shannon and Prestwick for rendition flights and weapons shipments is how exactly the US decides which airport to use for each flight. Unfortunately, despite occasional flareups in the media, it's still not clear that there is public momentum to restrict these flights in any way. Depending on how damning the circumstances are concerning the killing of the 4 UN observers by the Israeli military, that may change.

UPDATE: Margaret Beckett manages to muster a protest. What are the odds that the cargo on US planes stopping at Shannon gets more interesting?

UPDATE 27 JULY: Two more weapons flights are planned over the next fortnight. If Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern is serious about his display of outrage regarding the Israeli operations in south Lebanon, he could start by ordering audits of US cargo flights through Shannon.

FINAL UPDATE 28 JULY: One the arguments of the Irish government in denying that Shannon would be used for rendition flights is to ask why they would use a civilian airport when they could use military bases in Britain and not attract any scrutiny. But as the Prestwick incident reveals, they are using civilian airports even when military bases would be available:

Questions have been asked as to why the US would use a civil airport when they have military bases in Britain

In other words, this is no longer a valid line of defence for the Irish and British governments, but another part of the puzzle.

VERY FINAL UPDATE 30 JULY: The Scottish Sunday Herald is reporting that Dermot Ahern refused permission for the munitions flights. But note the wording:

A spokeswoman for [Dermot] Ahern told the Sunday Herald: “Minister Ahern did say during the week that permission would not be granted if there was an application made to transport munitions of war to the Middle East.”

i.e. the don't ask, don't tell policy for rendition flights applies here as well.

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