A couple of days ago an open letter to the American people by Mairead Maguire showed up on left Internet websites in praise of one Mother Agnes, a Syrian nun who is supposedly on a peace and reconciliation mission in the United States. Maguire won the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for her work toward peace in Northern Ireland and her letter is peppered with references to a number of good souls whose path Mother Agnes is following.
Like Mahatma Gandhi in India, the Berrigan Brothers in the Peace Movement and the American Civil Rights Movement show us that the path to freedom and equality is a peaceful one. This journey of transformation in the pursuit of peace and justice is a constant challenge to the entrenched powers which thrive on hatred and war; acting as a constant challenge to blind prejudice and the lies that are necessary for war.
Maguire has been promoting “peace” in Syria for quite some time now. MRZine, a website associated with blind obedience to the Iranian and Syrian dictatorships, posted an article by her in July 2012 that praised Mother Agnes and others striving to defend a “secular and modern country”, codewords for Baathist rule. She called attention to “the thousands of christian refugees, forced to flee their homes by an imported Islamist extreme,” a phrase ripped from the pages of an al-Assad speech.
(For an investigation of the Mairead Maguire-Mother Agnes tag team, go to http://claysbeach.blogspot.com/2013/06/mairead-maguires-syria-connection.html.)
So who is this Mairead Maguire whose bandwagon the “anti-imperialist” and “antiwar” movement is so anxious to board? In 1976 the war against British rule in Northern Ireland was at a fever pitch. What would motivate the Nobel Prize jury to give her an award for working toward “peace”? What did peace mean in a country that was either going to be free of colonial rule or remain unfree?
Maguire became a peace activist as a response to the death of three of her sister’s young children when a car driven by Provisional IRA members lost control after British troops shot the driver to death in an unprovoked attack. A woman’s movement made up of both Catholics and Protestants began demonstrating for “peace” in Northern Ireland with Maguire and Betty Williams in the leadership.
The Provos reacted angrily to the initial march, issuing a statement that said the British military was responsible for the children’s death. Maguire and her cohorts, to the contrary, always held Britain and the Irish freedom fighters to be equally at fault. In a trip to the United States in 1983, Maguire stated that “the dominant emotion in her country is anger – anger directed at both chief antagonists, the British Government and the self-ordained freedom-fighters”, according to the NY Times.
Rob Fairmichael, also a Northern Ireland peace activist, wrote “The Peace People Experience” in 1987, the first chapter of which can be read online at http://www.innatenonviolence.org/pamphlets/peacepeople1.pdf. Here’s how Maguire viewed the role of the British military and the local police as seen by Maguire and company (emphasis added):
Of crucial importance in the perception of the Peace People on either side of the sectarian divide was the issue of informing and how they perceived the army and police. Following attacks on their criticism of army activity at Turf Lodge in October 1976 in which a boy was killed by a plastic bullet, the leaders issued a statement. This was perhaps the most forthright statement they made on such issues, and it included the following;
“We do not equate the vicious and determined terrorism of the Republican and Loyalist paramilitary organisations with those occasional instances when members of the security forces may have stepped beyond the rule of law.”
Peace People policy was:
“We fully support the rule of law, and until the Northern Irish community themselves evolve their own community institutions and form of government, then the RUC and the other security forces are the only legitimate upholders of the rule of law.”
“Our attitude to informing is this: each individual must exercise his or her conscience bearing in mind that while we do not wish to create a community riddled with suspicion, or a landscape dotted with new prisons, such an outcome might be preferable to the unending tragedy of innocents shot, burned or blown to bits.”
In other words, the colonizers and their snitches got off the hook.
Maguire has spent decades in defense of righteous causes such as Palestinian rights, opposition to the war in Iraq, etc. but that does not excuse her from serving as key figure in the pacification (that’s the real word, not “peace”) of Northern Ireland.
Fairmichael describes the attitude of the British ruling class parties to this peace movement:
The political parties of the centre and near right welcomed the Peace People and were certainly willing to hold their fire until they saw which ways the movement headed; Alliance party members made up a strong band within the Peace People who, while supporting the call for peace made by them, were unwilling to let the Peace People stray into what might be called by them ‘political’ waters where it would conflict with the political party they supported.
The British government welcomed the Peace People and interpreted it as support for its policies on ‘peace’. They initiated a poster and propaganda campaign that “7 years is enough” of the troubles; this slogan was quickly adapted in West Belfast to “700 years is enough” – of British involvement in Ireland. Many people thought the poster campaign was initiated by the Peace People rather than the British government.
Eventually peace came to Northern Ireland through a combination of British power, the exhaustion of the IRA, and the pressure applied through the “peace” movement. Sinn Fein became a neoliberal handmaiden of British imperialism just as the ANC would become in South Africa. Nelson Mandela and Mairead Maguire had that much in common besides the Nobel trophy.
Is it any wonder that a woman who stood for the right of the British army and the Ulster constabulary to maintain law and order would adopt a similar stand with respect to Syria? Her animosity toward “extremists” responsible for senseless deaths appears both universal and pacifist in the worst sense of the word.
Furthermore, isn’t it obvious that the rebellion in Syria is demonized in the same fashion as the armed resistance to British rule in Ireland was? After all, high-minded liberals in the 1970s were as likely to wring their hands over Catholic threats to women’s liberation as a David Bromwich writing in the New York Review of Books would get his knickers in a twist over Sharia law.
Nobody had a good word to say about the Provos in 1976, just as nobody has a good word to say about the FSA today. The only thing that is curious is why revolutionaries who would have had little use for a Mairead Maguire nodding in approval of British killers in uniform and snitches back in 1976 now find her credible on Syria. But then again, the same sorts of people anxious to stand up for a stinking rat like Bashar al-Assad took the word of Carla del Ponte at face value when she accused the rebels of using sarin gas—the same Carla del Ponte who served imperialism’s interests as a prosecutor at the Hague.
Who knows? Maybe Mairead Maguire is getting paid for services rendered to the Baathists, just as George Galloway. Unlike most Nobel Peace prize winners who give the money away to a foundation or to some cause in consonance with their ideals, Maguire kept the money for her own needs (eventually surrendering it after a hue and cry went up.)
Right now she functions as a cheap propagandist, with no more credibility than the nun she stumps for, a Baathist hand-puppet. On Global Research, an Islamophobic and conspiracist cesspool devoted to the Baathist cause, there’s an article by Maguire that would be laughable if the issues being addressed were not so tragic:
In Lebanon we visited several refugee camps, hosted by Lebanese or Palestinian communities. One Woman said: “before this conflict started we were happy and had a good life (there is free education, free healthcare, subsidies for fuel, in Syria) and now we live in poverty”. Her daughter and son-in-law (a pharmacist and engineer) standing on a cement floor in a Palestinian refugee camp, with not even a mattress, told us that this violence had erupted to everyone surprise’s and spread so quickly they were all still in shock, but when well armed, foreign fighters came to Homs, they took over their homes, raped their women, and killed young males who refused to join their ranks, so the people fled in terror.
This is the kind of shit you would read on an ultraright website like Shara Unveiled. In fact, something like this: At least 15 FSA Rebels Rape and Torture a Young Christian Girl in Syria Then Murdered Her. What a strange, strange, strange world we are living in when a broad section of the left and a website that has a picture of a young girl titled “Please Fight Islam for me” would be circulating essentially the same big lie.
(Hat tip to Dick Gregory for mentioning Maguire’s role on FB. I should add that I am referring to the former member of the British SWP, not the beloved fruitarian African-American comic.)