That Seanad Éireann calls on the Government to develop and implement an ethical foreign policy.
I find it interesting that the Government has amended this motion in a manner that goes right to the nub of the issue. It is clear that in bypassing any mention of ethics, the Government acknowledges its guilt in this area and it is notable that there is no Minister from the Department of Foreign Affairs to hear this motion. The reference to the values of the people is a calculated insult of the type delivered by the late Mr. Charles Haughey when he announced his equivocal half-measure on contraception, describing it as an Irish solution for an Irish people.
In requesting the Government to develop and implement an ethical foreign policy, I recognise that I am asking for a lot. Despite some gestures in this regard, notably by Mr. Robin Cook in Britain which fizzled out after the discovery of the export of Hawk aircraft to Indonesia for use in the military oppression of the people of East Timor and a few fitful outbreaks of conscience in our Department of Foreign Affairs under the leadership of Mr. Frank Aiken, Mr. Dick Spring and Mr. David Andrews, such a policy has nowhere been given a substantial trial. This is because, owing to the weakness of human motivation, perceived self-interest almost invariably conquers and it is frequently expressed in economic terms.
Finance plays a major role in this matter and I welcome the fact that the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Conor Lenihan, indicated at a meeting I arranged with the Darfur investment group that it is the Government's intention to direct agencies such as the National Pensions Reserve Fund to ensure investments on behalf of the State are ethical. This area will be addressed more fully by my colleague, Senator Brendan Ryan.
Genuine altruism is rare, even in individuals, and levels of cynicism seem to exist in direct relationship with political seniority and closeness to our possession of power. The higher one goes, the fewer the principles. The historian, Edward Gibbon, said the Emperor Marcus Aurelius was almost unique among rulers in that his overriding concern was not self-advancement but the welfare of his people. This ideal must, in the 21st century, be extended from a national or imperial base to a global one. I am asking that Ireland, as a country, follow the example of the noble Roman.
At this point in the discussion I am usually reminded by people on the other side of realpolitik and national self-interest, so let me repeat a story I have told on a number of occasions in this House. When the then Government proposed to sell beef to the army of Saddam Hussein, I was one of a limited number of people in political life who opposed the transaction. For my pains I was lectured from across the House by the Government spokesman on foreign affairs who said that, while what I was suggesting might be the moral thing to do, could Ireland afford it? Within a short space of time there was an outbreak of war in the region, financial arrangements collapsed, Saddam Hussein welshed on the deal and the Irish taxpayer was burdened not only with the £100 million owed by the Iraqi regime for the beef but was also awarded the privilege of paying hefty sums to that very pragmatic cattle dealer, Mr. Larry Goodman. We, therefore, did the immoral thing and paid through the nose for it. My point is that although there may appear to be economic inconvenience in the short to medium term, in the long term decency and moral standards pay off. As the Bible states: “Cast your bread upon the waters and it shall return to you an hundred fold.”
Let us stay with Iraq for a while and witness the unholy contortions of the Government in maintaining a morally bankrupt policy of subservience to the criminal Administration of George Bush, no matter whither it leads. When 100,000 people marched in the streets of Dublin against the war, the Taoiseach claimed they were agreeing with him. This may be open to doubt but it is surely incontrovertible that the overwhelming mass of Irish people wish to disassociate themselves from the way in which the Taoiseach, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Government have connived in the deliberate employment of torture as an instrument of policy by the US Administration. The two Aherns, Bertie and Dermot, claim that Condoleezza Rice gave them a clear assurance in the matter of torture. While this may be the case, she did not provide the assurance Bertie and Dermot passed on to the Irish people. She clearly indicated that the US Administration was committed to the use of torture and openly acknowledged that even at Guantanamo Bay, a place whose exact location and function we at least know, unlike the unspecified torture sites in eastern Europe, procedures include hooding, sleep deprivation and the use of white noise.
The Taoiseach's memory is selective but even he can hardly have forgotten that our Government successfully sued the United Kingdom Government when it engaged in these practices at Castlereagh police station in the North and won a judgment which made it perfectly clear that in the view of the European Court of Human Rights, a view our Government enthusiastically accepted at the time, these practices constituted torture. When Condoleezza Rice told our Government that hooding, white noise and sleep deprivation were employed in Guantanamo Bay, she was clearly admitting the use of torture. Moreover, the commitment to torture of Bush and his cronies was made perfectly explicit in the morally disgraceful and ethically unjustifiable attempts made to force a measure through Congress facilitating and legalising torture, including methods not seen since the Gestapo left the Avenue Foch.
Neither was our collaboration merely verbal given that we actively collaborated with the use of Shannon Airport for the purpose of extraordinary rendition, a foul practice in which civilians are kidnapped, bundled into aeroplanes, drugged, shackled and delivered to countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Syria where torture is routinely practised in a manner that has occasionally led to hypocritical protests from both Britain and the United States. This practice is carried out secretly. However, in recent years, using information concerning aeroplane registration, flight patterns, etc., supplied to me by gallant people at Shannon Airport such as Ed Horgan and Tim Hourigan, I have sought to make these matters public through debate in the House and by other means.
All these matters were a by-product of George W. Bush's military adventure in the Middle East. The war in Iraq was fought clearly for logistical and economic advantage, especially in the interests of multinational corporations such as Bechtel and Halliburton with which the eminence grise of the American Administration, Dick Cheney, has close and very unhealthy ties. This has happened before.
What was novel, however, about the Bush Administration's ill-advised and barbarous attack was not only its hypocrisy but also that it came as part of a package which included the deliberate undermining of international humanitarian protection such as the Geneva Convention and the institution of the United Nations. Led by the extreme right, the United States Government deliberately corrupted every standard of decency and legality for which the West has stood. Habeas corpus flies out the window and instead of flinging back in their faces the lies propounded by the stumbling and inadequate Bush and his sidekick, the unspeakable automaton, Ms Condoleezza Rice, the Aherns, Bertie and Dermot, grovellingly accept every humiliating fiction they are fed with the alacrity one would expect of a flea-ridden poodle with piles accepting a rubber cushion from the hands of its master.