Opinion

Joe Biden came to Ireland to tell us he supported peace. So why is he sending cluster bombs to Ukraine?

Ireland's slow march towards Nato membership means it is remaining silent

Patrick Murphy

Patrick Murphy

Patrick Murphy is an Irish News columnist and former director of Belfast Institute for Further and Higher Education.

US President Joe Biden, pictured at Ulster University in April, spoke about peace during his visit to Ireland. Yet he is now sending cluster bombs to Ukraine, despite an international treaty agreed at Croke Park banning their use
US President Joe Biden, pictured at Ulster University in April, spoke about peace during his visit to Ireland. Yet he is now sending cluster bombs to Ukraine, despite an international treaty agreed at Croke Park banning their use US President Joe Biden, pictured at Ulster University in April, spoke about peace during his visit to Ireland. Yet he is now sending cluster bombs to Ukraine, despite an international treaty agreed at Croke Park banning their use

Dear President Biden,

Have you heard of Croke Park? It is the home of the Gaelic Athletic Association and Ireland's biggest sports stadium. Today 80,000 people will attend two important football matches there.

It is also the place where, in 2008, diplomats and officials from 109 countries agreed an international treaty banning the use of one of the world's deadliest weapons – cluster bombs. The treaty became international law in 2010. The Croke Park agreement was a triumph for the Irish government, placing it at the head of a global, humanitarian crusade.

You may not have heard of Croke Park, but you have certainly heard of cluster bombs. This week you decided to send them to Ukraine, even though the number of countries banning their use has now risen to 123. Among the few who still use them are the US, Russia, China, Israel – oh yes, and Ukraine.

First designed by Nazi Germany, cluster bombs contain up to 2,000 smaller bombs which are released in flight and fall to the ground. Some are designed to explode on impact but as many as a third do not and they remain a deadly risk to civilians for years after war has ended. Indeed, 94 per cent of recorded cluster bomb casualties are civilians, of which almost 40 per cent are children.

You decided to supply them because "the Ukrainians are running out of ammunition". You presumably meant they were running out of cluster bombs. You said it took you "a while to be convinced to do it". (That's how perpetrators pretend to be victims.)

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Your decision has been criticised by countries and human rights groups across the world.

So you will understand that we now look with some scepticism at what you said during your recent Belfast visit. You praised peace and claimed that the benefits of peace were all around (you haven't heard about the collapse of our public services then).

In the Dáil you championed human rights, freedom, equality and dignity. Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin greeted your words with rapturous applause. None of them pointed out this week that cluster bombs kill those words.

Following the agreement, Micheál Martin said Ireland owed it to cluster bomb survivors and their families to adopt the Croke Park treaty.

This week, as part of Ireland's slow march towards Nato membership, he remained silent on your decision. Will US war planes re-fuelling at Shannon now carry these bombs on their way to Europe? By failing to search them, the Dublin government is disregarding the Croke Park treaty. (So much for Micheál Martin's 'Neutrality Forum'.)

If you believed in peace, you would try to end, rather than prolong the war in Ukraine. Your aim is to keep Russia occupied, but not destroyed, because that would leave an even more powerful China in control of central and western Asia.

At a diplomatic level it is a very polite war. US and Russian embassies still operate in Moscow and Washington. The US and Russia share space exploration projects. Russia does not attack US aircraft or ships bringing weapons to Ukraine. The US does not supply weapons to Ukraine which could attack Russian cities.

Meanwhile, last month thousands of representatives from Western governments and 500 global businesses from 42 countries gathered in London for the 'Ukraine Recovery Conference'. They were effectively staking their claims to the massive profit opportunities being created by the war and its aftermath.

The vulture funds are already circling Ukraine's dead. War is good for business.

In Croke Park we often hold a minute's silence for the recently deceased. At today's matches we might respectfully honour all those who will inevitably be killed and maimed by your cluster bombs.

The Prime Minister of Cambodia said this week that the impact of American cluster bombs in his country will last for 100 years. Because of your decision we may have to hold that minute's silence every year for the next century. And you told us you supported peace.