In 'Moving Mountains: Lessons in Leadership and Logistics from the Gulf War' General William G. Pagonis revealed that 7 million tons of supplies had to be shipped to the battlefield then. Winston Churchill said of war: "Victory is the beautiful, bright-coloured flower. Transport is the stem without which it never could have blossomed."
There is often a feeling among anti-war activists that there is little we can do to directly impact on war. The figures above suggest otherwise, for these supplies move through airports and ports near us, or down road and rail networks near the places we live. The quantities of supplies needed to fight this war are enormous, in 1991 for instance the 1450th transportation company supplied 7.75 million gallons of fuel to the airforce and tanks attacking Iraq[i]. We are not just talking tanks and infantry here, in WWII the US army depended on over three times as many men to supply the information and transport as were actually in combat[ii].
One airport these supplies are flowing through is the commercial airport at Shannon in the south west of Ireland. Every day and average of 5 or 6 US military planes land here to refuel as they transport soldiers and supplies to the Gulf. Some of these planes, like the Hercules C130 are obviously military, and can even be used to drop bombs. Some others are of a civilian type but are owned by the military and have a role in providing the essential support services that allow war to be waged. Most however are commercial airlines charted by the military to transport troops.
Over the last year Shannon airport has seen many protests by those who oppose the war. These protests have involved Direct Action, it the attempt to directly effect the ability to wage war, on a number of occasions. The numbers involved in these actions have not been huge, perhaps a couple of hundred in all. But already they are having an impact on the war.
On three occasions individuals or small groups of activists have succeeded in reaching and damaging military planes. One result of this has been that one of the commercial airliners ferrying troops, World Airlines, have announced that they are going to stop using Shannon, and are diverting their next 17 troop transports to Frankfurt airport [iii]. The activists have also succeeded in grounding a US Navy plane, after it was attacked firstly with an axe and days later by five more activists from the 'Catholic Worker' organisation with hammers and axes.
Of course if this sort of action only took place at Shannon then, although it has already caused headaches for those shipping supplies to the war, it would not present an insoluble problem. World Airlines have diverted to Frankfurt for the moment. But if these actions start to happen everywhere there is an anti-war movement then the war machine is in trouble. And there is mass opposition to this war in every country in Europe and in the US itself.
Direct Actions are taking place in other countries already. Britain has seen well over a dozen with a particular focus on the naval port of Portsmouth where Greenpeace is engaged in a sustained campaign to block the shipment of war supplies. But as in Ireland it is only a tiny minority of those involved in the anti-war movements who are involved in such actions.
Shannon demonstrates that direct action gets the goods, that even a tiny number of people tacking action can cause hiccups in the logistics chain. What is now needed is that the anti-war movements start to take themselves seriously. Up to now the political parties that are leading these movement have rubbished direct actions such as the ones at Shannon as ineffective 'individual action'. Now we have seen that these individual actions have had more of a direct impact on the war then six hundred times this number passively marching though our towns.
The slogan 'Stop the War' needs to be taken as more then a passive plea to our rulers to stop supporting the war effort. It needs to be seen as a call to action - it is up to us to stop the war. If 300,000 can be mobilised to march through London then surely 50,000 can be mobilised to shut down Northwood Military HQ also in the London area. Or 20,000 to march on the bomber and refuelling bases essential to the war that are scattered around Britain.
Marches have and will continue to have an essential role in building opposition to the war and bringing new people into the movements. But it is now clear that we can do more, that we can take action against this war. In this war our rulers do not need us to fight as soldiers, they would like but do not require our support for the war. They do however need us to remain passive, for if we turn our disgust at this war into action against it then their war machine will grind to a halt.
More information on the protests at Shannon at http://struggle.ws/wsm/shannon.html and http://www.indymedia.ie
More information on direct actions around the globe at http://struggle.ws/stopthewar.html
i See http://www.millersgulfwar.org/utpage.html
[A Personal report from a Workers Solidarity Movement member, these reports are posted to the Ainriail list when first written]