Hold Your Own Nation Accountable For Its Wars, Or Include Other Nations? That Is The Question

Ken Mayers and Tarak Kauff outside court in Dublin Photo credit: Ellen Davidson

The formal entry of Russia into Ukraine’s civil war has propelled peace advocacy organizations in the U.S. into spirited discussions. Organizations like Veterans for Peace grew themselves on opposition to U.S. militarism and have frequently done outreach to the victims, beginning with the people of Vietnam and often expanding to the U.S. border with Mexico. 

How best to now respond to a U.S./NATO sponsored war conducted behind the scenes? 

Deep confusion has resulted from years of the Russiagate misinformation campaign plus the chronic dearth of useful information on foreign affairs delivered by the corporate press.

Perhaps the actions of two leaders in VFP who called out Ireland on its covert participation in U.S. wars will be helpful to examine. 

I believe they shed light on the essential question: 

What is our responsibility toward the warmaking of other nations when we are citizens of the most violent empire ever to bestride the planet?

Meet Ken Mayers and Tarak Kauff. Many of you already know them. Ken does a lot of work supporting migrants at the border, and Tarak publishes Peace & Planet News in partnership with Ellen Davidson, another VFP member.

The most recent issue was sent out with this editorial note:

A Special edition on Ukraine

The administration and corporate media have been flooding the public with extremely slanted information, misinformation, and outright lies about the war in Ukraine. Censorship of differing viewpoints has been pervasive. The staff at Peace & Planet News has worked hard to present something the public has been denied – a balanced and accurate assessment of the situation, placing it in historical context and focusing in particular on the role of our own government as an obstacle to peace. You will find different viewpoints in this 16-page special edition but there is an underlying emphasis on truth, accuracy, and good clear writing in everything we have presented.

Cut to Dublin where Ken and Tarak are on trial for charges related to cutting a fence at Shannon Airport and attempting to inspect planes they believe were carrying U.S. troops to combat in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.

Tarak & Ken at Shannon Airport, March 17, 2019 Photo credit: Ellen Davidson 

The two activists were jailed and then not allowed to leave Ireland for 8 months after their arrests. International pressure helped them get their passports back. In December, 2019 they returned to the U.S. to await trial for entirely non-violent actions bringing attention to the uber violence of the U.S. war machine in collusion with allegedly neutral Ireland.

Full reporting on the actions, arrests, and trial can be found here at Stop The Wars. Here are some excerpts I found interesting from the reporting on Day 1:

On the opening day of the trial, jury selection was interrupted for nearly half an hour when one juror asserted his right to take the oath in Gaelige (Ireland is officially a bilingual nation), and the court officer could not find the appropriate text. After much searching online and elsewhere, a scruffy book was produced that had the required text, and Judge Patricia struggled through the pronunciation to administer the oath.

Kauff and Mayers have a different view of what the trial should be about. “The purpose is to, in our own way, put the government and the U.S. military on trial for killing people and animals, destroying the environment, and betraying the Irish people’s concept of their own neutrality,” said Kauff. “U.S. warmaking is literally destroying this planet, and I don’t want to be silent about it.”

When Kauff and Mayers returned to Ireland April 21, the immigration officer noted that “when you here the last time you caused some trouble, is there going to be any trouble this time?” The only trouble I’ve ever known these two to get into is “good trouble.” Let’s hope they continue that tradition. 

Were the two men right in bringing the discussion to a nation not accountable to them as taxpayers or citizens?

Should U.S. activists concern themselves with, say, Saudi Arabia’s long and gruesome war on the people of Yemen? Does the U.S. supplying and supporting that war make it a fair target?

Should U.S. activists concern themselves with Ukraine which has received $1 billion in weapons from the Biden administration, is allied with neo-Nazi militias who receive many of the weapons, and has killed thousands of Russian-speaking people in the Donbass region?

Should U.S. activists hold Russia accountable or the CIA coup-installed U.S. aligned government in Kyiv?

These are significant questions and worthy of debate. Silencing them will do nothing to further peace in our time.  

Setting Ourselves On Fire

I’ve lived my entire life with the spectre of thermonuclear fire consuming the world. It hovered over us as we contemplated the future of what we’d started in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and, sometimes, joked about it — dark humor, laughing in the face of annihilation. 

When I say my entire life, I’m not exaggerating. My father was in college when I was born and he had a post-nuclear apocalypse poem published in a UMaine literary journal. My parents also had vinyl of the Kingston Trio playing “The Merry Minuet” at iconic NYC nightclub the hungry i. (With apologies for the typical white supremacist perspective that the continent of Africa is  analogous to nation-states.)

…Italians hate Yugoslavs. South Africans hate the Dutch.
And I don’t like anybody very much!

But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud
For man’s been endowed with a mushroom shaped cloud.

And we know for certain that some lovely day
Someone will set the spark off and we will all be blown away.

They’re rioting in Africa. There’s strife in Iran.
What nature doesn’t do to us will be done by our fellow man.

After listening to that on repeat for several years, is it any wonder I flinched every time a plane flew overhead? Such was my childhood. 

Then there were the racial assassinations of the 60’s. James Baldwin’s prophetic book The Fire Next Time was on our shelves. It’s a metaphor, it’s Biblical, and it also coexisted with the arson that accompanied many riots. Cue Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whose famous quote on that deserves its full context:

And I would be the first to say that I am still committed to militant, powerful, massive, non­-violence as the most potent weapon in grappling with the problem from a direct action point of view. I’m absolutely convinced that a riot merely intensifies the fears of the white community while relieving the guilt. And I feel that we must always work with an effective, powerful weapon and method that brings about tangible results. But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity. [emphasis mine]

(Do I need to point out how much worse things have gotten for Black people in incarceration nation since MLK said that?)

So I’ve worried about inequality and injustice, and I’ve worried about U.S. wars with their destruction and self-inflicted moral injuries. 

Photo by Malcolm Browne for Associated Press

Back when the corporate press showed more of the news, we watched as a Buddhist monk in Vietnam died by self-immolation. Widely perceived as a protest against the war,  Thích Quang Duc’s act called attention to persecution of Buddhists by the puppet government of South Vietnam in 1963.

Many years and many U.S. puppet governments later, it slowly became apparent that we should all be more aware of global warming and climate change ending us. And that wars and, more broadly, militarism are a big part of that.

A long preamble leading up to this news: 

a Buddhist burned himself to death in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Earth Day 2022 to call attention to extreme climate crisis.

This image from an unknown videographer appears to be a still from a video allegedly of Wynn Bruce’s self-immolation, and an emergency responder trying to put the fire out.

But under the 21st century’s corporate information control regime, hardly anybody heard about it.

Image source: UK Daily Mail “Pictured: Climate activist, 50, who died after lighting himself ablaze in front of the Supreme Court on Earth Day wrote ‘4/22/2022’ and a fire emoji in a Facebook post from 2020”

In fact the first few stories about Bruce’s act in the U.S. corporate press neglected to include…climate change. This is consistent with their focus on profits over life and is a major contributing factor to the increased threat of climate chaos.

The same is true of their chronic neglect of the military elephant in the climate change room. To know the facts about that, you’d need to turn to alternative media, or search out collections like this one.

Nonstop coverage of atrocities allegedly committed on behalf of the villain du jour pushes out useful, actionable information.

Today, as the world gallops toward nuclear confrontation in the proxy war between the U.S./NATO and Russia, U.S. taxpayers recently sent $1 billion in weapons to Ukraine’s puppet government while the corporate press applauded and ice shelves collapsed.

Leading intellectuals wonder not if but how we will set ourselves on fire unto death. Will it be long painful years of heat, floods, drought, and sea level rise? Or a relatively brief nuclear war being inexplicably promoted by the talking heads employed to manufacture consent? Stay tuned.