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.  

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