Ireland has been a neutral nation since the 1930s, meaning it doesn’t join military alliances and under numerous treaties is not supposed to assist other countries in military endeavors. However, the United States regularly violates Irish neutrality by flying troops, weapons and military supplies through Shannon Airport. We speak with Tarak Kauff, Ken Mayers and Ellen Davidson, all members of Veterans for Peace, about an action Tarak and Ken took in March to protest the US’ violations. They were arrested and held in jail for 12 days for a minor offense and since then have had their passports seized and are not allowed to leave Ireland. It could be many years before they face trial. Listen to their story and what their current walk across Ireland to raise awareness of Ireland’s participation in wars.
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Ken Mayers: Since he resigned his commission as a U.S. Marine Corp Captain in 1966 Ken Mayers has unabashedly worked as a peace activist. 18 members of Mayers German Jewish family died during the WWII Holocaust. “The lesson I took from that,” he said “is no one should ever be oppressed.” He believes that working together we can build a world beyond war. Ken Mayers says that apart from family, his social activism is the most inherently satisfying part of his life….”going to the streets to support causes I believe in is where it’s at.” He can be seen on the corner of Cerrillos and St Francis with other peace activists waving banners calling for the end of war. He has repeatedly demonstrated at the School of the Americas to keep that in public view. In 2002 Ken was the founding president of the Santa Fe Chapter for Veterans for Peace. He feels their mission to abolish war as an instrument of national policy is crucial if we are to survive as a species. In 2012, Ken along with 18 of his Veterans for Peace colleagues were arrested at the NYC Vietnam Memorial while reading names of the fallen. The Vets used the case to push back what they saw as increasing police and judicial encroachment on First Amendment rights to assembly and free speech in public spaces. Ken has been arrested nearly 20 times while working for peace.
Ken has promoted a variety of causes, including a freeze and cutback in worldwide nuclear weapons, an end to sexual assault on female soldiers, and providing jobs for former soldiers. As a global peace promoter, Ken has been active in overseas missions to break Israel’s 2011 blockade of Gaza and to protest it’s tear-gas bombing of the Palestinian village of Bi’lin.
His professional life focuses on administration, consulting, communications systems and helping large organizations function better. These skills have served him well as his role as a peace activist. He has that kind of leadership style that isn’t flashy–it’s just steady and organized and persistent. He is a networker and with his diplomatic manner, hears others positions and respects their approach even if it is in disagreement with his.
Ken is well informed in economics, politics, justice, international relations, veterans and military history and practices. He brings experts to our community; Israeli and Palestinian speakers, foreign policy experts, and many others. Believing that any action legal or not, needs an educational component he speaks at churches, schools, in the courtroom, and is equally effective through his press work.
It is his deep knowledge of the threats to peace, linked with a sense that continuing to fight for peace in whatever way we can is worth it. Ken is a wonderful antidote to despair. He is a superior world citizen.
Tarak Kauff is a longtime antiwar and social justice activist. From the Vietnam War to today’s occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, he has consistently opposed U.S. wars and occupations. He served in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper from 1959 to 1962 and is a member of Veterans for Peace. He is a founder and editor of the bimonthly Woodstock International and the quarterly War Crimes Times progressive newspapers and plays a leading role in VFP&r’s Direct Action Group, organizing veteran-led civil resistance to war at the White House on December 16, 2010, and March 19, 2011. He also led two actions at the National Archives in which a small group of vets spent several days displaying banners drawing attention to violations of the U.S. Constitution, which they are sworn to protect. A strong supporter of self-determination for the Palestinian people. He is a member of the Hudson Valley’s Middle East Crisis Response and took part in the 2009-10 Gaza Freedom March in Cairo.
Ellen Davidson is a longtime activist journalist and photographer. She began her career working with the Guardian Independent Radical Newsweekly in the 80s. She currently works with The Indypendent in New York City and with Veterans For Peace. She has co-organized VFP delegations to Ferguson, Mo.; Standing Rock, N.D.; Jeju, South Korea; Palestine; Okinawa; and Ireland, and she is currently an editor for two VFP quarterly publications, Peace in Our Times and Peace and Planet News. You can see her photography at stopthesewars.org/ellen-