By Mike Ferner, May 24, 2019
Can a pair of U.S. military veterans and the Irish peace movement topple a key outpost of the American Empire entrenched on the Emerald Isle?
That’s the question a new mini-documentary explores about former Marine Ken Mayers and former Army paratrooper, Tarak Kauff as they begin a third month of activist exile in Ireland following a peaceful act of civil disobedience at Shannon Airport on St. Patrick’s Day, walking onto the airfield with a banner that said, “Respect Irish Neutrality. U.S. War Machine Out of Shannon Airport.”
Effectively using photos and film accounts of troop planes arriving and departing, as well as images of Ireland’s “Easter Rising,” the Action from Ireland production, “War Crimes Facilitated At Shannon Airport” lets the words of three veterans and Clare Daly, an Irish Member of Parliament, provide the narration. They explain how the U.S. military quietly turned the civilian airport into a major hub for troops and weapons en route to wars in the Middle East. Some three million troops have passed through Shannon since the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003.
Kauff, the 77 year-old former paratrooper, put it bluntly. The U.S. government has “stomped all over Irish neutrality in the worst possible way, making Ireland complicit in war crimes. And what’s the excuse? Because the U.S. says, ‘There’s no weapons on board?’ You’re taking the word of the United States?”
Asked how they decided to protest at Shannon, he responded, “We had a motivation as veterans and more importantly, as human beings, to take a stand against murder. Children are being killed every day by U.S. airstrikes and the wars that they’re waging in 14 countries. If you have children or grandchildren and you love people, you just can’t sit by silently and permit this to happen.”
As visuals of news headlines and photos appeared, Mayers explained that, “The U.S. military is using this civilian airport essentially as a U.S. base. The result is death and destruction throughout the Middle East and North Africa.”
The 82 year-old former Marine Corps Major who saw service in Vietnam, said he finds it “particularly heart-rending that some of this material goes to support the Saudi attacks in Yemen where there are over a million on the verge of starvation. After what Ireland went through in the 19th Century in terms of starvation, I find it bitterly ironic that Ireland should be complicit in the starvation of over a million people.”
He hopes they can help “encourage the Irish government to enforce their neutrality policy and stand up to Uncle Sam, set an example for the rest of the world that they don’t have to play ball with our murderous policies and can resist.” Clare Daly, citing examples of what has happened in similar cases, revealed, “They could be here for a year before their case is addressed.”
She decried the disparity in the sentences she and fellow Member of Parliament, Mick Wallace, received for doing the same thing Mayers and Kauff did. They were given a fine which they didn’t pay, followed by a 30-day jail sentence of which they served “about two hours.” “It’s a violation of human rights in a very serious way on our doorstep,” Daly said, adding “We are really grateful to the lads for the stance that they took. The best tribute we can pay to them is to redouble our efforts to get involved in the campaigns to stop the military use of Shannon.”
Irish Veterans For Peace member, Ed Horgan, who has served in the Irish Defense Forces and U.N. peacekeeping missions, said, “We have seen what war does. We have seen the results. We have seen the bodies. It’s hugely important to us here in Ireland that two U.S. veterans would do this. As it happens, the day after they did their action, 10 children from one extended family were killed in a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan. It’s possible that some of the soldiers who went through Shannon were involved directly or indirectly in that attack.”
“In 1916, Ireland stood up against the most powerful military machine in the world…that’s in the Irish tradition…all that strife is not forgotten today, I know that,” Kauff added.
“It took a great amount of courage and that courage is still in the Irish people. I expect Ireland to stand up to this monstrous entity which is called U.S. Imperialism. And if Ireland stands up, it sets an example for the entire world that is so important. With one country standing up and saying ‘No, we are not going to be part of this,’ others will follow and that’s why the U.S. doesn’t want that to happen. It sets an example for other countries that would like to stand up. They can do it. It can happen. People have to start believing in that. The U.S. has over 800 bases in countries around the world. That’s an empire like we’ve never seen before.”
“The U.S. military is the largest polluting organization in the world and it’s condemning the entire planet to death,” Mayer warned. People should wake up and get involved to make the governments heed the will and the need of the people rather than the 1/10 of 1 percent that controls most of the wealth and decision-making.”
“War Crimes Facilitated at Shannon Airport,” is directed by Roger Whelan, with music by The RoJ LiGht. It can be viewed here on YouTube.
Mike Ferner is a former president of Veterans For Peace and author of “Inside the Red Zone: A Veteran For Peace Reports From Iraq.” Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.