I had the privilege of talking with two Veterans For Peace who are being detained in Ireland because of their antiwar actions there. Tarak Kauff and Ken Mayers are U.S. military veterans who went to Ireland with a delegation to join Veterans For Peace Ireland and Ed Horgan, its founder, in ongoing opposition to U.S. military presence at Shannon Airport. Ed Horgan is a 20-year veteran of the Irish military.
On St. Patrick’s Day, Ken and Tarak entered Shannon Airport to protest, and hopefully inspect, a plane carrying U.S. troops and weapons bound for war in the Middle East. Tarak and Ken were arrested on the airfield with a “Respect Irish Neutrality” banner, while the rest of the group remained outside the terminal. Security for the facility arrested Ken & Tarak and handed them over to the local Garda, where they were jailed overnight. They were then moved to Limerick Prison where they spent 12 more days of incarceration.
Unbelievably, since 2001 three million U.S. troops have passed through Shannon Airport. Besides combat troops, U.S. planes ferry contractors and weapons to tear apart the lives of ordinary people. Yet the U.S. is stepping all over Irish neutrality and violating the will of the people – 82% support neutrality. “The U.S. doesn’t need Ireland,” says Tarak, as it can land military plans in England, Germany or other territories of the “Coalition of the Willing.” It is precisely because Ireland is considered neutral that the U.S. is asserting its will.
Although the men were granted bail, the court refused to return their passports. That was almost seven months ago and they still await trial. They want to go home to their families, and are totally committed to returning to Ireland for trial, but the court won’t budge. The Irish government maintains separation of the judiciary from the executive and legislative. They recognize the executive can’t interfere with the judiciary, but they hope the PM will advise the prosecutor to let them go.
Recently, Ken and Tarak launched “Boots on the Ground for Freedom,” a three-week walk through Ireland to spread the word about Irish neutrality and the U.S. military’s disregard for it. They started from Limerick Prison and walked north to Donegal (they were driven in some segments). The weather was unusually great (only two hours of light rain the whole time), as they passed through “one of the most beautiful countries in the world,” towns and hills with cows, sheep and goats. They reached Malin Head, the northernmost point in Ireland and a very significant place because of the Eire sign painted on rocks in WWII notifying pilots they were flying over neutral territory. They gave presentations along the route and had some notoriety because of TV, radio and news coverage. Day by day there was a lot of support.
In New York in early September, Ken’s granddaughter, Zaidie Mayers, and Ellen Davidson, Tarak’s wife and an associate member of Veterans For Peace, gave a letter to the Irish Consulate asking that Tarak and Ken be returned to the U.S. while they await trial. There has been no response.
Please go to stopthesewars.org to follow Tarak and Ken’s case and see more photos of them on the airfield.