[News] Former US Marine on the Mavi Marmara - On Cowardice and Violence

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jun 7 11:33:50 EDT 2010


http://www.counterpunch.org/
June 7, 2010


Reflections by a Former US Marine on the Mavi Marmara


On Cowardice and Violence

By KEN O'KEEFE

Istanbul

In 2002 I initiated the TJP Human Shield Action 
to Iraq because I knew that the  invasion of Iraq 
had been planned well in advance, that it 
was  part of a ‘Global Spectrum Dominance’ agenda 
as laid out by the  Project For A New American 
Century.  I knew that protests had no chance of 
stopping the invasion, and that largely these 
protests were just a way of making us feel better 
about the coming mass  murder; by being able to 
say “I protested against it.” With that 
understanding I argued that the only viable way 
to stop the  invasion was to conduct a mass 
migration to Iraq.  A migration in which people 
from around the world, especially western 
citizens,  would position themselves at sites in 
Iraq that are supposed to be  protected by 
international law, but which are routinely bombed 
when it is only Iraqi, Palestinian, generally 
non-white, western  lives who will be killed.  I 
felt 10,000 such people could stop the invasion, 
or at the very least, expose the invasion for 
what  it was from the start, an act of 
international aggression, a war  crime and a crime against humanity.

I have for many years understood that we, people 
of conscience,  are the true holders of power in 
this world.  Frustratingly however we have 
largely relinquished that power and failed 
to  reach our full potential.  Our potential to 
create a better world,  a just 
world.  Nonetheless I have conspired with others 
of like  mind to reveal and exercise our true power.

When our two double decker busses travelled from 
London to Baghdad  through Turkey, it was ever 
clear that the people of Turkey also  could sense 
the power of this act, and they were the 
biggest  participants in it.  In the end we did 
not get the numbers  required to stop the war, 
with at least one million Iraqi’s dead  as a 
result, but I remain convinced that it was within 
our power  to prevent the invasion.  A massive 
opportunity lost as far as I  am concerned.

In 2007 I joined the Free Gaza Movement with its 
plan to challenge  the blockade of Gaza by 
travelling to Gaza by sea.  From the  moment I 
heard of the plan I knew it could succeed and 
ultimately  I served as a captain on the first 
attempt. The Israeli  government said throughout 
our preparation that we were no better  than 
pirates and they would treat us as such.  They 
made clear we  would not reach Gaza.  And still I 
knew we could succeed.  And we did.  Two boats 
with 46 passengers from various countries 
managed  to sail into Gaza on August 23, 2010; 
this was the first time this  had been done in 41 years.

The truth is the blockade of Gaza is  far more 
than three years old, and yet we, a small group 
of  conscientious people defied the Israeli 
machine and celebrated  with tens of thousands of 
Gazans when we arrived that day.  We proved that 
it could be done.  We proved that an intelligent 
plan,  with skilled manipulation of the media, 
could render the full  might of the Israeli Navy 
useless.  And I knew then that this was  only the tip of the iceberg.

So participating in the Freedom Flotilla is like 
a family reunion  to me.  It is my long lost 
family whose conscience is their guide,  who have 
shed the fear, who act with humanity.  But I 
was  especially proud to join IHH and the Turkish 
elements of the  flotilla.  I deeply admire the 
strength and character of the  Turkish people, 
despite your history having stains of 
injustice,  like every nation, you are today from 
citizen to Prime Minister  among the leaders in 
the cause of humanity and justice.

I remember being asked during the TJP Human 
Shield Action to Iraq  if I was a pacifist, I 
responded with a quote from Gandhi by  saying I 
am not a passive anything.  To the contrary I 
believe in  action, and I also believe in 
self-defence, 100 per cent, 
without  reservation.  I would be incapable of 
standing by while a tyrant  murders my family, 
and the attack on the Mavi Marmara was like 
an  attack on my Palestinian family.  I am proud 
to have stood  shoulder to shoulder with those 
who refused to let a rogue Israeli  military exert their will without a fight.

And yes, we fought.

When I was asked, in the event of an Israeli 
attack on the Mavi  Marmara, would I use the 
camera, or would I defend the 
ship?  I  enthusiastically committed to defence 
of the ship.  Although I am  also a huge 
supporter of non-violence, in fact I 
believe  non-violence must always be the first 
option.  Nonetheless I  joined the defence of the 
Mavi Mamara understanding that  violence could be 
used against us and that we may very well 
be  compelled to use violence in self defence.

I said this straight to Israeli agents, probably 
of Mossad or Shin  Bet, and I say it again now, 
on the morning of the attack I was  directly 
involved in the disarming of two Israeli 
Commandos.  This  was a forcible, non-negotiable, 
separation of weapons from  commandos who had 
already murdered two brothers that I had 
seen  that day.  One brother with a bullet 
entering dead center in his  forehead, in what appeared to be an execution.

I knew the commandos were murdering when I 
removed a 9mm pistol from one of  them.  I had 
that gun in my hands and as an ex-US Marine with 
training in the use of guns it was completely 
within my power to  use that gun on the commando 
who may have been the murderer of one  of my 
brothers.  But that is not what I, nor any other 
defender of  the ship did.  I took that weapon 
away, removed the bullets,  proper lead bullets, 
separated them from the weapon and hid 
the  gun.  I did this in the hopes that we would 
repel the attack and  submit this weapon as 
evidence in a criminal trial against 
Israeli  authorities for mass murder.  I also 
helped to physically separate one commando from 
his assault  rifle, which another brother apparently threw into the sea.

I and hundreds of others know the truth that 
makes a mockery of the  brave and moral Israeli 
military.  We had in our full possession, three 
completely disarmed and helpless 
commandos.  These boys were at our mercy, they 
were out of reach of their fellow 
murderers,  inside the ship and surrounded by 100 
or more men.  I looked into  the eyes of all 
three of these boys and I can tell you they 
had  the fear of God in them.  They looked at us 
as if we were them,  and I have no doubt they did 
not believe there was any way they  would survive 
that day.  They looked like frightened children 
in  the face of an abusive father.

But they did not face an enemy as ruthless as 
they.  Instead the  woman provided basic first 
aid, and ultimately they were released,  battered 
and bruised for sure, but alive.  Able to live 
another  day.  Able to feel the sun over head and 
the embrace of loved  ones.  Unlike those they 
murdered.  Despite mourning the loss of  our 
brothers, feeling rage towards these boys, we let them go.

The Israeli prostitutes of propaganda can spew 
all of their  disgusting bile all they wish, the 
commandos are the murderers, we  are the 
defenders, and yet we fought.  We fought not just 
for our  lives, not just for our cargo, not just 
for the people of  Palestine, we fought in the 
name of justice and humanity.  We were  right to do so, in every way.

While in Israeli custody I, along with everyone 
else was subjected  to endless abuse and flagrant 
acts of disrespect.  Women and  elderly were 
physically and mentally assaulted.  Access to 
food  and water and toilets was denied.  Dogs 
were used against us, we  ourselves were treated 
like dogs.  We were exposed to direct sun  in 
stress positions while hand cuffed to the point 
of losing  circulation of blood in our hands.  We 
were lied to incessantly,  in fact I am awed at 
the routineness and comfort in their ability  to 
lie, it is remarkable really.  We were abused in 
just about  every way imaginable and I myself was 
beaten and choked to the  point of blacking out
 
and I was beaten again while in my cell.   In all 
this what I saw more than anything else were 
cowards
 and  yet I also see my 
brothers.  Because no matter how vile and 
wrong  the Israeli agents and government are, 
they are still my brothers  and sisters and for 
now I only have pity for them.  Because they are 
relinquishing the most precious thing a human being has, their  humanity.

In conclusion; I would like to challenge every 
endorser of Gandhi,  every person who thinks they 
understand him, who acknowledges him  as one of 
the great souls of our time (which is just about 
every  western leader), I challenge you in the form of a question.

Please explain how we, the defenders of the Mavi 
Mamara, are not  the modern example of Gandhi’s 
essence?  But first read the words  of Gandhi himself.
I do believe that, where there is only a choice 
between cowardice  and violence, I would advise 
violence.... I would rather have  India resort to 
arms in order to defend her honour than that 
she  should, in a cowardly manner, become or 
remain a helpless witness  to her own dishonour. – Gandhi
And lastly I have one more challenge. I challenge 
any critic of  merit, publicly, to debate me on a 
large stage over our actions  that day.  I would 
especially love to debate with any Israeli 
leader  who accuses us of wrongdoing, it would be 
my tremendous pleasure  to face off with 
you.  All I saw in Israel was cowards with 
guns,  so I am ripe to see you in a new 
context.  I want to debate with  you on the 
largest stage possible.  Take that as an open 
challenge  and let us see just how brave Israeli leaders are.

Ken O'Keefe is a former US Marine and Gulf War veteran.




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