This interview was conducted by Isin Elicin on NTV (Turkish 24 hour television)
ISIN ELICIN: Hi Ken, thank you very much for being with us today. Soon you will be going to Iraq to volunteer to act as a human shield. Could you tell us why you are risking your life?
KENNETH NICHOLS O'KEEFE: I think we are in the point in history where people are willing to put their lives on the line and they really want to stand up what they believe in. We are seriously flirting with World War III and possibly nuclear annihilation. How can we not respond, how can we not do something about it. I think the right place for me to be is Iraq at this point.
ISIN ELICIN: What did you feel about going to Iraq then in 1991 as a US marine? What has changed for you since then?
KENNETH NICHOLS O'KEEFE: Well, I've grown a lot over the last 12 years. So at the time I did see some legitimacy to protecting Kuwaiti interest and Kuwaiti sovereignty. You know. I think I was a bit naÃ¯ve in that sense. But at same rate I realized that the war that time was more about oil and getting US troops in Saudi Arabia, which of course still remain there today, which is a part of America7s global domination plan. I think a lot of people understand that, but at the time I felt that it was somewhat justified.
ISIN ELICIN: What can be the psychology of the American soldiers today about this coming war?
KENNETH NICHOLS O'KEEFE: Well, I think the American soldiers are very much like a lot of American people. They've been fed a tremendous amount of propaganda. The American propaganda system is the most efficient propaganda system in the history of the world. A lot of people believe in a tremendous amount of nonsense and rubbish because of that propaganda system. So the military is not an exception. At the same rate, there are a lot of people in the military who know that this war in particular is very much about oil and global domination, so there is division within the military most certainly. It's going to be interesting to see how many people are going to resist.
ISIN ELICIN: If the target for America would be Iran or North Korea, would you be again risking your life as a human shield, or you go to Baghdad because you have an personal experience in Iraq?
KENNETH NICHOLS O'KEEFE: No. Actually I intend to go to Palestine after Iraq. I want a global mass movement to begin. It has already begun but I want to mass migration to these areas where imperialist powers like the United States are fighting oil wars and global domination wars. I think if we as people continue to wait for our politicians who do not represent us to fix the problems, we will be waiting until we destroy ourselves. It is up to us, the people, to stand up now and act, and I think the best act we could commit at this point is to make a mass migration to Iraq and stop this war. And if we can stop this war, we can stop any war. If we can stop this war in Iraq, then we should go to Palestine and stop the occupation, stop the curfews, stop the roadblocks and stop the killing of Palestinians. And from there let's go to Chechnya, or let's do all at the same time. I think we need to have mass migrations of people. Stop waiting for others to fix the problems. We, as people, need to solve the problems ourselves.
ISIN ELICIN: Do you think the American army would think twice before dropping bombs, knowing that there are some Americans and Europeans are down there?
KENNETH NICHOLS O'KEEFE: I know that if we get several thousand people or 10 thousand people down into Baghdad, politically it would become such a liability that we could indeed stop this war. But it'll take a mass amount of people and there in lies the problem. I think we, as people, need to realize that we do have the power. The power is not with the minority who has been dictating and running out the world for too long. From the beginning they've been running us: the people who have the major resources of this world, the ones that are running the corporations, the ones that are running our politicians. They have been dividing us and keeping us stupid for too long. We as people need to realize that we have the power. Take that power back and stop these wars that are criminal. They are only intended to keep the power within the tiny minority.
ISIN ELICIN: In your recent article in the Observer you say, I quote, " I went beyond ignorance into criminal participation in a war against Iraqi people which included the use of depleted uranium against civilian population." Referring to that could you tell us what did you see there in Iraq in 1991?
KENNETH NICHOLS O'KEEFE: What I saw is just basically... America is a big bully; I mean America picks on people that it knows it can beat with no effort at all. It's cowards that drop bombs and send smart bombs into other places in the civilian areas, using depleted uranium, which continues to kill for generations to come. Those are cowardly acts. Those Iraqi soldiers I felt sorry for them to a great extent. They were getting bombed for 30 day plus an air war to the point where they were just beaten and had no will to fight whatsoever. So we just rolled right thorough Kuwait and secure the road that was leading from Kuwait City to Baghdad. And there was really no resistance at all. I mean, they've just beaten so badly and I think it definitely, you know, reinforce the fact that America's military power is completely unparalled and out of control. But at the same rate it is cowardly and they wouldn't pick on somebody who could actually fight back.
ISIN ELICIN: Do you expect America to use depleted uranium again or even worse weapons?
KENNETH NICHOLS O'KEEFE: Well, it certainly will. They did it in Afghanistan and they are going to use it again. So far the issue with depleted uranium has not become big enough issue to force these weapons not to be used any longer. I intend to bring, if I have my way, or if anybody out there would like to help me -attorneys who would like to bring charges against the United States for crimes against humanity for its use of depleted uranium. The United States knows fully well the effects of radiation on civilian populations. They have their own studies, the department of energy's studies; the US government's studies prove and admit that that the United States has conducted experiments on human beings, on their own citizens with radiation. They know the effects of radiation so; therefore, they know the effects of depleted uranium, so therefore they know that people are going to have birth defects and cancer. They used it anyway and that was George Bush senior's decision to use it in the first Gulf War. As far as I can tell that's a crime against humanity and George Bush should be at The Hague, not Milosevic. Or at least he should be ahead of Milosevic. And his son should be there next if he carries out this war which of course he will.
ISIN ELICIN: Do you have a problem, that is are you personally affected by the use of depleted uranium?
KENNETH NICHOLS O'KEEFE: Depleted uranium takes some time to have its effects. Most of us that had exposed to depleted uranium are expected to die maybe 10 to 15 years after our exposure. So I met that period now where conceivably there may be some ill effects that apply now. But I don't know or have anything at this point. I haven't been tested; of course the US government hasn't tested any of its people. In fact it didn't tell us that they were using depleted uranium, it didn't tell its own people to stay away from down tanks or down armored personnel carriers that may have been hit with DU. They didn't even care about their own people, much less the Iraqi people, which really makes this war much more criminal. Even to suggest that the American government cares about the Iraqi people is a major insult to our intelligence and shows how dishonest and how really criminal they are.
ISIN ELICIN: You have your personal reasons to go back to Iraq as a human shield. But why do you think ordinary people will join you?
KENNETH NICHOLS O'KEEFE: Because ordinary people all over the world are realizing that the way our world is going right now is incredibly dangerous. Many of them are parents and they have children. They are concerned about their children's future. They are starting to realize that voting and recycling and going to an occasional protest is not going to stop these problems. They are getting worse and worse everyday. Just last month America reaffirmed its policy of willingness to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states that attack the US or its allies with weapons of mass destruction. What if the CIA uses a weapon of mass destruction and blame, say Iran or North Korea. Are they gone use nuclear weapons then on those countries and how are those countries going to respond? We could go into a nuclear war at ay point. We are living at an extremely dangerous time. We are flirting with our own disaster and I think the ordinary people all over the world are realizing this and it is pushing them to extraordinary acts such as going to Iraq.
ISIN ELICIN: In my experience as a journalist, it was very difficult to get a visa to go to Iraq and as far as we know you'll be welcomed by the Iraqi government. Don't you be afraid of being used by Iraqi regime as part of counter propaganda?
KENNETH NICHOLS O'KEEFE: You know, I can't control those things, that's beyond my control and I know who Saddam Hussein is. I'm certainly not going there as an endorsement of Saddam Hussein. We all know what treatment the Iraqi people had to deal with under Saddam Hussein. But the reality is our governments; the British government and the United States government were complicit with Saddam's crimes. In fact, they gave him the military weaponry, the chemical and biological technologies. They gave him economic aid. He was a favored trading partner for all the years he committed his worst crimes against the Iraqi people. So in that sense I think that our governments are even more criminal then Saddam. Without our governments he couldn't have lasted as long as he did. Now whether he is going to use me or other people who are down there I can't say. That's certainly a potential risk but I don't think politically there is anything much for him to gain in doing so. And I think probably the only reason why he would do something like that is if he would knew he was going to be destroyed, which is certainly a possibility but hopefully not. Hopefully that's not going to happen.
ISIN ELICIN: You will start your journey to Iraq on January 18th in London. Could you tell us the course of the journey?
KENNETH NICHOLS O'KEEFE: We are finalizing the course but at this point where I think we'll be going as Brussels, Amsterdam, Paris, I would like to go to a concentration camp in Germany, I think that would be a fit place to visit, Switzerland, probably to Milan or Rome in Italy, Sarajevo. Then we intend to go to Istanbul which I'm very much looking forward to because I've made a lot of contacts with people in Turkey and it seems that the people there are aware of what's going on. They are sick and tired of their government not representing their interest and they are ready to stand up. So I am looking forward to getting there. And then we are going to Baghdad after Turkey.
ISIN ELICIN: You appeal people via your Internet site to join you. How is the response?
KENNETH NICHOLS O'KEEFE. I've been getting an incredible response. I'm getting people from all over the world. I've got veterans who are calling up and interested in coming. I've got people from Europe, Turkey as well. New Zealand, Australia, I'm getting responses from all over the world and again these are ordinary people. I've a six months pregnant lady who is concerned for her unborn child and feels compelled to go. I mean I'm really inspired by the response I'm getting in. I've only just begun this action really. This was originated or initiated only three weeks ago and it's going rapidly. Soon there's going to be more coverage in Europe and in Britain on BBC. So I expect there to be a much greater amount of people will want to come. I just want to be able to provide transportation and get a convoy getting down there. I'd like to see thousands of us entering Iraq. I see no reason why out of a continent like Europe with hundreds of millions of people, whey we can't have several thousand of people going down to Baghdad.
ISIN ELICIN: In your article you wrote, "I would rather die in defense of justice and peace than prosper in complicity with mass murder and war..." Could you elaborate on this a little bit more?
KENNETH NICHOLS O'KEEFE: I think most people feel that way whether they really think about it or not. I understand what my country has been involved in, and that's why I renounced my US citizenship two years ago. You know being a citizen means that you have (...inaudible...) to your nation whether you want to admit it or not. Why I renounced my US citizenship and why I'm going to Iraq are the same reasons. And yeah, I would rather die than sit by and watch what's happening in front of me right now. Really, I mean it. I think people who fear death are people who don't live their life as they believe and if you fear dying it prevents you from doing what you believe right, and if you don't fear death than you are able to do what you believe in. That's fortunately for me something that I come to believe and I think that's through appreciating the wisdom of people much greater than I such as Malcolm X or Gandhi, Einstein, and many many people more who have really done amazing things and shared some wonderful thoughts and some of them paid it with their lives. I definitely would rather give up my life than sit by and watch something that I feel is criminal. But having said that, I would choose to live...I would certainly choose to live. I am not suicidal and I'm not trying to be a martyr. I just want to do what's right and if I am my way I'll be sticking around and the world will turn for the better.
ISIN ELICIN: And finally, what is your expectation from this campaign? Will you be able to avert war?
KENNETH NICHOLS O'KEEFE: I think we can stop the war. I absolutely believe we can stop this war. In fact I know if we have 10 thousand, 20 thousand people from all over the world, from Europe and America. That's a miniscule number again, if we were talking about just Europe alone, we are talking about well over 5 hundred million, 6 hundred million people. Out of that many, why can't we get 10 thousand or 20 thousand people? I think it's because people don't feel that they have the ability to do so, they don't have the support to do so. For those people who can't go, who perhaps have some money, who could help fund those of us who are willing to go? That's what you can contribute then. Stop paying your money to tax system, as in America with 369 billion dollars a year. Refuse to pay that money. Take that money instead and provide it to people who are willing to put their lives on line to go to Iraq. Why can't we get 10 or 20 thousand people or even more people to go to Iraq and if we got that many people, do we really think that this war could happen? And if it did happen, what would be the response all around the world. I think at that point America and Britain would be exposed to what they are: mass murderers and war criminals if they conduct this war. The United States is guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity on so many different levels. Any accurate historical look at the records is going to show that the United States is the biggest terrorist and been involved in more horrible actions, the bombing of South East Asia, the two bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki which was just absolute mass murder on a level that is disgusting beyond belief. We can name numbers of situations over the last hundred years and the bottom line is that if we sit by and continue to watch this happening it's going to get worse and I don't think that's sustainable.
Ken Nichols O'Keefe of the Universal Kinship Society is leading the volunteer mission of peace activists who will be acting as human shields in Iraq. In 1991 he was a member of the United States Marine Corps and he went to Iraq as as soldier to fight the Gulf War. See www.uksociety.org for more information.