Kenneth Nichols O'Keefe, is a strikingly handsome 41 year old naturalized Irish, Palestinian, Hawaiian and world citizen, who began expressing his spirit on his skin with tattoos while a U.S. Marine who served in the 1991 Gulf War.
Ken O'Keefe in Washington with
his mom Pat Johnson
During 13 days on the road with Ken, his mother and the Salem-News.com crew who documented his non-stop speaking engagements through the NW US and into Victoria, Canada, Ken informed me that his first tattoo was the "meat tag" on the left side of his chest.
"When I found out the Marines were not exactly about honor and integrity I had the USMC crossed out and replaced with "civilian". I didn't even know the tattoo artist but he gave me the tattoo for free because it was novel."
At the same time, Ken also began speaking up verbally about America's use of depleted uranium as a "crime against humanity" and how the US military uses soldiers as "human guinea pigs" with experimental drugs that were directly linked to the Gulf War syndrome.
Ken has been a boat captain, dive instructor and social entrepreneur whose efforts have rescued over fifty-five endangered Green Sea Turtles in Hawaii.
Ken founded Deep Ecology, a 14 year old dive operation in Hawaii, that also focuses on education, environmental protection and customer service.
Ken has saved untold amounts of marine life and successfully lobbied for the creation of the North Shore's first Marine Sanctuary, and today his mother, Pat Johnson runs the operation and on the left margin of the Deep Ecology site it proclaims, "RESPECT YOUR MOTHER" meaning both biological and Mother Nature.
Ken renounced his US citizenship on March 1, 2001 and rose to fame for leading the human shield action to Iraq and was deemed a terrorist by Israel for his resistance against their attack on the MV Mavi Marmara in which he defended the ship by disarming two Israeli Commandos, who were treated by medical doctors and released.
"I've made mistakes as every human does, but not regarding morals and integrity. By myself, I can do little, but together we can do everything. The Mavi Marmara experience proved that a small group of people who work together and tell the truth will create a better world.
"Our greatest responsibility is to hand over a better world to all children, and the 800,000 children in Gaza, are my children. I would rather die in pursuit of justice than back down. How can anyone accept the unacceptable!
"Governments should fear the people, not the other way around. The world is what we make of it and the fact that their is so much injustice in our world is a testament to our failure to unite and exercise our ultimate power.
"Direct Action, such as that which we conducted on the Mavi Marmara is the most powerful way for people of conscience to defy tyranny and affect justice; we have only just begun to reach our potential. Protecting that ship as we did was really an act of protecting the 800,000 plus children of Gaza who are the major beneficiary of breaking the blockade and ending their collective punishment.
Ken speaking at Portland State University
Salem-News.com photo by Dexter Phoenix
"Israel used stun guns, percussion grenades, rounds of live ammunition, 9mm pistols, submachine guns and they had snipers in the helicopters.
"They attacked during morning prayers at 3:40 AM [on America's Memorial Day] and within five minutes of their attack, I saw a photographer who was a father of two shot in the head while he was taking photos of the helicopter.