Monday, September 28, 2009

Celebrate a victory for the peace movement

The Campaign for Peace and Democracy has a valuable statement on the decision of the Obama administration to drop plans to install a "star wars" missile defense installations in Eastern Europe. CPD worked closely with groups in Czechoslovakia and Poland to oppose the Bush plan. I supported them in this effort.

Here's is the CPD statement.

By now you've no doubt heard the good news that the Obama administration has canceled plans to deploy a military radar in the Czech Republic and Interceptor missiles in Poland. Although it is by no means the end of the story of resisting U.S. military power, this is a great victory for the peace movement around the world, and deserves to be celebrated! Excerpts from the recent victory statements of the Czech radar opponents are at the end of this message.

The majority of Czech and Polish people never supported these proposed U.S. military bases -- though you would never know it from reading the American media with its recent headlines about the cancellation of the bases such as "Eastern Europe Grumbles About Downgrade in US Ties," "Poles, Czechs: US Missile Defense Shift a Betrayal," or, perhaps most preposterous of all, "Eastern Europe Not Feeling the Love From Obama." These headlines make the classic error of presuming that the views of governments are necessarily the same as those of the people.

In the Czech Republic, relentless mass protest prevented the Czech Chamber of Deputies from ratifying the radar agreement: opponents engaged in a whole range of creative actions against the proposed base, from petition drives and marches to hunger strikes and street theater. Czech anti-radar activists succeeded in gaining the support of many politicians in their own country, and in generating solidarity around the world -- including here in the U.S. where, as you probably know, the Campaign for Peace and Democracy was a major organizer of support for the Czech protestors with our own sign-on statements, demonstrations, forums and publicity in The New York Times, The Nation, The Progressive, the New York Review of Books, and elsewhere. (See the CPD website for more information about our solidarity campaign since 2007.)

We can only speculate about the Obama administration's actual motives in canceling these missile "defense" plans. It was conceivably a simple military modernization to deploy more effective anti-missile weapons, as Robert Gates claimed in his op-ed in the The New York Times on September 20th. It may have been an attempt to moderate wasteful military spending, as administration spokespersons have said, since replacement weapons will cost less than those originally planned. It may have been an attempt to conciliate the Russians, who have seen the bases in Poland and the Czech Republic as the seeds of a threat to their own strategic military capability; the administration hopes to enlist the Russians in imposing heightened sanctions on Iran if it refuses to cooperate on nuclear issues.* But, though they are never likely to admit it, the administration and the Pentagon also had to take into consideration the dangerous consequences of trying to install these new bases in the face of negative popular opinion in the Czech Republic and Poland and the prospect of militant and very public resistance in the Czech Republic.

In his September 20 Op Ed Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made a point of stating that, "The future of missile defense in Europe is secure." He says the Pentagon plans to soon "deploy proven, sea-based SM-3 interceptor missiles -- weapons that are growing in capability -- in the areas where we see the greatest threat to Europe, and in about 2015, to place "upgraded SM-3s on the ground in Southern and Central Europe." (For an analysis of the Pentagon plans, see Bruce Gagnon's very helpful “Missile Defense: The Other Story" on the website of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space at

We are not reassured by these plans for military escalation, and we do not believe that such escalation is the way to respond to the threat of future Iranian nuclear capability. Instead, as we said in our original 2007 sign-on statement against the Czech radar, "The United States and other nuclear powers can best reduce the danger of nuclear warfare by taking major steps toward both nuclear and conventional disarmament and refraining from waging or threatening 'preventive' war -- not by expanding the nuclear threat. Such steps by the existing nuclear powers would create a political context that would powerfully discourage new countries from developing their own nuclear weapons."

Czech groups opposed to the radar have been celebrating their victory: “We have been active more than three years in the struggle to prevent this plan from materializing. We are very happy that finally the position of the US administration is in line with the will of majority of Czechs,” said Jan Tamas, spokesman of the Nonviolence movement, one of the Czech groups active in opposing the radar.

Another Czech anti-radar group, the No Bases Initiative, released a statement that said, in part,"The struggle against the radar has always been the struggle for democracy, for the right to decide on the principal orientation of the country in a referendum. Despite all difficulties and the arrogant and ignorant behavior of many politicians, it is clear that an important victory in our common struggle has been achieved. We should remember this, no matter how the situation develops in the future. It has been meaningful to sign the anti-radar petition and demonstrate against the radar, it has been meaningful to pose questions to the members of the Parliament and put pressure on them. Civic protest is meaningful.”

“For the civic No Bases Initiative (Ne zakladnam), this is not the end of our activities. We will go on, enriched by this experience. Nor does it mean the end of the U.S. anti-missile defense projects; discussion has already started about alternatives to the radar in the Czech Republic and to the missiles in Poland. But a the really good news remains ­ that we have been able to prove, within the broad anti-radar movement, and hand in hand with all those who took part in the most diverse anti-radar activities during these three years, that we have the power to change things to for the better.”

We join with our Czech colleagues in belief that “civic protest is meaningful.” We are committed to continuing the fight against nuclear escalation, missile “defense,” and U.S. militarism, including the growing wars against Afghanistan and Pakistan. --Joanne Landy and Thomas Harrison, Co-Directors, Campaign for Peace and Democracy

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