Czech Opponents of US Radar Base Celebrate Their Victory

For Immediate Release

Campaign for Peace and Democracy
Contact: 

Joanne Landy, Campaign for Peace and Democracy, Tel: (212) 666-4001; jlandy@igc.org

Czech Opponents of US Radar Base Celebrate Their Victory

NEW YORK - The Obama
administration has canceled plans to deploy a military radar in the Czech
Republic and Interceptor missiles in Poland. Excerpts from the recent
victory statements of the Czech radar opponents are at the end of this
release.

The
majority of Czech and Polish people never supported these proposed
U.S. military bases -- though one 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 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 http://www.cpdweb.org/ for more
information about its solidarity campaign since 2007.)

"We can
only speculate about the Obama administration's actual motives in
canceling these missile ‘defense' plans," said Joanne Landy,
Co-Director of the Campaign for Peace and Democracy. "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 http://www.space4peace.org/)

"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.," Landy said. "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,'" said Thomas Harrison, Co-Director of the Campaign for Peace
and Democracy. "We are committed to continuing the fight against nuclear
escalation, missile ‘defense,' and U.S. militarism, including the growing
wars against Afghanistan and Pakistan." 

*The Campaign for Peace and Democracy has long opposed sanctions on Iran.
Sanctions have served to undermine Iranian dissidents and harm the
Iranian population. But more, they have been imposed to pressure Iran to
give up even peaceful nuclear activity that is permitted by the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty. U.S. intelligence reported in 2007 and now
reaffirms that it believes Iran is not currently pursuing a nuclear
weapons program (Mark Hosenball, " Intelligence Agencies Say No New
Nukes in Iran," Newsweek Web Exclusive, Sept. 16, 2009,
http://www.newsweek.com/id/215529). CPD opposes the possession of nuclear
weapons by Iran, or anyone else, but we have pointed out the hypocrisy of
the U.S. government threatening Iran over suspected nuclear weapons and
potential violations of the NPT, when Washington itself has an immense
nuclear arsenal, its close ally Israel has at least a hundred
thermonuclear weapons,
and
the US has failed to live up
to its NPT obligation to take good-faith steps toward
disarmament.

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