The grannies have done it again — been in the vanguard striking at another dangerous policy of the United States — the proliferation of U.S. military bases on foreign soil. Several members of the Granny Peace Brigade had attended the meeting of the Women’s International Democratic Federation (WIDF) in Caracas, Venezuela in April 2007, a meeting at which approximately 1,000 women from all over the world were present. The American group was shocked to hear the outrage that representatives from other countries expressed about the United States military bases literally cluttering up their homelands, and our grannies determined to do something about it. On Sunday, November 11, Veteran’s Day, the Granny Peace Brigade held a teach-in St. Mark’s Church in New York City, a first, entitled: “Close Guantanamo and All U.S. Bases on Foreign Soil.”
At present, the Pentagon admits to maintaining 737 bases in 130 countries on every continent except Antarctica. There are 100 bases in Japan, for instance, 100 in Italy, and the list goes obnoxiously on. Plans are in progress for opening new ones — in Poland, In Czechoslovakia, and elsewhere, and, now, if you can believe it, schemes are afoot by the U.S. for militarizing space!
Citizens in other countries have long opposed the presence of these bases, but the situation is reaching crisis proportions. The grannies felt that people in the U.S. are largely unaware of the numbers of our military bases on foreign soil and the urgent problems they present. With the public awakening to the Guantanamo horrors, they felt this was an appropriate time to clue the public in to the over-all global situation.
Speakers included Lynne Kates of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), who gave a detailed account of efforts to shut down Guantanamo. She has been very active in trying to obtain habeus corpus rights for the detainees. She described the many horrors of the prison, including how at first prisoners were kept in open-air cages surrounded by razor wire and later moved into solitary confinement cells where they remain to this day. Ms. Kates discussed the upcoming case in the Supreme Court to close Guantanamo and urged us all to go to Washington DC on December 5, the day the trial begins, to assemble at the Court to voice our concerns.
Elsa Rassbach of American Voices Abroad, an American citizen who has lived for many years in Berlin, informed us that Germany has by far the most strategically important U.S. military air bases abroad, the largest U.S. military community, the largest U.S. military training facility, the largest U.S. military hospital and conducts the largest U.S. military transport of munitions to other countries. She spoke of disaffection among local citizens at Ramstein Air Base concerning 2 a.m. aerial practice, and water polluted by fuel generated from the base. Her group is attempting to break through a media blackout in Germany on the issue and to try to solve a tricky quandary: how can they maintain good relations with the U.S. and yet advocate closing the bases? Obviously, Germany doesn’t want to appear militaristic, given its history.
Al Marder of the World Peace Council told of his attendance in March 2007 at the Quito and Manta, Ecuador, Inaugural Conference of the International Network for the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases, and the laudatory (and amusing) fact that President Rafael Correa of the Republic of Ecuador refuses to renew the lease for our base in Manta, the largest one in South America, unless he is permitted to build his own in Miami. Regina Birchem, Past President of WILPF (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom), who attended both the Quito and the Caracas conferences, spoke of the positive effect of women from around the globe participating in peace and justice matters and the need for us to mobilize in large numbers for this particular battle. The forum was moderated by actress-playwright Vinie Burrows, who is the UN liaison to WIDF and led the Granny Peace Brigade detail to the Venezuela forum.
Attendance at the teach-in was over-flowing, and all in the audience were enthusiastic about the scope of information provided them. Because of the success of the event, the Granny Peace Brigade intends to hold additional teach-ins in the near future and its No Bases Committee is stepping up efforts to reach out to other organizations and groups to make certain this issue is among the top ones on the Congressional agenda.
Today’s grannies have put away their knitting needles and stored their rocking chairs in the attic. Instead, we lead the way to correcting the many wrongs multiplying in our nation, and we’re not going to stop.
Listen to your granny!!