U.S. Peace Activists Support Major Czech Demonstrations Against U.S. Radar in the Czech Republic
Meet with Czech U.N. Ambassador to Urge Rejection of New U.S. Military Base
[Leaders and activists from several U.S. peace organizations, including the Campaign for Peace and Democracy, Peace Action, United for Peace and Justice, and Pax Christi, met with Czech Ambassador to the United Nations Martin Palous to express their support for demonstrations in the Czech Republic protesting the plans of the Czech government to host the radar for a U.S. anti-missile system. Below is the statement that the activists delivered to Ambassador Palous, followed by the Appeal for Support from the organizers of the Czech demonstrations, the No Bases Initiative.]
SOLIDARITY WITH OPPONENTS
OF PROPOSED U.S. MILITARY BASE IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC
A Statement from U.S. Peace Organizations Delivered to
Ambassador Martin Palous
Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic to the United Nations
November 16, 2007
We are here today to declare our solidarity with tomorrow's protest by the No Bases Initiative in the Czech Republic, where demonstrations will take place against the plans of the Czech government to host the radar for a U.S. anti-missile system.
The No Bases Initiative chose the date of November 17 because, in their words, this date "has come to symbolize the overthrow of the undemocratic regime in the former Czechoslovakia and the return of representative democracy. This change came about because of the protest of hundreds of thousands of people in the streets of Prague eighteen years ago." In the view of these Czech activists, resistance to the introduction of new foreign military bases is the most fitting way to commemorate that anniversary.
Polls have shown that a significant majority of the people in the Czech Republic oppose the U.S. military facilities, but the Czech government is flagrantly ignoring public opinion. As the No Bases Initiative notes, "Politicians had known for a number of years of U.S. plans to install a military base on Czech territory but had kept this information from the public. They didn't consider it important to tell voters before last year's parliamentary elections either." This Saturday, Czech protestors will be calling for a popular referendum to vote on this critical issue.
The proposed new U.S. base in the Czech Republic and related interceptor missiles to be based in Poland mark a dangerous escalation. As activists from the Czech Republic and Poland, as well as from Hungary, Belgium, Greece, France, Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom have stated, "The realisation of the US plan will not lead to enhanced security. On the contrary -- it will lead to new dangers and insecurities. Although it is described as 'defensive,' in reality it will allow the United States to attack other countries without fear of retaliation. It will also put 'host' countries on the front line in future US wars." (Prague Declaration, "Peace Doesn't Need New Missiles -We say no to the US missile defense system in Europe" May 2007)
Indeed, the announcement of the plans for military bases in the Czech Republic and Poland has already produced an ominous response from Russia. The projected U.S. radar in the Czech Republic and 10 missile interceptors in Poland don't constitute an immediate threat to Russia's nuclear deterrent, with its thousands of warheads, but as the New York Times pointed out on October 10 of this year, "Kremlin officials are believed to fear that the system in Central Europe will lead to a more advanced missile defense that could blunt the Russian nuclear force... Russian officials have threatened to direct their missiles toward Europe if the United States proceeds with the system. They also have said they will suspend participation in a separate treaty limiting the deployment of conventional forces in Europe." This is an unjustified reaction, endangering innocent populations, but is part of the crazy logic of superpower confrontation that the U.S. move exacerbates.
Washington claims that the new facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic are designed to respond to a missile threat from Iran, but there is no credible evidence that such a threat exists today. And the militaristic stance of the United States, far from protecting the U.S. or Europe from such a threat in the future, only enhances its likelihood. We need only to look at the example of North Korea, where years of military threats from the United States provided a strong inducement to seek nuclear weapons for their defense.
We do not believe that any nation should develop nuclear weapons, which by their nature are weapons of vast and indiscriminate mass destruction. 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.
As Americans, we have a particular moral responsibility to speak out. U.S. bases threaten the world. According to respected foreign policy analyst Chalmers Johnson, in 2004 the U.S. had 737 overseas military bases, not counting garrisons in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar, and Uzbekistan, nor U.S. military and espionage installations in the UK. This vast network of overseas bases supports a foreign policy of military interventions and global intimidation.
We are dismayed that the Czech Republic, rather than standing as a beacon for peace, is cooperating with the expansion of the Pentagon and allowing a military base to be imposed on the country. We are further dismayed by the fact that the Czech Republic recently opposed a UN resolution highlighting concerns over the military use of depleted uranium. It was one of only six countries to oppose the resolution that was supported by 122 nations. With such actions, the Czech government is doing a disservice both to its own real security, by making the Czech Republic a target, and to the prospects for peace and the spirit of November 17.
We are inspired by the principled actions of the people in the Czech Republic who are taking to the streets to resist the steps toward a new Cold War being pursued by elites unresponsive to public opinion. We join with them in a commitment to bring together the people of all countries in building an international movement for peace, democracy and social justice.
The statement above was delivered to Ambassador Martin Palous by a delegation consisting of the following:
1. Joanne Landy, Campaign for Peace and Democracy
2. Margaret W. Crane, Trinity Lutheran Church, Manhattan
3. Cathey Falvo, MD, President, Physicians for Social Responsibility/NYC
4. Leslie Kielson, Coordinator, NYC-United for Peace and Justice
5. Jesse Lemisch, professor emeritus of History, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York
6. Rosemarie Pace, Director, Pax Christi Metro New York
7. Stephen R. Shalom, Montclair Campaign for Peace and Justice
8. Barbara Webster, New Jersey Coalition to Bring the Troops Home Now
9. Cheryl Wertz, Executive Director, Peace Action New York State
(three additional people joined the delegation: one from the Raging Grannies, another grannies activist, and a videographer.)
The following individuals were unable to attend the meeting with Ambassador Palous. They asked to have their names added to the above statement.
1. Thomas Harrison, Co-Director, Campaign for Peace and Democracy
2. Jennifer Scarlott, Co-Director, Campaign for Peace and Democracy
3. Ariel Dorfman, writer
4. Carolyn Eisenberg, Brooklyn for Peace
5. Daniel Ellsberg, Truth-Telling Project
6. Joseph Gerson, Director, Peace & Economic Security Program, American Friends Service Committee
7. Charlotte Phillips, M.D., Chairperson, Brooklyn For Peace (formerly Brooklyn Parents for Peace)
8. Ethan Vesely-Flad, Communications Co-Coordinator, Fellowship of Reconciliation and Editor, Fellowship magazine
APPEAL FOR SUPPORT OF NOVEMBER 17, 2007 ACTION
November 17th is an important anniversary in our country, as it has come to symbolize the overthrow of the undemocratic regime in the former Czechoslovakia and the return of representative democracy. This change came about because of the protest of hundreds of thousands of people in the streets of Prague eighteen years ago. Over the last years November 17th has nevertheless become a day of laying down wreaths, empty words and self aggrandizing speeches by politicians. The people, the true heroes of the November changes, stayed at home and followed their leaders´ theatrical appearances mildly bemused. November 17th has become a cold anniversary. We have been fighting over a year now against plans by the US to install a new military base in our country and for a referendum in which the citizens could decide on this military base. We learned that the democracy won in 1989 has expired. Politicians had known for a number of years of US plans to install a military base on Czech territory but had kept this information from the public. They didn't consider it important to tell voters before last year's parliamentary elections either.
Today we have a government without a mandate to decide on a foreign military base. The governing coalition however wants to decide alone and contrary to the wishes of the population -- they don't want to organize a referendum and are in favor of the new military base. The current government acts more and more independently of their own citizens, doesn't debate with them but instead supplies them with crude propaganda and presses them into passivity.
That's why we decided to commemorate November 17th in a different fashion. We are organizing a big demonstration for that day in Prague, for a referendum, democracy and against the new military base. We want ordinary citizens to be the protagonists of November 17th again, to take back the day that rightfully belongs to them but has been taken away by the ruling politicians. We return to the streets for a broader democracy then its representative variety. We will also commemorate the fact that one of the great gains of the November days of 1989 was the end of the Soviet occupation and that today we are under threat of the return of a permanent military presence of a foreign power on our territory.
We want to invite you, our friends, to support our protest. As has become customary, Czech embassies all around the world will hold official celebrations on the anniversary. We therefore invite you to organize protests in front of Czech diplomatic authorities in your countries. The reason for this appeal is nevertheless not just international solidarity. It is also to point out the broader crisis of representative democracy, its inability to listen to the people and serve them, and not only in the Czech Republic. We will protest in Prague because it is not enough for us to vote once every four years, we want to participate as ordinary citizens in the decision-making process around important issues. Democracy in Europe has been faced with the same problem for a number of years.
We are also convinced that the planned US military base will have a negative impact on the whole of Europe. It will change Europe's security setup, will further divide it politically and render it more dependent on US policy. The new bases in the Czech Republic and Poland not only provoke Russia, they also aim at strengthening the link between Central Eastern Europe and the US. We consider such a link to be a further hindrance to human emancipation not only in the Czech Republic and Poland, but across the whole continent. We consider these reasons to be the links of our common struggles and we therefore ask you to support our protest in front of Czech embassies.
Jan Tamas, PhD
Iniciativa Ne základnám (No Bases Initiative)