From the Frontline: Star Wars & Globalisation
An International Conference on Missile Defence,
Globalisation and the Militarisation of Space
Students Union Building, Sheffield University, UK
Organised by Yorkshire CND and Sheffield CND.
Hosted by Sheffield Student CND
October 5th - 6th 2002
Report by Yorkshire CND

A Long Weekend of Events in Yorkshire Marks
Keep Space for Peace Week
Students Union Building, Sheffield University, UK
Organised by Yorkshire CND and Sheffield CND.
Hosted by Sheffield Student CND

Yorkshire CND is working hard to promote the anti missile defence and militarisation of space campaigns in the UK. It was fitting therefore that during the International Keep Space for Peace week we should work with Sheffield CND and Sheffield University Student CND to hold a key international conference on missile defence and its place in the bigger picture of Western strategy. The conference provided the opportunity to expand the message of our campaigns, to network with the key players across the world and to re-inspire activists during a time when the world’s eyes are on Iraq, not space.

“FROM THE FRONT LINE” was the theme of the conference – bringing together activists from the front line missile defence locations of Alaska, Greenland, Australia and Yorkshire, as well as expert speakers on missile defence and the bigger picture of global economics and militarism. We succeeded in our aim of bringing together representatives of the key regions with Stacy Fritz (of No Nukes North in Alaska), Kuupik Kleist (a representative of Greenland in the Danish parliament), a specially prepared video for the conference from Jacob Grech (OzPeace in Australia) and Dave Webb (Yorkshire CND). Added to this we brought over Bruce Gagnon (co-ordinator of the Global Network against weapons and nuclear power in space) and MPs, MEPs, campaigners and professors. A full list of the speakers is at the bottom of this report.

Details of the conference launch here.

We aimed to show not only how important missile defence is as a threat to world peace, but also how it is a part of fuller militarisation of space and how, as such, it is a part of Western, and particularly US, moves towards full dominance economically and militarily.

On Friday afternoon a group of local people and students joined Yorkshire CND, Bruce and Stacey outside the Student Union building to raise awareness of the university’s links with the Boeing corporation. Boeing have signed a £15 million deal with the University for an aerospace technology development, which, whilst it is claimed is entirely for civilian use, will, like all Boeing developments, have potential for dual use research. The University is not only working with the world’s biggest missile defence corporation but could be aiding the very development of the system. 

We marched to the vice-chancellor's office and, after making some speeches outside, entered the building to present a statement opposing the deal with missile defence’s biggest contractor. Following a short stand off between demonstrators and security we were taken to the Vice-Chancellor’s office to present the statement.  In the knowledge that we were coming, the VC had left the building half an hour previously, but we were assured that he would receive and read the statement. 

Protestors marched back down to the Union building, handed out copies of the statement and made some more speeches before departing. That afternoon we joined the Women in Black vigil outside Sheffield Town Hall to oppose the potential war on Iraq and in the evening we joined a meeting held by the Sheffield Campaign Against Arms Trade.

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Kuupik Kleist

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Jean Lambert MEP

On Saturday the main event of the weekend started as delegates arrived for the From the Front Line International conference on missile defence and globalisation. The conference started with key speakers from the missile defence locations. Stacey Fritz explained the work she has been doing in Alaska, where the US are already building missile silos for the MD system, as well as the details of how Alaska fits in to the system. Kuupik Kleist explained that his party represents the people for Greenland in Denmark, who run Greenland’s foreign policy. His party, Inuit Ataqatigiit, is the only party officially opposed to missile defence in Greenland, where the essential missile defence base Thule is located, and until now, Kuupik has felt very alone in the campaign. He was pleased to have met the members of the Global Network and will be working closely with us in future to raise the issue of missile defence there. In his own words after the conference, “we felt quite isolated with this issue - so the world is now open and I am happy to be able to disseminate the words from your conference to Greenland”. Since Jacob Grech was taking part in a demonstration at Australia’s Menwith Hill (Pine Gap) he was unable to join us at the conference. However, he sent a specially prepared video in which he explained the work of Australians on missile defence and wider peace issues. Dave Webb presented a talk on the technology behind missile defence and its place in the two Yorkshire bases of Fylingdales and Menwith Hill. At the end of the morning session Bruce Gagnon looked at the bigger picture – missile defence on the global scale, and what it means for the world.

After the key speeches delegates had the chance to look further at the details behind missile defence in workshops on "Militarisation and weaponisation of space", "How missile defence works", "Boeing – a missile defence corporation in Sheffield”, “Rogue states – real or imagined? What are the real threats to the West?” and “American bases in the UK and the US/UK military relationship”.

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Martin Hogbin

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Dave Knight

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Kate Willingham

A well-earned lunch break preceded the second half of the Saturday conference, where delegates had a chance to look at the bigger picture. Clare Joy, of the World Development Movement, described how the West manipulates economic policies to the benefit of Western corporations and shareholders at the expense of the world’s poorest people. Martin Hogbin, of the Campaign Against Arms Trade, described how the arms trade was necessarily linked to corporations and Jean Lambert MEP looked at moves within Europe to dominate militarily and economically, at the expense of the environment, peace and the poor. The overall picture of the session was one of an ongoing, systematic drive by the West to achieve and sustain dominance militarily and economically, for the benefit of politicians and corporations and at the expense of the rest of the world.  It was clear by the end of this session where missile defence and space militarisation fitted in as a tool to achieve this dominance.

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Richard Allan MP

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Kuupik and Stacey

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Alan Simpson MP

In workshops on “Global Economics - the haves and have nots", “The arms trade and corporations”; “Treaties: What’s relevant, what’s redundant and what’s threatened?”; “A new nuclear threat – the era of vertical proliferation” delegates had the chance to analyse these broader issues in greater depth.

The last session of the Saturday conference was entitled “The alternatives”. Having heard in details where we stand now, Dave Knight, Alan Simpson MP, Richard Allan MP and Kate Willingham of Student CND looked at the alternatives and where we could end up if we work at it. The speakers looked at the tactics that could lead us to a nuclear-free, missile defence-free world and left delegates feeling ready to go away and change things for the better.

On Saturday night Sheffield CND and Yorkshire CND hosted a special social event with Robb Johnson and Folk Viola in which the delegates and local people let their hair down, enjoyed the specially prepared food and a few drinks and allowed the music to inspire them.

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Robb Johnson

On Saturday the conference described the issues surrounding missile defence. On Sunday the conference reconvened to look at ways to take action on those issues. Following an introduction from the chair of CND, Carol Naughton, delegates took part in workshops on “Making the community work - How to set up forums and active groups"; "Challenging the law with the law - using environmental and planning laws to achieve your aims"; "How to use the media - a basic introduction" and “How to plan a campaign strategy”. The day provided the chance to hone campaigning skills and leave the conference more able to make a difference.

After a closing speech by Carol Naughton and a superb MD presentation put together by Dave Webb, the conference closed. 

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Jimmy Carr (centre) with Jackie, Tricia and Stacey

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Stacey, Jackie and Bruce

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Stacey, Tricia, Jackie, Bruce and Dave

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On the Monday Dave Webb, Dave Knight, Stacey and Bruce Gagnon drove to Fylingdales.
There they met with the Fylingdales Action Network , Jimmy – the MOD police liaison officer and the "Wing Commander" - the RAF official in charge of the facility. The group questioned the commander about health affects of the base, who practically ran the base (USA or UK), and its role in star wars, all the while two media workers from local newspapers snapped photos and took shorthand of the lively discussion.

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The Wing Commander and Bruce

Overall the long weekend achieved an impressive level of media coverage with five newspaper articles and six radio interviews across Yorkshire. We would have achieved one more article but the press turned up to photograph the demo on Saturday instead of Friday!

All in all Yorkshire stood loud and proud as a No Star Wars county that weekend. We helped raise awareness of the issues, inform people of the facts, inspire people to make a difference and remind people that, whilst our eyes are on Iraq, the US Space Command is looking at the nights sky longingly, with lasers, missiles and dominance in mind.

Yorkshire CND

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