Coordinator Trip Report Czech Republic

17 - 19 Oct 2007

From: Bruce Gagnon

On October 17 I flew from Boston to Prague in the Czech Republic in order to attend a conference organized by the group No Bases Initiative opposing U.S. deployment of a Star Wars radar facility in their country and "missile defense" interceptors in Poland.

On October 18, soon after my arrival in the country, I met with several key leaders of the Czech campaign opposing the U.S. radar facility to discuss their work and to explain how the Global Network views the relationship between the U.S. radar facility and the larger Pentagon goal of space "control and domination."

Sharing various documents from the Space Command, and aerospace corporations now working on "full spectrum dominance", I agreed that the real goal of these deployments in Central Europe is to surround Russia and are not intended to deal with the non-existent nuclear missiles from Iran as the Bush administration now claims.

I carried with me to Prague a news article by the Associated Press (dated October 14) entitled Scientists Question European Missile Defense that reported, "A number of top U.S.-based physicists have concluded the U.S. used inaccurate claims to reassure NATO allies about missile defense plans in Eastern Europe.  They say the planned Polish-based interceptors and a radar system in the Czech Republic could target and catch Russian missiles, thus threatening Russia's nuclear deterrent."  The article quotes well-known MIT physicist Ted Postol as concluding, "The claim by the Missile Defense Agency [that the two bases would only be useful against Iran and not Russia] is not correct.  And it is hard to understand how they could get something so basic wrong."

On October 19 I participated in a pre-conference news conference in Prague and again shared that news article, and the other documents I brought along, with the assembled media. 

Activists came from all over Europe to Prague for the conference.  A particularly large delegation also came from Italy, another country where a major U.S. base expansion in Vicenza is stirring up massive European-wide opposition.  Many of the European activists who came to the October 20 conference are part of a group called Europe for Peace.

On the morning of October 20 three bus loads of activists were driven about an hour outside of Prague, into the countryside, to a town called Breznice near where the U.S. radar facility is to be built.  There, for the whole day, several hundred people assembled to hear speakers and participate in workshops.  A recently formed Czech League of Mayors has been created to oppose the radar after many of their local towns overwhelmingly passed referendums against the radar.  The mayors had several of their members speak and many of the mayors from local communities were in attendance.  A video from Tadatoshi Akiba, Mayor of Hiroshima, Japan was shown outlining his support for the event.  Mayor Akiba is president of Mayors for Peace and pledged their support.  An impressive letter was read from Ken Livingstone, mayor of London, also expressing his support for the campaign.

I was asked to be a presenter in a workshop called The USA anti-rocket shield WHY? along with activist leader Jan Tamas and political science professor Oskar Krejci.  The final report of the workshop, presented to the entire conference body, called for continued non-violent resistance against U.S. bases and conversion of the military industrial complex.

In a recent Missile Defense Agency (MDA) planning document called Proposed U.S. Missile Defense Assets in Europe the Pentagon states, "These assets [sea based and Army mobile interceptor missiles] could be used to support emerging NATO and national capabilities as needed to ensure layered coverage for all European nations requiring such protection."  What this means is that in addition to these "first" deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic, the U.S. intends on-going "missile defense" deployments throughout Europe which will absolutely provoke a reciprocal military response from Russia.  Russia understands they are being militarily surrounded by the U.S.  The fact that Russia is now the world's largest producer of natural gas just might have something to do with aggressive U.S. military expansion around their borders.

It is important to know that many leading Democrats in the U.S. Congress are also supporting these deployment plans by Bush.  Just weeks ago Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) took a trip to Poland and the Czech Republic to meet with their leaders. While there she told them, "We have bipartisan support for these deployments in the U.S. Congress."  Tauscher serves on the powerful Armed Services Committee in the House of Representatives.

I was impressed by the tremendous leadership inside the No Bases Initiative in the Czech Republic.  In addition to the Czech League of Mayors they have a group of young, bright, hopeful, and determined activists working tirelessly to prevent these U.S. deployments.  Following the conference, which got extensive media coverage in their country, they were planning a 10-day bus trip around the country to 20 cities and towns to take the energy and message from the event directly to the people.

Right-wing Czech leaders have become "loyal servants" of U.S. interests in the region despite the fact that 70% of the public is opposed to the radar base.  (Even the Czech Green Party, a part of the present ruling government coalition, now supports deployment of the radar.)  As Czech mayor Jan Neoral said, "This is our best hope to show the government that it will remain alone in its servile position."

On November 17 the No Bases Initiative will again hold a major protest demonstration in Prague against the U.S. deployment plan.  They are asking groups around the world to hold solidarity actions on that date at Czech Republic embassy's in their countries.  They are also asking people to help them identify which aerospace corporations are building the radar.

Prague is a beautiful historic city and remains a prime European tourist destination.  Putting U.S. Star Wars systems into Poland and the Czech Republic makes it certain that a new arms race will unfold between the U.S. and Russia making Central Europe once again a target in a high-powered political game that they do not choose to play in.

It is up to all of us to prevent this new mad arms race.  We must all work to stop the U.S. from playing chess with the lives of the people of the world.

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