US Missile Defence: Towards a new cold war?
A report on a meeting from Rosemary Addington
a conference entitled "US Missile Defence:
Towards a New Cold War?" on September 1st. The introductory speaker
was Professor Dave Webb of Yorkshire CND. He explained that USA and Britain now have a first strike policy, even against
countries with no nuclear missiles. The so-called missile defence system will allow the USA to strike a smaller nuclear power first, on the
assumption that any weapons they manage to launch that
have survived the first strike can be taken out by the missile defence. This is obviously highly dangerous.
The next speaker was Jan Neoral, Mayor of Trokavec, a
small rural community in the Czech Republic, in the area where the Czech Government is going to
allow the missiles to be sited. He said that there is great oppostion amongst the local villages, in spite of bribes of
grants for development and jobs being offered. His village held a
referendum, and 86 voted against and 1 for the plan. Other villages then
held referenda with similar results. He seemed fairly confident, but many
in the audience were sceptical of the ability of
"democratic opposition to be successful.
Kate Hudson then spoke of how this
will escalate the cold war again - Russia is very worried about the plans, in spite of being
told it is not intended against them, only against such states as Iran. Russia has actually offered a more strategically suitable
site on its own soil, but the USA has turned this idea down out of hand. She also
reminded us that on the last day before the Parliamentary recess, Des Brown
announced that Menwith Hill would be tied into the
missile defence system. This
in spite of the fact that Tony Blair had stated that no decision would be made
without a full parliamentary debate. A group of 28 Labour MPs immediately wrote a letter of protest, and this
will be an issue to be taken up as soon as Parliament resumes.
She was followed by Bruce Gagnon, an
American who has been campaigning against Star Wars/SDI/Missile defence since 1982. He pointed out that every year Canada and other countries have tried to get a Treaty
against weapons in space, and USA and Israel have abstained - this year USA voted against it. He says that the whole programme is really about the domination of space, and
denying the use of space to other countries. He is trying to get the
American Peace movement to campaign more on this - they are undertandably
very side-tracked by issues of troops in Iraq, but it is crucial they also pay attention to this
We then heard from Marcus and Kay
about the situation in Australia, the Government there are very much tied in with America also, there is a huge USA base at Pine Gap, where they test weapons and
experiment with DU. Uranium mining is also going ahead, often with much
local, unsuccessful, opposition.
I then went to a workshop on
"The consequences of US commitment to National Missile Defence".
Lindis Percy spoke of her attempts to ascertain from Harrogate hospital what plans they have if Menwith
Hill is attacked, as they will become a target. Predictably the answer was, npthing more than the normal
plans for 'every day' type of disasters. Bruce Gagnon spoke of the
massive cost which will cripple various social and environmental programmes in America, he says people are getting more aware, but don't
know what to do about it "our democracy is not going, but gone" he
said. They had high hopes of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, but she has now
ditched impeachment of Bush policy, and withdrawal from Iraq policy. Cindy Sheehan is planning to stand
against her. Helen John stressed, we must try and alert people here to
understand the dangers facing us, but it is an uphill struggle.
Another workshop in the afternoon
was about campaigning at Menwith Hill, gradually
local people are becoming more concerned and more involved, but it is an uphill
struggle, we need a Greenham size demonstration
there, but this is hard to achieve partly because of the location, but also
apathy needs to be overcome, and the Prevention of Terrorism Act makes
demonstrating there very difficult.
All this was pretty depressing, but
a closing speech from Andrew Murray of Stop the War Coalition spurred us on to
attend the demonstration outside Parliament on October 8th when they
reassemble. And two speakers from Poland told us there is big opposition building up there
against the siting of the missiles. An
international week of campaigning "Keep Space for Peace Week" will
take place from Oct. 4th - 13th
CND have produced an excellent
briefing paper, available from CND 0207-700-2393, or look at www.cnduk.org.
I will obtain some for us to give out on our stall.