Historians signing a petition to stop US from building a base in the Czech Republic
[HNN Editor: Some 600 people have signed the following statement (originated by the New York-based Campaign for Peace and Democracy), among them historians: Howard Zinn, Thomas Harrison, Jesse Lemisch, Martin Duberman, Eileen Boris, Rusti Eisenberg, Adam Hochschild, Temma Kaplan, Nelson Lichtenstein, Ervand Abrahamian, David Applebaum, Mike Davis, Rozanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Joan Hoff, Christopher Phelps, Peter Rachleff, Carl Schorske.]
The statement below was delivered by a delegation of U.S. peace activists on November 16, 2007 to Ambassador Martin Palous at the Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic to the United Nations in Manhattan. The statement was in support of demonstrations in Prague and Brno against the military base that were scheduled for the following day. The delegation to the Czech Mission was organized by the New-York based Campaign for Peace and Democracy, which had assembled U.S. peace leaders to meet with Czechoslovak representatives in the same building in November 1989 in protest against the repression of student demonstrations in Prague û demonstrations that culminated in the victory of the "Velvet Revolution" in Czechoslovakia.
We, the undersigned, declare our solidarity with the November 17, 2007 protest by the "No Bases Initiative" in the Czech Republic, where demonstrations took 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.
Many of us, as Americans, 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 majority of people in this country now believe that the invasion of Iraq was disastrously wrong and that they were systematically lied to by the Bush Administration about the reasons for going to war, and they are wary of new U.S. military intervention in the Middle East. At the same time, the administration's scare tactics are generating popular support for aerial attacks on Iran. It is therefore imperative to speak out now against Washington's threats, to educate public opinion, and to build organized opposition to aggression against Iran, as well as support for immediate, complete withdrawal from Iraq. It is time to demand a new democratic U.S. foreign policy that genuinely expresses solidarity with the aspirations of people for liberty everywhere, renounces once and for all imperial intervention, and is committed to real disarmament.
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